I’m banned by Uber — can you help me get unbanned?

She just got banned by Uber. Now what?

Elizabeth Wilson is “permanently banned” by Uber. But why? There’s only one way to find out.

Question

I’m a Fulbright scholar in India, and I’m having a little trouble with Uber. I have two separate Uber accounts, one for the United States and one for India.

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A few weeks ago, I had to cancel an Uber ride after waiting 40 minutes. Uber charged a penalty but wouldn’t let me pay in cash and denied my credit cards. It also sent me a message telling me they had deleted my American account — at my request — and were sorry to see me go.

I just discovered that my Indian Uber has also been disabled. Uber won’t tell me why, only that I’ve been permanently banned. I’ve been trying to get this sorted out. I rely on Uber for transportation. Can you help? — Elizabeth Wilson, New Delhi, India

Answer

Uber should tell you why you’ve been banned and offer a way to get unbanned. But in reviewing the messages between you and the company, it seems you were caught in a cycle of form responses that didn’t really say anything, other than that Uber respects your privacy. That’s maddening.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: I know you personally, having met during a Fulbright year in Germany back in the 90s. To avoid any appearance of conflict, I asked our executive director, Michelle Couch-Friedman, to handle this case. It’s nice to hear from you after all these years.

Like any large company, Uber tries to automate customer service functions. Some of the interactions you had with the company may not have involved people at all, but artificial intelligence (AI) that responds to questions. (If you use Gmail, you can see an example of AI in the suggested responses at the bottom of some of your messages.) In other words, it’s possible Uber had no idea it was giving you the runaround.

What caused you to be banned by Uber?

You’re trying to answer two questions, really. First, did canceling a ride cause you to be blacklisted? And second, how do you get your account reinstated?

When a company starts sending you meaningless form responses, you have to take your case up the chain. Here are Uber’s executive email addresses.

The answer to your first question is “no.” Simply canceling a ride wouldn’t put you on any blacklist. It’s not clear why your account was canceled, but when a ride is 40 minutes late, you have every right to cancel the call and to receive a refund. Uber shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, punish a customer for the shortcomings of one of its own drivers.

On question two, you were technically in violation of Uber’s terms, which state, “unless otherwise permitted by Uber in writing, you may only possess one Account.” But who reads those contracts, anyway?

After we reached out to Uber, it apologized for suspending your account and pointed out the language in its terms. A representative also called you to explain why you were banned. Your account has been reinstated.

24 thoughts on “I’m banned by Uber — can you help me get unbanned?

  1. If I want a cab, I’ll use a licensed, regulated taxi. UBER horror stories abound…… AND, their variable pricing is not for me……

      1. You may very well be speaking true. My son uses it. However, I’ve not had the occasion. Here in the PDSSRA I call a red top on the phone app. In H-Town, I hail a yellow. But, if el tren goes there, I use it. The Lung Gailand Railroad gives geezer discounts. So does the subway. Of course, won’t go into the subway until they implement CW reciprocity, and then I’d feel safe.

        1. New York…isn’t that the place where there is not only a taxi monopoly, but a special taxi police force that arrests people for dropping off their wives at the airport because that technically makes them competitors?

          1. I don’t believe that is a true statement about dropping people off at the airport and getting arrested. Never heard of it. Don’t know where you get that nonsense, but it’s horst shirt.

            Yeah, cabs are highly regulated in NY, [ or were when I lived there 40 years ago ]. Yes, they have a Taxi Commission which polices the industry. Conducts safety and emissions tests. Ensures that the vehicles meet standards set by the city, state, Feral Gubmint. Hammers drivers who cheat the public. You have a problem with that?

          2. Maybe you could write the Mayor and ask him. I am sure he would let you know if New York is doing that to gain more revenue. 😉

    1. A few months ago, I flew into LAX and had to get to Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, a 50 mile trip. I first inquired about the cab fare and was quoted $171. The Uber app on my phone quoted a range of $56 to $72. I agreed to that, entered my destination address and received instructions to go to the rideshare area on the upper level of my terminal. Once I got there, my car arrived about 2 minutes later. The vehicle was a 2016 Toyota Corolla and was very clean. English was not the driver’s first language but I did not have to give him directions since the trip was mapped out on his smartphone. We hit some traffic on the I-405 freeway (there’s always traffic on the 405, it just can’t be avoided). About 70 minutes later, I was at my destination. Total fare charged was $68.50. I gave the driver a $10 cash tip. I find it hard to justify taking a cab with the price difference and the excellent service that I received.

      1. Uber and Lyft are a fundamentally better service model than medallion taxis for several reasons. First, they compete in a free market, rather than playing politics to get a ‘medallion’ from the city entitling them to operate as a monopoly. This means competitive prices for better service – no yellow cab full of junk with a driver who doesn’t understand your directions. You can order a ride from an app on your phone before you leave the restaurant, rather than standing outside in the rain yelling at cars until one deigns to stop.

        But most importantly, you join these services by opening up an account with them and setting up a credit card, as with Amazon. This means that if you have a bad experience with a driver, or just leave something in the car, the company knows who picked you up and what route they took. This works both ways: because the company knows you as a customer, you can’t get away with robbing the driver and leaving him bleeding in an alley.

    2. Cab’s are great especially where I live you can wait for half an hour for one to show up before you call and find out they decided not to send one. You give them one more try and they do the same thing. Then they blame Uber when they go into receivership. True stories. I just can’t figure out why anyone want to use an app where you can get a ride that’s just as good, in just a few minutes?

    3. And I’ll use a company with billions of dollars in cash that has two telephones with GPS tracking (mine and the drivers) to log what is happening that will fire drivers that fall below its threshold. Face it, if the licensing and regulations actually produced a product that consumers considered superior Uber wouldn’t be around, but the fact is the licensing is really about creating barriers to entry and doesn’t do anything to make the service better, which is why I always use Uber or Lyft when I can.

  2. Great Job, Chris. This is so weird but I have been emailing with Uber over an issue for 3 days and found this relevant. Uber has a couple of glitches and the OP encountered both: when a payment method for a ride does not go through for whatever reason, it usually just switches to another method or allows you to add one next time you log in. This is no longer functional. So if I lost my Visa card and replaced and the ride couldn’t be charged, so I added my Amex next time- I would still receive the message that I had to pay, when I’m trying to pay. This has happened a few times and required manual intervention by Uber.

    Also, the 2 account thing was not troubling, since Uber reinstated, but if she had 2 email addresses listed, then that would cause major confusion. I discovered this when linking my SPG and Uber accounts. I had used different emails for each and needed the same to link. I still occasionally have difficulty communicating with Uber bc of the change. Uber usually looks at signup email so remember which one you used.

    Also, I’ve noticed, when I cancel a ride it automatically refunds the $10 charge in the form of a credit.

  3. I really find it fascinating that a few select companies, Amazon and Uber being the first that come to mind, have customers willing to spend hours in countless customer service loops and fighting to speak to a real person, only to be given canned responses from overseas agents that don’t understand half of the English words they’re reading off of a strict script (and their name is “Steve”). I understand how and why it happens. But it really is fascinating.

    1. There are two reasons that we have been running one encore per evening:
      1) We have recently had a surge of new subscribers. These stories are new to those readers. 2) Not every reader catches every story the first time around.
      These stories are in addition to, not in place of our new articles published every morning. To avoid any confusion, they are always identified above the title as a repeat. 🙂

      1. You mean, “This Story Sure Looks Familiar”? Is that what you mean by being identified above the title as a repeat?
        Maybe that is how I missed those before but saw they were repeats.

  4. Oh, no, Lyft loves their surge pricing! Other than that, I love my 20 or so Lyft experiences. I never had a bad one, service-wise.

    1. The are living on venture capital and that is going to dry up – some big investors have dropped them.

      Uber lost over $2 billion in 2016 and probably the same in 2017. Their 3rd quarter loses were in the press at the end of last November:

      “Therefore, it’s probably not helpful, at least for Uber management, that the company just reported another quarter of massive losses totaling some $1.5 billion.”

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