UPDATE: An Uber spokesperson says in a statement to E! News: "Uber ensures a safe, reliable ride, wherever and whenever, and dynamic pricing allows us to remain the reliable choice, even on the busiest nights of the year. Our in-app features ensure dynamic pricing is repeatedly communicated and approved before any trip is confirmed."
When we first read this story, it made our blood boil. It took us a while to calm down enough to actually write about, but here it is.
This is the story of a 26-year-old woman who partied on her birthday and didn't realize she spent almost 400 bucks for a ride home via Uber, and when she couldn't pay rent, she decided to ask strangers online for help.
That's the gist of the story. But the breakdown goes like this:
Baltimore resident Gabby Wathen, a waitress and freelance writer, went out for her birthday on Halloween night with her friends. After they were done partying, they decided to get a ride home through Uber, which was the responsible thing to do. However, Gabby didn't realize that Uber rates at that time were currently nine times higher than normal due to the holiday. So her 20-minute ride cost her $326.
This is the part of the story where we must break in to say that Uber does notify passengers before they order a ride that the rates are higher and you have to accept the increase in the app, as shown in the photo below:
Apparently after a night of partying, Gabby didn't realize she agreed to the charge, so when she woke up the next morning, she was shocked to see her bank account that's linked to her Uber profile had a $326 charge. And as it was the first of the month, her $450 rent was due. But because of her expensive ride home the night before, she couldn't afford to pay her rent.
This is the part of the story where we break in and ask: how in the world is her rent so cheap?! Can we move there?!
But we digress.
Gabby says she filed a dispute with Uber, but "had little to no luck in disputing this transaction." So she turned to the kindness of strangers online and set up a GoFundMe page (which has since been taken down) called "Uber Stole My 26th Birthday."
"I live in Baltimore and went out with my friends to celebrate my birthday at midnight. When 3 AM rolled around, I suggested we take an Uber home to avoid drunk driving (#responsibility/#MADD). I live 22 minutes, tops, from the party I was leaving. When I awoke this morning, I heard a friend talking about how outrageous Uber rates were the night before (9x original rate). I checked my bank account when, unbeknowst to me, I see a charge for $362. Not only is it my 26th birthday, it is rent day. My rent is $450 and I can no longer pay it today due to this completely outrageous charge."
Gabby goes on to say that she spent a good two hours of her birthday crying over the situation and that she felt "taken advantage of and cheated by the Uber name."
"Please donate even just $1 if you think this is utter and complete bulls--t and also hilarious and very, very depressing at the same time," she asked on her GoFundMe page. "Thanks for the ride, Muhammed."
Before the page was taken down, Gabby had raised almost 600 dollars to go toward the Uber ride or rent or whatever she was using the money for.
So what part of this story makes our blood boil? Well, all of it.
Look, we totally agree that $362 for a 20-minute ride is absurd, and that it was very smart that Gaby and her friends got a ride home instead of driving, as they were clearly intoxicated. And yes, we've all done stupid stuff, like woken up to see on our credit card receipt that we spent a good $200 at the bar without remembering doing so. But do you know what we did after finding out we blew a lot of money in our drunken state?
We took responsibility for our actions and dealt with the consequences.
Like we said before, Uber states in their app before you order a ride that due to the increased demand for drivers and the lack of cars on the road, the prices will be higher.
"It's important to know that you'll always be notified in big, bold print if surge pricing is in effect," Uber says on their website. "When rates are more than double, the surge confirmation screen also requires you to type in the specific surge multiplier to ensure you understand what rates to expect."
So Gaby was not only alerted of the surge price, but she had to type in the increased rate before getting a ride home. It sucks that she had no idea what she was doing, but we wouldn't exactly call this being "taken advantage of."
We know what it feels like to be broke, which is why we've spent plenty of birthdays just hanging out with friends at our apartment because we couldn't afford to go out and celebrate. The big bar-crawling events came later in life when we learned how to manage our money.
And when we ran into money problems when we were younger, we had to borrow money from our parents, and then we had to spend the next two months doing absolutely nothing fun in order to squirrel away enough money to pay them back. Hell, the fact that we were able to borrow money for our parents made us feel privileged, because we realize that not everyone has that luxury. For some, the only people they have to rely on are themselves. So the very fact that this girl just set up a webpage to get out of a jam really rubs us the wrong way.
Her asking help from strangers is not what bugs us the most. We all need a little help sometimes. What makes us mad is the fact that she is not taking any responsibility for what happened. Would a cab have been as much money? Or was there some other friend they could have called to come get them? Why go out at all and spend money if you knew you had rent due the next day and you weren't exactly financially secure? This situation just raises a lot of questions, and we wonder if she has any idea how lucky she is that something like GoFundMe now exists. If we got into her situation when we were her age, we would have been one thing: s--t outta luck.
So now we turn this tale over to you guys to discuss. Did Gaby have every right to start an online fundraiser because she "unknowingly" spent her rent money on a ride home? Or do her actions make you as annoyed and angry as us?
(Originally published on Monday, Nov. 3 at 10:58 AM PST)