Monday, January 21, 2019

"Car Not Ready"

The Nightmare Before—And After—Christmas
Chapter 3

And we continue with Chapter 3.  See here for the previous chapter.

Well now I was without a car for at least the next two days.  Thank goodness for Lyft and Uber.  I had never used either until I was recovering from my triple by-pass two years earlier.  I needed them to make doctor's appointments when I couldn't drive.  I opened the Lyft app and requested a ride back to the hotel.  The trouble was, since the last time I'd used the app, my credit card had expired, so I had to update it before it would let me request a ride.  I think the process was a little more difficult than it should have been but I managed and my ride came by in a few minutes.  Pretty sweet.

The first thing the Lyft driver said to me was, "Do you speak Spanish?"  I said no.  He said his English wasn't very good.  However, we really didn't need to communicate so it wasn't an issue.

As I continue to tell the story of my car woes, I will report on any interesting conversation or experiences I had with Lyft drivers while I was carless.  I've always heard that most users of rideshare apps prefer to have a totally silent driver.  But I had a few interesting conversations that might be worth talking about. I didn't mind the conversations when I had them; no one was obnoxious.

I guess I should also mention that there will be more than just car talk in this saga.  The issues with the car led to me doing things I don't normally do that I will be talking about.  Like, for the first time in many years I played table games (sort of). And I will probably talk about the issues I had with a hotel/casino or two.  But that's for future chapters.

Anyway, in the afternoon it occurred to me that my Uber app was also using an expired credit card.  I figured I would update right then and there before I needed it.

OMG, what an experience that was.  At first, I couldn't even open the app.  I got a message asking me to prove I wasn't a robot.  Why?  Just because I hadn't used the app in awhile?  Anyway, after checking the "I am not a robot" box, I then got a series of these stupid tests where they show you a bunch of pictures and you have to check which ones have fire hydrants in them, or crosswalks, or busses.  What nonsense. Seriously, why the hell was this necessary?  Now I have a fairly large phone (Galaxy 9+), but when you chop the screen up into nine pictures, it's really hard for an old guy like me to see the pictures well enough to really tell what I'm looking at.  I think I failed the test a few times and was probably screaming loud enough to be heard in Mesquite. 

Finally I got past that, but all that did was get me to the point where I had to enter my user name and my password.  Who the hell remembers this password?  I'm sure I created it once and never used it again.  But Google said it remembered my password so I tried that.  And… didn't work.  OK, I clicked the reset password button.  I reset the password.

And after doing that, every damn time I tried to get in, I got an error message.  I don't think the message was explicitly that I entered the wrong password, so I wasn't sure if that was the problem.

I tried logging in from my PC.  And I was able to do that with my newly created password.  The trouble with that was…..and this is unbelievable if true….it was not possible to update the credit card from the PC.  It seems they designed it so you can only do that from the app.  Is that nuts or what?

I ranted about this on Twitter, and directed a tweet or two at Uber Support.  I tried to explain the problem but all I got back was a message that I could update my credit card through the app, and how to get there.  They weren't telling me how to do that if I couldn't log in.

Well I guess I was entering the password incorrectly (so easy to do on a phone) because just as I was about to throw my phone out the window in a fit of rage, I managed to get in.  And then I was able to update the credit card.  Hallelujah! 

Of course, the irony is that the whole time I was without a car, I never once actually used Uber, I always used Lyft, so the whole exercise was for naught.  However, I know that you need both so you can compare prices, sometimes there's a significant difference depending on which is busier in your area and which one has the most drivers available.  But for all of my rides, the cost was virtually identical or Lyft was slightly cheaper.  Once or twice it was a bit more than slightly cheaper. So I ended up just going with Lyft the whole time.

So I used Lyft to get me to my destination for that night, Planet Hollywood.  I made sure to ask the driver who dropped me off where the pick up location for rideshare was so I wouldn't have a problem being found by ride.

I might have walked over to Bally's if I needed to change games, but I ended up at PH the whole evening.  I walked to where I was told the pickup spot was (very near where I was dropped off, but that isn't always the case).  I requested a ride and the app told me I was gonna be picked up in some kind of Toyota I never heard of—a C-HR.  And thus this incredibly tiny Toyota shows up and it's for me.  It looked like one of those "Smart Cars" it was so small.  But get this….it's actually an SUV.  A subcompact SUV.  When I first saw it, it looked like it didn't even have a back seat, at least I couldn't find the door handle for the back seat so I started to get in the front passenger side.  But the driver pointed out the door handle for the back seat—yes there was one—it was up near the top of the door.  It was a very odd design.  I was able to get into the back seat and I couldn't believe how little room there was back there.

As I was being driven back to my hotel, I was wondering how the hell the driver could use this car for Lyft.  I am sure she must get requests from larger people than me that actually can't fit in the car.  And if she had two large people, well forget it.  I mean really, this seemed like an impractical vehicle to use for rideshare.  I wondered if she picked people up from the airport?  Where would they put the luggage?  I have to assume she goes to pick up riders and encounters some that just can't get into that vehicle and they have to request another ride.  Wow, that would really piss me off.  Not to mention she's wasted her time.  Very strange.

Well the next day was Christmas so nothing was going to happen with my car then.  I took Lyft to the Strip and played poker all day.  My evening session will result in a "woe is me" blog post down the road for sure.

The next day I was hoping to get my car back.  I didn't hear from the guy so I called him at around 2pm.  "Car not ready."  Well, will it be ready later this afternoon?  "I'll try."  I kind of pushed him and asked what time he closed.  "Close at 6."  So I said I would call him around 5 to see how he was doing.  I got ready to head over there at a moment's notice if he called.

No word, of course.  At 5:15 I called and he said the car wouldn't be ready tonight.  "Tomorrow."  I said, "Tomorrow, for sure?"  He just said "Tomorrow."  I wasn't confident.

Well now I was in a pickle.  I had to pack up the car first thing Friday morning if I was going to leave town when I intended.  I had to have the car Thursday.  If I didn't have the car Thursday I couldn't leave.  I had no reservation past Thursday night.  Gulp.

I figured I needed a contingency plan at the very least.  I went down to the front desk and asked about staying a few more days.  I asked to speak to the manager, who knows me and has done extra things for me before (because I am a regular customer at this place).  But he had left for the day.  Damn it.  Why didn't I go over there immediately after speaking to TC at 2 and not gaining any confidence the car would be ready that day?

But I asked the woman at the front desk about extending my trip through the New Year's weekend.  She said that first of all, the rate would be considerably higher.  And second of all, the hotel was fully booked—actually she said it was overbooked—for Sunday night.


This created all kinds of issues for me.  If I really did have to stay the weekend, and couldn't stay where I was, how would I get a new (and really expensive) hotel?

I should explain that when I go to Vegas for 10 days or more, and stay at this place, I take a lot of stuff with me.  I mean a lot.  I take clothes—enough so that I don't have do laundry while I'm there (when I stay for a month like I did during the WSOP, then I will do laundry).  I take a lot of stuff for work (above and beyond my laptop).  I take food.  Yes, I take food that I can buy cheaper in L.A. (or online) than I can in Vegas.  I take cushions so I can try to find the perfect combination of them that will make it less hellish when I am sitting on the not very comfortable chairs the hotel provides.  And in the winter, I take a collection of jackets, sweaters, sweat shirts that I leave in the car (mostly) so I can be prepared for various weather scenarios.

It's a lot of stuff.  Let me put it this way: The stuff I take pretty much fills up the Lexus.  I can say this:  There's no room for a passenger on my way to Vegas. 

So if I had to relocate, presumably to a more standard hotel, how would I get all my stuff there? I mean I guess I could stuff a cab or a Lyft car with it all….assuming it was big enough.  I can tell you one thing.  If that Toyota C-HR showed up, there's no way it would be adequate for all my shit.  I suppose you can request a bigger car?  I never had to worry about that before.  Actually with all the stuff I had, I'm not sure it would fit in a regular car because I'd also have to fit into it too.  It was a nightmare just thinking about it.

So I started thinking that maybe I'd rent a car.  At first I was thinking I'd need it just to relocate and that I could use it to get around Vegas until my car was back.  But then I had another thought.  If the car wasn't going to be ready the next day, maybe I should rent a car for a week, take all my stuff home to L.A., save on the exorbitant New Years room rates, and come back after New Years, turn in the rental car and hopefully my car would be ready then and I could drive it home.  It sounded crazy but it was a possibility. I mean, if I knew for a fact that my car was not going to be ready the next day, it would have started to make sense to plan for that.  But I just didn't know.  Everything was up in the air.  I actually checked on rental cars but I couldn't find a very good deal on one.  I guess the rates were high due to the holiday.

Then there was the weather.  Having lived in Los Angeles most of my life, I am quite spoiled.  Every time I visit Vegas in December I am uncomfortable with how cold it yes.  Yes, I know, those of you who are used to the midwest or the northeast are laughing.  It's not as cold as those places.  But when you are used to Southern California, which pretty much as the best climate on the planet, you really aren't used to cold weather.  As it happened, until, oh say Christmas, the weather had been fairly nice.  I'd say it was warmer than usual for that time of year.  Oh it was cold, colder than L.A., but not too bad.  I was making do with my mid-weight jacket.  I had a sweatshirt or two in my room, but that was mostly to wear in the poker rooms, which are notoriously cold.

The point being, when I left my car with TC on Christmas Eve, I was wearing my mid-weight jacket and my heaviest jacket—really a ski jacket—was safely resting in the back seat of my car.  When the weather started dipping down into the 30's at night on Xmas, and even in the high 20's, I really needed my ski jacket.  And I had foolishly left it in my car, which was now in the possession of TC.

So on Wednesday night, after requesting a Lyft, I went outside to wait and was basically freezing my ass off.  I had on a lightweight shirt, a sweatshirt, and the mid-weight jacket and it wasn't nearly warm enough.  For my convenience, this happened to be one of the few times the Lyft rider was late.  When he finally showed up he said traffic where he was was really bad.  Whatever.  I was looking forward to getting into a nice warm car.

Except his car was not warm at all.  He had no heat at all turned on.  I think he might have even had a window open.  He was wearing what looked like a nice thick leather jacket.  Maybe it was enough to keep him warm.  But I was freezing.  I dunno what the protocol is in this situation.  Is it ok to ask your Lyft driver to turn on the damn heat?  I was new to this, so I said nothing and continued to be cold.  Fortunately it wasn't a very long ride to MGM.

After the poker, I headed to the rideshare pick up spot and it was super busy. There was actually an MGM employee there whose sole responsibility (at least at that time) was helping people find their Lyft and Uber rides. It took awhile for my driver to show up and the spot is in the massive MGM parking structure so of course it was cold.  Almost as cold as the poker room.

Anyway, my ride showed up.  The driver was a young guy and one of the chatty ones.  At least his car was warm.  He asked me if a show had just let out and I guess that one had, as I remembered walking past the David Copperfield theater and seeing them selling souvenirs.  

The driver told me he was likely going to work New Years Eve because there is like a 3X mark up on the fares then.  But he would work early, not late.  He didn't want any drunks getting sick in his car.  Then he proudly told me, "So far, no one has gotten sick in my car…yet."  He went on to describe the one time it almost happened.  Apparently he was taking a couple of girls somewhere and one of them had to hang her head out the window.  I didn't find out if she tossed her cookies outside the car while he was driving or not.  But then he said her friend banged her head on the car door not once but twice reeling her in.  "She must have woken up the next day and wondered why there were two bumps on her head."

The weird thing is that after he told me the story, I swear I noticed a faint smell of vomit from inside the car.  No kidding.  I guess it must have been the power of suggestion.

Then he told me the car he was driving wasn't his car—it was a rental.  Lyft has a deal with Hertz and their drivers can rent a car for a special rate.  His personal car is older and has some issues, this way he always has a newer car and if anything goes wrong, he can just swap it out (sounded good to me at the moment).  Plus, he can use the rental car for his own personal use, pretty much do anything he wants with it except that he can't use it to work for any other business but Lyft.  But he said that it only made economic sense if he "made bonus" which he always had done.  I assume that's some kind of financial incentive for taking some certain number of rides per week.

He dropped me off and I was left to contemplate what the next day would bring me. 

And that ends this chapter. Warning: I'll probably interrupt this series next time with a post about my recent experience playing a tournament at Commerce.  Did I cash?  Well, you'll have to come back to find out. And the next chapter has now been posted and can be found here.


  1. u had to update it before it let u update a ride? mine let me get a ride with an old card no longer good, (lfyt) and i forgot to update it when i got a new card, and then i got an email i owed them money before i could use the app anymore. i immediately got it corrected of course. i worry this will happen in the future because my old nonvalid card is still saved multiple places in accounts saved ive purchased from before.

    1. Interesting. All I know is that I could not request a ride until I updated it with my new CC. Fortunately on Lyft it wasn't difficult.

  2. I had the exact same experience with Uber at the end of December. After taking several minutes to update my info, I was finally able to compare the Uber and Lyft rates.

    1. It's crazy that Uber is so user-unfriendly. You shouldn't have go thru hoops like this to use the damn app.

  3. Next time you are unhappy with the temperature or music in a rideshare speak up. I drove for Uber very briefly and the life blood of those drivers is ratings and reviews. So if the driver is any good they want you to be happy and comfortable. As a general rule I always asked my riders if the temperature was okay or if they had any special requests for music.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Jeff. I'll remember next time. As I said, fortunately it wasn't a long trip.

      You did remind me of the music. I heard a lot of awful music on my trips, I can probably talk about that in a future post. But really it is more that I out of main stream culture when it comes to music. I mean, I prefer music that my father's generation liked more than my own, and certainly more than younger generations like.

      Anything produced after the Beatles broke up is just noise to me. :)

  4. I guess the tittle to your next post will be “ I bought a new car with my big poker tournament win” congrat in advance rob.

    1. HaHa. Spoiler warning: That's not at all where this story is headed.