At first glance, it seems like an easy, affordable way for parents to take back their Saturday night. But knowing the ins and outs of Uber can prevent upsetting and sometimes costly surprises.
As most parents know, Valley schools draw students from all over LA. My four kids have friends who commute here from Manhattan Beach to Simi Valley. And over the years, I’ve logged as many hours taking them to friends’ homes as a Metro Bus driver.
So Uber has been a welcome respite. That said, there are a few things about the service worth noting.
Most importantly: Don’t let children set up their own account on their smartphone with your credit card. Set up the account using your phone and give your kids your user name and password.
That way, when they sign in using your account information from their cell to call for service, their location will be sent to Uber, but the confirmation text with pick-up time and place will be sent to your cell. You’ll have instant veto power on any trip and won’t discover your kid has been combing all over LA when you get your whopping credit card bill weeks later.
Uber has a built-in tip, so drivers don’t have to rely on the goodwill of a group of 15-year-olds. And since teens tend to travel in packs, parents with overly generous kids will be glad to know the cost can be charged to multiple Uber accounts.
One big downside: Unlike taxis, Uber’s prices can vary based on demand. Fare quotes are available in advance, but that price can increase if there’s a surge in business at the time the car is actually ordered. The company calls this practice “surge pricing.” Critics call it “price gouging.”
Count on rocketing fares on holidays and inclement weather; fees can go up as much as eight times regular fares. But any day or time there’s an increase in business, prices can jump.
The end result? Your teen gets taxied but you feel “taken.”