Ooh, Ooh, Uber!

Uber is a car booking service that works via a smartphone app. It was started in San Francisco back in 2009, but has only just entered the Shanghai market. You need to scan your credit card to sign up and after that, all payments are handled automatically – there’s no need to pay the driver, you simply get picked up and dropped off and then you get a receipt sent to your email account together with a nice map of your route.

Request a pick up

Request a pick up

It’s certainly more expensive than a regular Shanghai taxi by a long way, but it can be useful for those special occasions or when it’s hard to find a regular taxi. It’s also quite addictive, so be warned!

Track the location of your car and estimated arrival time

There are of course Chinese apps that have been around for a while already, but they generally require some degree of Chinese language ability, so it can be hard for expats to take advantage of them. You may have noticed that more and more taxis are not stopping to pick up passengers on the street because they are waiting for app users who often add a “tip” of between 5 rmb and 20 rmb to attract drivers during busy periods. It will be interesting to see if the authorities eventually crack down on these apps, since charging a premium is technically illegal for regular taxis.

If you fancy giving Uber a try, you’ll get 100 RMB credit instantly if you enter my promo code when you sign up “f9nok”. I will also get a 100 RMB credit once you take your first ride, so everybody wins!

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6 Responses to Ooh, Ooh, Uber!

  1. T. says:

    So I’ve been using Uber (sparingly) over the past couple of weeks – once to get home on New Year’s and a couple times on my friend’s birthday to ferry him from place to place.

    I had a talk with one of the drivers on my drive home – I asked him some questions just because I was curious about who was using the service in Shanghai (and Shenzhen?! where they just started). So the business model Uber uses here in Shanghai is quite a bit different than in the US where the drivers get a direct cut of all the fares they take around. Uber has partnered with a corporate car service – which this guy normally drives for. He was complaining that in his normal corporate car service day, he’ll need to drive 2-3 hours at the most. Usually, some executive going out to see a factory or something. But for Uber, he needs to be on duty for 9 hours just driving around. From 5pm until 4am. And here’s the kicker – he makes the same amount of money both ways, because he’s on salary from the car company.

    That kind of sucks. No. It really sucks that the driver doesn’t get a cut of the fare. So with that in mind, I’ll probably be using Uber less. Well, unless I’m stuck in Hongkou on New Year’s morning at 2am with 1 million people in the street and no way to get back home. Then I’ll probably use it again.

  2. WoAi says:

    @T – Thanks for shedding some light on the way it works here. Not the first business model to need some tweaking for the China market. I think it’s still unclear if Uber will survive in China but it’ll be interesting to see. And yes, to be used sparingly, although it’s hard getting in to a stinky taxi again after enjoying the fresh, new car smell of an Uber.

    As for the drivers, I don’t know. Life is hard, what can I say. I also would prefer to work just 2-3 hours a day. Does it make the driver’s life better if we boycott the service? Won’t some of them lose their jobs?

  3. Stimpy says:

    So what is the cost compared to taxis?

  4. WoAi says:

    @Stimpy – It’s 0.8 RMB per minute and 4.12 RMB per kilometre, plus a base fee of 20 RMB. My trip home last night cost 40 RMB and I guess a taxi would be around 19 or 20 RMB. So it’s at least double. Actually we used it on Friday night when there were no taxis so you can ask Lio what he thought of it.

    I know it’s not cheap compared to Shanghai taxis, but you can always sign up for the 100 RMB credit, try it out a few times and then just not use it if you don’t like it.

  5. Stimpy says:

    Okay, cool. Interesting info.

  6. Terence says:

    @WoAi – He still drives for the car service. He says he has like 2-3 days of Uber service a week and 3-4 days of regular car service a week.

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