Disgruntled Uber customers lashed out on social media Friday after being hit with what they believe are exceptionally high rates on New Year’s Eve, with some users claiming that surge pricing, as it is called, benefits from people trying to drink and get home responsibly.
Uber allows increased prices during times of high demand, claiming that the ability to earn more incentivizes additional drivers to offer their services, making it easier for customers to get rides whenever and wherever they need it.
However, in some places, New Year’s Eve surge pricing led to rates nine times the normal price – and customers were not pleased.
"…My $60 ride turned into $251.59 on New Year’s Eve," wrote Uber user Jenna Kydd on the company’s Facebook page. "I’ll be deleting this app since clearly this company feels like they can take advantage of their customers."
One Facebook user even went so far as to call the company the "the Martin Shkreli of taxi services." Shkreli – who has been arrested for securities fraud – has been widely criticized for his decision to charge $750 for a tablet that AIDS patients rely on and previously paid $13.50 for.
Meanwhile, other social media users were quick to point out that riders must always acknowledge and accept the surge price before being picked up.
Uber also made efforts to inform users before New Year’s Eve that prices might be higher.
On its Facebook page, the San Francisco-based company — which just celebrated its 1 billionth trip — released a tip guide for app users who planned to use the service, and the company also sent an email to riders that warned of steeper prices in some areas.
"Our goal is to make sure you can always push a button and get a ride within minutes — even on the busiest night of the year - and surge pricing helps ensure that choice is always available," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "...Riders are repeatedly notified about the pricing directly within the app and asked to confirm and accept increased fares, or can opt for a notification when prices drop."
The spokesperson continued: "When folks know that the option for a reliable ride is at their fingertips, it becomes much easier to make the choice not to drink and drive."
Uber also said that only 60 percent U.S trips between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. had surge rates, while 84% percent of cities had less than a three-times surge price.