You wanted to go where?

An amusing time for me when a passenger makes a mistake with either their pick up or drop off location.

The majority of rides I get are pretty simple, and follow these basic steps:

  1. The app on my phone pings for a ride request
  2. I accept the request, and head to the pickup location
  3. The passenger(s) get in and I start the ride in the app
  4. I drive to the destination
  5. The passenger(s) get out and I end the ride in the app

cronulla beach
If you look closely, you can see the destination… No, you’ll have to look closer than that.
I don’t see the destination for the ride until step 3; I don’t know how far or in what direction I’ll be going until the ride starts. Which means that on the odd occasion where the ride gets cancelled, I don’t know where it would’ve been to, except for certain circumstances. That’s when there’s a cancellation fee that I get paid. Usually that only happens when I’ve arrived at the pickup location and have been waiting for at least five minutes (or I’ve spent a significant amount of time heading to the pickup location, but this is less likely as the majority of pickups tend to be fairly close to where I was when the alert came through). When I do get paid a cancellation fee, I can look in the list of rides I’ve had for the day, see the record for the cancelled ride, and see where they’d set as their destination.

All of this is to explain the surprising thing that happened to me the other day. I was near the end of a ride for a couple of guys to Cronulla, when I got a request for a new ride. This tends to happen when it’s getting busy in the area – not necessarily surging, but it might start surging if it stays busy. I accept the new ride, drop the guys off at their destination, and head to the pickup spot for the new ride, which happens to be just up the road.

I get there, and manage to find a spot to pull up right outside the address. No one was standing outside, which isn’t too strange as I’d managed to get there pretty quickly from when I’d got the request, so I waited. Sometimes the GPS can be a little off with determining the pickup location: it might put it one or two doors down the street, around the corner or on the opposite side of the road, depending on the spot, so because of all this I’m looking around the area, not just at the property I’ve been pointed to. I spot someone that I think could be the passenger, but they walk right past and disappear up the street.

After a minute or two, with no sign of activity at the address and no contact from the passenger, I start a five minute timer on my watch. I do this because I want to give the passenger a fair chance to either come out to the car or at least get in touch to let me know what’s happening, but I don’t want to wait around all day if they’re not going to show up. If I wind up cancelling on them after the timer goes off, I’ll get a cancellation fee paid, but I’ve given them more than the prescribed time for that to happen, which I think is fair. (I welcome your disagreement in the comments below. 🙂 ) In the mean time I’m still looking and waiting for someone to show up, but nothing.

The timer goes off. I do one last look to make sure there’s no sign of anyone that might be my missing passenger, and craning my neck to see up the driveway of the address, I hear my phone trill its cancellation sound: my passenger has cancelled on me, just before I did the same. I’m annoyed, but I pull out and head off in search of my next fare. A minute or two later, my running tally of fares for the day had updated in the app, and I saw that I’d got my cancellation fee. Out of curiosity to see what sort of fare I’d “missed out” on, I check to see what the destination had been: Dunedin, New Zealand.

cronulla to dunedin
If Google Maps is suggesting the best route to your destination involves flying, there’s probably cheaper options than UberX.

It took me a few moments to understand what I was looking at. It was a good thing that I was parked while checking this, because if I hadn’t been I may have laughed my way into an accident. Don’t ask me how this person managed to book a trans-Tasman trip car ride. That it was an international trip was impressive enough, but to somehow try and book a car ride across the Tasman Sea, a trip which would be a couple of hours by plane… well I’m sure you can understand why I was laughing. I’m yet to come up with a theory as to how this happened, or at least one that makes sense. I can’t work out whether they were in New Zealand and somehow had a GPS malfunction that put them across the ditch, or if they were in Cronulla and somehow entered a New Zealand address by mistake. I don’t think its the latter, as after doing a bit of googling I couldn’t find an address that could’ve had a typo to result in the one that I got.

It amused me, and reassured one passenger who was nervous about using the app correctly that any mistakes they made weren’t likely to beat that one. So as a tip, when you’re booking an Uber ride, double check that the map doesn’t have international borders or an unexpected body of water like the Tasman Sea going through your route.

Author: Adam Faber

I've been an Uber driver in Sydney since early 2016, and puttering around on the web as my blogging alter-ego since mid 2017. Uber-Man is my second attempt at blogging, after a short-lived effort five years before about a previous job, all around parking. (Exciting, I know!) If the blogging wasn't a give away, I'm a nerd that loves sci-fi, table top gaming, and baseball.

What do you think about all this?