My Wife Had An Uber Scare On Her Recent Trip To San Juan

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Uber Scare San Juan

My Wife Had An Uber Scare On Her Recent Trip To San Juan

When I say my wife had an Uber scare it really can be two fold.  She had a big (uber) scare and it also happened while in an Uber vehicle.  It is likely that the scare was worse than the actual intent of the driver but I can’t say that with absolute certainty.  I decided to share the story with you since it is something to look out for if you visit San Juan or anywhere with Uber really.

The Story

I had booked my wife and her friend a long weekend in San Juan.  If you follow us on Instagram then you have seen some of her pictures from the trip.  I booked their first night in the Hyatt House.  Since they were getting there a little later in the day and I only had two Hilton night certificates they had to “rough it” for a night before heading to the El San Juan (review upcoming).

The main drawback of the Hyatt House is that it does not have a lot around it. It also is not located on a beach.  I think it is more for business travelers or people going to conventions etc.  Because of this they decided to head to the public beach for a while and grabbed some food at La Concha.  After it got dark they decided to grab an Uber back to the hotel even though it wasn’t a far walk.  Better safe than sorry, or so they thought.

Uber Scare San Juan

Uber Shadiness

When they requested a pick up the app said the fare would be around $4 or $5.  Definitely not a fare most Uber drivers would be happy about but they would tip him well knowing it was kind of a worthless fare.

They got in and all was well.  Until the driver proceeded to drive right past the hotel without stopping.  Even though my wife and her friend kept saying that their hotel is right there and he needs to turn around, the driver just kept driving.  This went on for several minutes and he continued to refuse to turn around and kept saying the app was giving him bad directions.

At this point they were a ways a way from the hotel zone and in a poorly lit, desolate area. Their alarm bells started going off and they couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t turn around.  If he was trying to take the long way to run up the fare driving right by the hotel was a dumb way to do it.

The panic began to set in and as soon as they saw a strip mall they implored the driver to let them out.  There was a grocery store with people going in and out of it so they thought this was their chance.  They kept yelling for him to pull over.  He kept refusing, saying that he would get them to the hotel he just needed to get the directions figured out.  After several frantic seconds he finally stopped the car and let them out.  The total fare came to around $9 which means they were further away from the hotel than they had started.

Uber’s Response

They called another Uber and were safely taken back to their hotel.  This Uber driver confirmed that the Hyatt House was well known and was one of the easier hotels to get to.  They ended up getting his personal number and used him for the rest of the trip.

My wife contacted Uber back at the hotel to complain.  They took down the info and said they would look into it. They apologized, credited the ride, and gave her a $5 credit on her account.  A whole $5…that is American Airlines level customer service right there.  Hopefully the driver has been removed from the app but I doubt it.

What Do I Think Was Going On?

I can’t say for sure but I would guess that he was simply trying to take tourists for a ride. He wanted to drive up a $4-5 fare.  But driving right by the hotel is a pretty poor way to do it.  There is no misunderstanding there. Which makes me question what the real intentions were.  Especially since Uber can look at the route and the route he took and would credit the discrepancy out of his fee.

If he was going to commit a crime then his info would also be stored in the Uber app which would be pretty stupid.  I honestly can’t see what the guy was thinking.  But when you are in the middle of something like this all you can think is this is not good and I need to get out of here.

Uber Scare San Juan
They checked out Old San Juan the next day after calling their Uber driver directly

Conclusion

Uber is supposed to be the better “cab experience” and negate things like this from happening.  They give the drivers turn by turn directions, have a rating system, and you can track the progress on your phone.  It appears that the system is not fool proof.  It left my wife and her friend pretty shook up for the rest of the night.  Whenever in a situation like this it is important to get out of it as soon as you can.  Luckily they ended up going near a populated area and took that as their chance to exit the vehicle.  It makes it tough when it is in an area you are not familiar with.  Hopefully you have never had to deal with something similar but share your story in the comments if you have.

Uber notates in the app to call 911 if you are on a ride and feel unsafe.  They didn’t think this situation justified that action but keep it in mind in case you should ever need it.

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39 COMMENTS

  1. You’re lucky uber customer service did anything. They’re notoriously awful. You send a message and hope you don’t simply get a pre-scripted reply. Several messages later, most of us just give up.

    • That is true. I wonder if her calling versus sending a message helped out. She did say the person was hard to understand when she called in but I was surprised they did anything honestly with their reputation.

    • So bloody effing true. Uber is horrible customer service. So is Airbnb. So much for crowd sourcing and crowd sharing.

    • That is what I figured as well but why drive right by the hotel when doing it – beyond stupid. Especially with Ubers app you can’t really get away with it anymore. Cab drivers back in the day could taking back roads or long routes but this was so strange.

  2. Yikes. I’ve taking a bunch of Uber’s in PR and San Juan without issue, but this can definitely happen anywhere. Glad they made it safe, definitely would be an uncomfortable situation for sure!

    Looking forward to your el San Juan review. I stayed there 2 months ago and didn’t have a great experience.

    • They took a few more Uber rides throughout the trip without issue. I do think it has more to do with the driver vs it being in San Juan.

      I think they thought the hotel was pretty good overall. They said the outside of the building wasn’t much to look at but the grounds were pretty good outside of the seaweed issue. What kind of issues did you run into?

      • My issues had more to do with the value proposition of the hotel than anything. I thought the facilities were good. & I actually loved their gym. They didn’t offer free breakfast as is normal, only a $13 credit at el cafecito which barely covered an egg sandwich, so I ended up paying out for breakfast (How is a banana $4, and the continental breakfast was $13 for a cup of oatmeal, croissant, coffee and oj?!). Didn’t provide any water. Also I was there 2 days before the official opening in December, and they were suppose to be waiving the resort fee at that time, but the hotel and hilton corporate ended up pointing fingers at each other as to who owed me a refund given I prepaid (eventually got it fixed, but took a few calls). Front desk staff was less than friendly.

        It wasn’t a terrible hotel experience, but given the pricing tier I guess I just expected a bit better standard.

        • I can see that. I know they said some of the restaurants were on the high side. I think splitting a steak, some sides, and drinks was around $150 at the steakhouse. They were working off the $250 Aspire credit so it didn’t hit them quite as hard. As a Diamond she got $19 for breakfast x2 but they still ended up going over. I can totally see where you are coming from though. It isn’t as luxurious as the pricing tier they are charging on property.

          • i was using the credit too thank goodness. I still haven’t gotten it yet though. Curious how long it takes to post for you guys. I have a note on my calendar to call amex in a week or two since it said it could take 12 weeks to show up on your account.

            Glad they adjusted it up to $19 at least. I took a photo of the prices at el cafecito because I was so shocked given how low quality the food was. None of the other onsite restaurants were open yet when I was there

          • Her credit posted 2 days later so I would reach out to Amex for sure. Should have posted by now.

  3. I thought Uber’s new process is to show the fare for the trip, and then that is the fare no matter how long it takes? It used to be based on time & distance but I don’t think that is the case anymore. Maybe it is still under the old method in PR?

      • Interesting. I prefer the up-front pricing because then at least you are never surprised, and it removes the incentive for the driver to take a longer route. The bad part about the up-front pricing is you can no longer tell if their is surge pricing in effect – so if you have no idea how much the ride should normally cost, you may find yourself agreeing to inflated surge pricing without even realizing it.

        Weird that they still have both pricing methods in place, that seems like something that would be annoying to manage from an IT perspective.

        • Yeah the upfront pricing does negate drivers from trying to game the system at all. I agree on the surge pricing thing as well, downside is you never know. I wonder if overall prices are higher with the up front method.

  4. Personally this is an instance where someone should call 911. If not then – when? Will they have the ability to call 911 later?

    They are still in the US where some formal laws should exit – so invoking the police should not result in additional danger from authorities. They were in a car who did not let them off at their intended destination and was driving them who knows where.

    This attempted abduction should ***still*** be reported to the police.

    • I think if he wouldn’t have let them out at the grocery store then they would have gone that route. Even threatening to call 911 could have them pull over as well. I would imagine it is tough to make a decision either way in the moment.

      • So you don’t worry about the next person the driver takes advantage of?

        Is he trustworthy enough not to rape someone but not trustworthy to drive the destination shown in the Uber app?

        • They called Uber and told them about the driver right after the ride. I would hope Uber would remove him as a driver. It is hard to make a snap judgement in the moment.

  5. How scary. Did they take a photo of his license plate? They should really post and share that information as I doubt Uber will do anything.

  6. I am sure the info is still in her ride history. I will have to check later on and see if that is the case.

  7. Really sorry this happened. Wow. I’m curious — what was the uber driver’s rating? I’d imagine he or she would have a lower score compared to most Uber drivers.

  8. Maybe the driver confused it with one of the other Hyatt’s? Doubt he woulda tried anything too nefarious with 2 riders.

    • I don’t think so since they kept telling him that was their hotel and to turn around. That is what makes it so weird and why they were thinking it may be more than a fare pump.

  9. We are headed to SJU next week and will use Uber and are staying at the El San Juan. I’ll report back here with my findings.

  10. So happy to hear your wife and her friend are ok. How scary. What I really want to know is how you reach Uber customer service by phone?!!

  11. Mark I’m an avid reader of your blog and a resident of San Juan. There are drivers here who use the little “it’s the apps fault for the wrong directions”, not for being shady, it’s just that they are plain morons. I’m sure nothing was going to happen to them , the guy was just plain scared and didn’t know what he was doing. We protect tourists here more than our own citizens, so I’m sure if the women would have called the police the guy would have been in deep trouble. Anyways, San Juan is super safe and like any other city, there are some shady areas and people who don’t know English and can sometimes appear to make trouble.

    • I think it was more of a language barrier at that point. I think he may have been confused why they all of a sudden wanted to get out now.

  12. Totally agree with the comments about how awful Uber Customer Service is. Regarding whether Uber now honors the price quoted at the beginning of a trip: Absolutely not. In my case, I have been charged more than that quoted amount so many times that I now take a screen shot of the Uber quote right before confirming the ride. Last week was the latest example, and it took 3 messages to Uber Customer Support to get a measly 50 cent overcharge refunded (not the money, the principle of the thing). Which is exactly why I always use Lyft and avoid Uber except when using up my AmEx Plat Uber credit, as I’ve never been overcharged by Lyft.

  13. Two thoughts that might help that scary, awful situation… I wonder if they had said to him, “I’ll give you $20 if you turn around right now and take us back to the hotel” would have worked? I HATE to do that and it would be a terrible precedent, but their safety is first concern. Sometimes making a fast offer can redirect other bad intentions. Good for them getting out as soon as they could in a safe place. My other thought is to tweet about the experience because Uber seems to pay attention to tweets. I’m glad they did what they needed to do to get to safety. Well done!

  14. This stuff happens in every city, especially now that Uber and Lyft are constantly cutting drivers’ rates. We’re just hearing about it here because it happened to the wife of a blogger. To label this as a problem in San Juan is irresponsible, and hurts the San Juan drivers who are scraping by on the pennies they’re being paid, while trying to make an honest living. I used Uber here times while visiting San Juan in April (staying at the Hyatt Place across the street) and had no issues. But please, when you see these incredibly low fares, just remember that the ride share companies are taking a big chunk of that small amount. If you get where you need to go safely, tip your driver.

    • I never labeled it as a problem in solely San Juan – from the article:

      “I decided to share the story with you since it is something to look out for if you visit San Juan or anywhere with Uber really.”

      I wrote it up as something to look out for anywhere you use ride share.

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