Pisstaker of the Week: This Absurd Uber Journey

In which an out-of-service public transport service yields some ridiculous morning commute price estimates.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
Uber surge pricing London northern line £87
Image by the author

It was really only a matter of time before a big corporation landed itself with the Pisstaker of the Week plaudit. Because really, aren’t The Brands revealing themselves to be the great pisstakers of our lives, harvesting our data like blood cells, milking our shrivelled teats dry of money, while also treating us like children who are expected to believe that they care about our brains and wellbeing?


Anyway: Uber.

On Wednesday morning (the 4th of September) the Northern Line on the London underground was out of service, as London underground lines often are when signal fails or someone vomits on a train or drops their phone on the tracks and “Can I speak to the manager”s some poor station worker into retrieving it for them immediately. This meant that people required alternative modes of transport – those who couldn't get on the now-rammed bus services (and still wanted to, you know, get to work on time) turned to taxi apps like Uber.

In turn, this created an Uber surge pricing period, with users telling Metro they were given ride estimates of £67 to £87 for trips that normally would cost between £12 and £17. Sure, the trip in question was across about six miles from south London's Tooting to Kensington in west London, but still.

The piss, it has been taken:


Uber surge pricing is calculated via a complex algorithm centred on supply and demand: the more people want Ubers, the higher this drives the price up in order to persuade more drivers out on the roads (during surge periods drivers get paid extra per trip).

To caveat this, I will say that if you get Ubers to work out of laziness, you absolutely deserve to pay the odd surge fare because: a) of what you are doing to the planet and; b) Uber are accused of treating their 'workers' (who aren't officially counted as employees) poorly. But on this occasion, Uber allowed this surge to rise past a point where you'd think “Oh, that's a bit much” and towards “This has actually just moved into an existential realm of pisstaking where it does just seem like they’re banking on the fact that some people will be so rich and/or desperate to get to work that they will just pay it.” Which feels… I don’t know, unfair? Like it’s actively taking advantage of a short-term, unplanned problem with the transport system for profit? Just spitballing here.



As one of the people who spotted the surge on Wednesday morning points out in the Metro’s article, “£57 for an Uber Pool is disgusting. I could get a train from London to Liverpool for that price. I could have taken a flight to Spain!’” I mean, obviously this person would not have done either of these things, and more likely spent the money on a particularly fetching skirt from & Other Stories but it’s true, isn’t it?


Once, I was moving out of a house that I’d lived in for a year. In that time we’d allowed the front of the house and the back garden to get a bit* messy, but we made sure to tidy it up before we left. This big clean up involved cutting back a large, overgrown tree which had been in the front garden since before we moved in, and this we did just like all the other tasks. At the end of the tenancy we got an email from the lettings agency saying that they would need to remove the tree and that this would incur a fee.

We, of course, did not plant the tree, and we told them so, adding that we didn’t understand why they were asking us to pay. The agency removed the fine as quickly as they had issued it. This made me so angry I could have walked through a wall: they had chosen an arbitrary sum just to see if we’d happen to pay it. And everyone is at it – including, as we have seen here, Uber.

Obviously this is in no way surprising given The Current State of Things, but all in all these couple of fables regarding people just trying to live their lives and others trying to take advantage of that for money add much weight to my growing erotic fantasy of going to live by the sea in silence and bartering for possessions with only shells or something. That’d be the life.

*the back paving was covered in what I will term a ‘carpet’ of vines.

Honourable mentions: Whoever tried to ship £120 million worth of heroin in a box of dressing gowns on a boat to Belgium.