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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Uber Is Even Better When You’re Traveling

Uber Can Trump Cultural Barriers

Writes my friend Matt Bufton, on his honeymoon in Peru with his lovely wife, Janet Neilson:

In Lima, taxis don’t have meters. To use one, you need to negotiate a fare (in Spanish) to your destination. Sometimes they seem to operate collectively, taking on additional passengers.

Thanks to Uber, we haven’t had to try and navigate this system. The app lets us tell our drivers where we want to go, even though we don’t speak Spanish. And we can see the route they use to take us there (and have a means to complain to a 3rd party if we felt ripped off). The fare is charged to a credit card, without any need to fumble with notes and coins we aren’t familiar with.

Uber is great at home, but even more useful when far from home.

If you have ever traveled in a country where you don’t speak the dominant language, you may well appreciate how huge these benefits are. Just notice how many problems Uber solves, problems that people, often with good reason, have worried about when traveling abroad:

  1. You don’t have to negotiate, and if you did negotiate, it would be in a situation where it is difficult because of the language barrier.
  2. You don’t have to deal with additional passengers. You get to go where you want to go without detours or other stops. 
  3. You can use your app to tell the driver exactly where you want to go, without his having to understand your language.
  4. You can judge, somewhat at least, whether he is using the right route.
  5. You have a ready-made way to complain if you feel cheated. 
  6. You avoid the “unfamiliar money” hassle.

Not bad, and Matt’s last line sums it up beautifully.

Now ask yourself this. What if someone who tends to lean toward government solutions wanted a solution to all these problems. Would that person likely have thought of Uber? This is Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society” on steroids.

Cross-posted from Econlog.

  • David Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an economics professor at the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He is editor of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (Liberty Fund) and blogs at