Uber didnt’t cross my mind much, until very recently.

In fact, the ride sharing company, one of the hot new things in tech companies, never was thought about unless it was pushed in my face in today’s news.

Like most rural Albertans, I have my own vehicle. I drive everywhere. You can always tell a small town person. We are the ones who will drive around the block six times waiting for an empty space right in front of the store we want. If the store is downtown, that is.
If the store happens to be the local grocery, well, walking five or six car lengths to the cart farm, and then another two or three lengths to the actual store, is okay. Walk that same distance from where we parked to a store downtown? Or even in a mall parking lot, if our town is big enough to have a mall? Are you crazy? Never.
But, put somebody from our small towns in a Costco or Superstore parking lot in Edmonton or Calgary? Heck, we will happily huff and puff, even in a blinding blizzard or pouring rain, a distance that is almost a full block in one of our towns. Often much, much, more.
And we will think absolutely nothing at all about it. That’s just the way it is.
So really, I have no possible reason to think about Uber. If it ever comes to needing a ride, big cities have taxis, right? If, for whatever crazy reason, I need a lift after a good meal and a few drinks, a cab is just a phone away. Or I can walk. I don’t think about Uber for the same reason I don’t think of busses or rapid transit. All are non-starters.
Ah but, suddenly the hot deal of the day is Uber. Uber, Uber, Uber.
Supposed to be cheaper. Most times. Supposed to be more available. Most times. Supposed to have cleaner cars. Always. And golly, so much more. What’s not to like? Hop aboard!
Well, not really as simple as that. For one thing, I have to download an app. Now, I have to tell you, I don’t even download apps when they are free. I’m happy with what comes with my phone. And before you tell me I’m just not with the times, listen up. I had smart phones before everybody else’s phones were smart. Nokia. Another Nokia. Sony Ericsson. HTC. I had Einstein smart phones, when everybody else was buying Muppet smarts. I had a phone with a real keyboard before a Blackberry was a bunch of parts on a test bench. Most of my phones were bought long before there was such a thing as an iPhone.
I was texting to people before North Americans knew what texting was. Literally, I was so far in the future I met everybody coming the other way. All of this turned into a problem. One phone had a GPS system with no software to use it. Another had a Windows version we all waited for Microsoft to make work. Nobody answered my texts, even when I knew they had phones that could do that. It was little fun. It was like talking to people about my Datapac service, that grew into my Internet service, in 1994. Few knew what it was. Even fewer had such a service to share stories about.
This isn’t how Uber really came to my attention. That’s to come. Short story long, early adopters on the Uber bandwagon were much the same. Probably many gave up. Uber toughed it out. Finally, it had the all important critical mass. Then it was all fun and games. Uber cars showed up when you wanted them. It was quite wonderful, with people sharing stories with happy drivers. They were going to school, or studying medicine, or paying child support. It was one big really happy family.
Nobody worried about whether the driver had real insurance. You know, the kind where an insurance company will really pay without question when a vehicle is being used commerically. Nobody even worried if the driver had a license to take passengers. Or even had a drivers license at all! Not to mention a license from the city to handle people. Passenegers ranked the drivers. Made notes. What could go wrong?
Ride sharing? Ha! Yeah, I’m a married guy just happening to be driving around at midnight down through the city party section. I’m really not looking for money. I’m really looking to pick up a couple of drunks to share my leather seats. Been doing that forever. Oh, look at all those “unsolicited” rankings. I don’t think there is one cousin or buddy in there at all.
Ah, but little did I know that not only does Uber rate it’s happy “people who just want to share their vehicle for a few pennies” drivers, it also rates customers. And this is what, as they say, piqued my interest.
Wow! What a fantastically fabulous idea! This is so cool. Or. Is. It?
I’ve always wanted to be known as a big tipper. And it’s actually quite easy. Just tip big.
Got a $30.00 lunch? Tip an extra $15.00. Even $20.00 I guarantee you do it enough times, the servers will get the message. Most times.
The downside of this of course is, you might be able to afford it. I can’t. It also makes me ill. Physically ill. There is no joy for me in throwing money on a table hoping to impress a server. He or she probably is a very nice person, but may not be working in the same place in the two or three weeks, if not longer, it will take me to be up for spending that kind of money again. Don’t get me wrong. Servers deserve more pay. Servers deserve tips. The whole tipping thing is a topic worth columns by themselves. Right now, here in Alberta, my tip range is 10 to 20 per cent of the bill. For those times I’m just there for coffee, I usually add a couple bucks minimum, whether I am paying the bill or not. So basically, I want to be known as a big tipper. I just don’t want to do the legwork.
But, I’m beginning to wonder. There may be hope. When I started writing this piece, I was sort of disappointed that, being from a place where there are actually people who have never heard of Uber, never mind have troubled themselves to load the app, how was I ever going to get a rating? Like, a big shot rating. There aren’t any Ubermobiles in my world for me to sprinkle money dust and move up the charts.
That is an error in my thinking. I now see that error.
It has nothing to do with whether tipping is right or wrong. It’s all to do with finding places that “award” me for being a big tipper. And further, communicates that fact to all the other places I might frequent. So no longer would I worry my tip money needs to happen over and over again to make an impact. No. I can save up and make a really, really big splash. My favourite restaurant would automatically record my “generous” tip in the “International Tipping Hall of Fame Database.” No need for a special app or program that a server has to input, to alert her fellow servers there is money to be made from the smoosh coming in the door. It would all be built into the electronics that runs the ordering software. And there would be a hook-up to politely alert said servers. The whole system would know me from face recognition software and cameras that I would jauntily wave at as I came in the door. Or maybe it would be a built-in function in my smartphone. I would have a choice of letting the phone signal, or maybe I would just push a key and the phone would alert all the restaurant staff I was on the way. Maybe if they knew enough in advance they could all line up!
Heck, why stop at restaurants? Why not have every place I venture know I am coming? The gas bar can be alerted I will pay five bucks to have my gas pumped and my windshield and lights cleaned. The car dealer, the next time I’m shopping, will know I own a Chev and a Ford, and how much he has to discount to get my business. The movie theatre I will tip for a good seat and extra-large, extra-butter popcorn and a pop delivered just before the show starts. The possibilities are endless.
No longer will the future be all about gaming search engines to get the best rankings. It will be all about gaming the tip engines to put you and I at the top – perferably me first, of course. Sort of you know, as if I had the “Gold Card” of tipping.
And to think, one day it all started with a little teeny tip function on Uber, a business that started out putting drivers and passengers together. And where Facebook dropped the ball, Uber ended up rating everybody in the world, “Hot or Not?”
Something like that anyway. I am saving my money, confidently waiting for “critical mass.”