The note in the Platine hotel elevator alerted guests that the taxi drivers would be on strike the next day in Paris. The taxi strike would definitely be chaotic, in my opinion, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would solve the dispute at hand which was the arrival of Uber Pop in Paris. In Paris you need a license (expensive) to drive a taxi or a private car like Uber or Uber X, however, Uber Pop, meant that you or I can become drivers in our own vehicles without the special license. This type of ridesharing without the expensive license is at the heart of the litigation. To protest this, the taxi cabs announced a one day strike. It was chaos at the airports, there were incidents, sadly, and some were violent. Ironically, for those in the city, the only car option seemed to be Uber Paris.
I met a retired couple exhausted from their flight from Sydney dragging their suitcases along the Seine. They asked me if I knew where their hotel was and I told them it was about ten minutes ahead. After that bear of a long flight, they weren’t able to get a taxi on their first visit to the city due to the strike – they took the airport bus which dropped them opposite the Eiffel Tower on the other side of the Seine and they were now walking the last bit to the hotel. Imagine arriving at the airport after your long haul flight to that mess! The stress of the situation is not a great first impression – what would you do?
The Paris Taxi Cab
The Paris taxi system has long annoyed me for so many reasons, one of which is the starting fare – you are charged from dispatch which means when you get in the cab, the meter already reads €5 or more. I’m all for a flat starting fee when I get into the cab at the start, however, the variable nature of the fee is annoying – the concierge last year at Hotel Fabric told me it should never be higher than €3 (he said and we should argue it down if we got the tourist rate) but how can I argue when I don’t speak French?
This last visit, one taxi arrived earlier than I requested it so when the hotel staff alerted me to this as I was finishing breakfast, I raced to get outside. The meter was at €10 and the driver was taking his time to clean all of the windows! Argh! And then the driver asked me for exact address of the Catacombs, a famous Paris attraction, where I was to get the tour bus to the Loire Valley. Shouldn’t he know where this popular site is located with putting it in GPS? Or really at 7 a.m., half asleep, is this my job? The ride cost €14.60 and I was annoyed.
My First Uber Paris Ride
I needed to change hotels the day after the taxi strike. I had fractured my foot in Malta and was hobbling a bit with my swollen foot. Normally, I would have lugged my bags to the metro but it wasn’t feasible so I needed a car to move to the other hotel. The front desk tried to get through to the taxi companies but with residual strike issues, the calls went unanswered. I was told to Uber. As I like to walk in most cities when I travel or use the local transit system, I had never used Uber and had a few concerns that kept me away until now. Without a taxi solution, I opened the Uber app to search for a ride.
There were no cars roaming in the 15th arr at the time. There were a few cars on the other side of the river but due to the overwhelming demand with fewer taxis on the road, surge pricing was in effect. Surge pricing means that the normal price is multiplied by a factor due to supply and demand (damn economics!). When I saw it was 1.5x, I was annoyed but figured I need to go so requested a car and surprise, surprise, the 1.5x rate wasn’t available, it was now 1.7 x! This is where I curse and think that the computers are playing with me. Reluctantly, I requested a car at 1.7x and now the rate was 1.9x! I was instantly annoyed and angry. I opted not to pay almost double so requested notification when the rate changed. I cleared the phone and browser cookies and caught up on social media while trying again for the next hour (I still had time before check-in at the other hotel so wait here or wait there). It didn’t move from 1.9x so I gave up while cursing and requested a car at the 1.9x rate.
The black car arrived quickly, the driver greeted me and loaded my bags in the trunk. He confirmed the name of the new hotel and we were off. The car interior was pristine and stocked with amenities – tissues, phone chargers and bottled water. I was offered a bottle of water but declined. As we drove along the Seine, it was too quiet as the radio was off and I asked the driver to turn the radio on. He asked what kind of music and I told him whatever he was listening to was fine as I looked out the window at the water. It was a very relaxing and stress free ride.
The private car drove along the Seine, past the Eiffel Tower, past the many bridges and down toward Notre Dame. We hit traffic as we got closer to Hotel Atmospheres as the area teemed with tourists as we neared Boulevard Saint Germain. At the hotel, the driver opened my door, unloaded my bags and said goodbye. No cash exchanged, no receipts, no muss, and no fuss. By the time I reached my room, I had a detailed receipt email and a request to rate my driver and experience. I gave the driver 5 stars.
For my first Uber Paris ride, Paris definitely had the best views along the way with American pop music in the background which made me smile. The driver was very professional and his car was equipped with many amenities for his passengers. Taxis don’t offer bottled water or tissues or phone chargers.
The ride was definitely a budget buster for me coming in at €34 (the normal fare would have been €18) but behind the tinted windows, I enjoyed the view of daily life in Paris – watching the shopkeepers, the café waiters, the tourists, the students and the workers as they walked through the city and I relaxed stress free in the car. When I’m back in Paris, I’ll definitely use Uber Paris again, hopefully not at 1.9x though!
The Paris Uber Pop vs. French Taxi fight is still working its way through the French legal system.