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Laura Washington: No muss, no fuss to clean up with Uber

I can’t get the husband to do it. I can’t get the stuff there on the bus. I can’t deal with an expensive taxi ride and a grouchy cabbie. I can’t even get the typical taxi driver to get me to my destination without speeding, blabbing incessantly on the phone or losing his way. Enter Uber. The revolutionary phone app, already disrupting the transportation world, exquisitely delivered on a daunting chore: Getting stuff out of the house.
OPINION
I have long been carless in Chicago. I have long wanted to give my excess belongings to charity, but it’s a huge hassle to get them there. So they pile up, and up, and up.
The email announced: “SPRING CLEANING MADE EASY.”
“This Saturday, May 2, join Uber users in over 50 cities across the U.S. and abroad in donating clothing to Goodwill. With the touch of a button, a driver will pick up your bags of clothing and deliver them to a local donation center.”
The shoes, shirts, sweaters and flotsam stuffed two huge garbage bags. A click and minutes later, Nicolia, a young woman with a big smile, drove up to my apartment building in a packed SUV. Nicolia leaned over mounds of white plastic bags and cheered, “just push them through the window.” Seconds later, she was off to her next stop.Ah, finally rid of that long, black thing. “Your ‘old lady’ coat,” the husband teases. It took five minutes. It was free. It was oh, so liberating.

Uber, the ultimate disruptor, is establishing good citizen cred as it muscles its way into the transportation industry. Uber paid its “partners” (marketing speak for drivers) to pick up and deliver the donations to Goodwill Industries. The non-profit will sell the clothing and use the proceeds to fund job placement and training programs.On May 2, Uber made 587 pickups across Chicago and delivered more than 1,900 bags of clothing to Goodwill, according to Uber spokesperson Brooke Anderson. “It hit a real need. People want to give,” she notes. Uber makes it “seamless.”

The promotion cleaned out closets in 52 cities nationwide and six countries, yielding more than 468,000 pounds of donations.

Uber knows doing good is good for business, especially as it campaigns to curry favor and fight off concerns about safety, regulatory issues and competition from the taxi industry.

Yes, Uber must do more to beef up its safety standards and assure the riding public is protected from safety and financial hazards.

Yet, there is no going back. Click Uber, a driver is there. In minutes. In a downpour. In the wee hours. In out-of-the-way places. When the bus is late, but I can’t be.

Their drivers are respectful. They know which way Lake Michigan is.

I am a longtime, regular taxi rider. I respect the profession, but have suffered countless bad taxi experiences. Technology has changed that forever.

The taxi industry is seething, and losing money by the minute. It can’t match Uber’s pricing and technology, they argue. Uber is unfair competition, they wail.

Taxi drivers grouse about Uber X, in which anyone can participate. But the smartest, most competent drivers are joining the band.

I’m riding with them. Competition drives excellence. With the advent of Uber, even traditional taxi drivers are improving.
Through disruption, and charitable efforts like the Goodwill play, Uber is providing work and opportunity in Chicago.
I’ve got an app for that.
Email: lauraswashington@aol.com.Twitter: @MediaDervish