This week Whine Wednesdays deals with a new kind of scam that Uber drivers in Buenos Aires are perpetrating against the company and foreign sounding clients are paying the price.
Uber works perfectly in most of South America and I really like their service all over Brazil and Chile. I had used their service in Buenos Aires previously (when it was working just fine) and was wondering why suddenly all these drivers were cancelling my rides left and right or asking weird questions such as where I was going and what payment method I was using.
It has always been a red flag if the Uber driver asks for my destination (a big no no). Nobody has ever before asked what kind of payment method I was using. As a matter of fact, most drivers in countries such as Brazil where cash payments are allowed prefer cards because they don’t like dealing with cash (no guarantee if get paid and due to security).
Previously, I had no problem getting an Uber from Ezeiza to downtown. After ten drivers had canceled on me, I decided that I need to look for another option getting to the city. Some drivers actually started the trip without being anywhere close to the pick up point but then canceled it.
Then yesterday, when I needed to get from Anselmo to the InterContinental, three drivers canceled after they had accepted the ride in a rapid speed and Uber kept assigning another driver.
At this point I was wondering, what the heck is going on with the Uber here?
Fourth driver picked me up and his English was good. I chatted with him about my recent Uber experiences and found out what the issue are.
1. Uber is still “banned” in Buenos Aires.
2. Drivers don’t need to remit Uber’s commission on cash fares at the moment because it is “illegal”.
3. Most drivers don’t pick up customers with foreign sounding names because they pay by credit cards and Uber nets the payments. They feel that they don’t get paid for these rides.
This is very shortsighted by the drivers. They need to pay Uber’s share eventually but I guess that they (drivers) plan to exit the system by that time and just default on their responsibilities. On the other hand, you could also argue that this is rational in a very high inflationary environment if they need to pay Uber’s share months later in devalued pesos.
Not sure why Uber just doesn’t deactivate these drivers that keep canceling rides from the customers? I have never seen this kind of behavior from Uber drivers anywhere.
On a side note, the Argentine peso has devalued close to 50% over the past month. The government has been seeking $50 billion rescue package from the IMF. There are no devaluation specials here, however. All the hotels have their prices set in USD as far as I have kept coming here due to the instability of the currency.
During the previous administration (Queen Cristina), you could always do the Dolar Blu (stacks of dollars – see the photo above from the piece that I wrote four years ago) when they tried to control the exchange rate and get 50% more on the black market. Not anymore.