While Uber has developed a bit of a reputation of late for being more expensive than other ride sharing services -- and paying its drivers less -- a rider in Toronto recently found out the hard way that the company's surge pricing model can lead to some truly epic fares.
Surge pricing is Uber's practice of charging more (a "surge multiplier") for a ride during times of high demand, for example, during rush hour. Lyft has a similar practice, which they call "Prime Time."
A few days ago, the aforementioned Toronto passenger was hit with a $14,400 (Canadian $18,518) charge for a 20-minute ride from one part of the city to another -- a sum total of just three and a half miles distant. According to a message tweeted out by Emily Kennard, a friend of the passenger, Uber initially refused to waive the extraordinarily high fee.
Eventually, under social media pressure, Uber did realize there was a problem and the company issued a refund for the ride. According to an Uber spokesperson,
"There was a an error and we have provided a full refund. We sincerely apologize to this rider for his experience. We have safeguards in place to help prevent something like this from happening and we are working to understand how this occurred."
But this isn't the first time extraordinarily high fares have been charged by Uber -- particularly when surge pricing is in effect. Uber recently charged an Illinois woman $925 for a ride that normally would cost $120, and a New Year's Eve customer in Edmonton was charged more than $1,000 for a surge pricing ride. And both Uber and Lyft just agreed to reimburse riders who were hit with surge pricing charges immediately after the terrorist bombing in the subway below New York City's Port Authority bus terminal on December 11th.
Long story short, take a moment to double check your Uber fare estimate before you confirm your ride -- not after. And when you get the receipt, give it a quick look-see before you file it away. Don't become the next surge pricing victim.