Uber’s “free” UberX weekend in Brooklyn a little confusing for first-time users

As a part of an aggressive marketing campaign, Uber offered free rides in Brooklyn over the weekend for its less expensive UberX line. The car-hailing startup, which just received a huge investment last week from Google Ventures and TPG and has a valuation of $3.5 billion, offered two free trips to, from or within the borough up to $20 in value, using the promo code BKLOVESuberX.
But there was some fine print that might not be very clear to cab-seekers on a Saturday night, namely what constitutes an UberX car and how much more Uber costs than regular cabs.
As a promotion, it was effective. It seemed like everyone was advising me to take it, if not taking it themselves.
And as a service, it’s extremely convenient and watching your cab roll up across your smartphone screen and to your front door within minutes is nothing short of thrilling. That convenience however comes at a premium.
Fares are still nearly double what you’d pay for a yellow cab, although finding a yellow cab in the outer reaches of Brooklyn on a Saturday night can feel a bit like looking for a unicorn. That’s not to mention the heavy MTA construction over the weekend meant irregular schedules and closed stops on several Brooklyn subway lines.
Out of the three Uber cabs my friends and I hailed this weekend, only one was actually free. Another time we mistakenly hailed a yellow cab, which beginning last April, you can do from your Uber app. The final time the fare was $46 for a 9-mile trip from Williamsburg to Ditmas Park, for which we received a $10 discount. Uber told me that we screwed up again and ordered a UberBLACK but refunded the full $20 for new, confused customers who happened to ask. This brought the total to $26 — approximately what I’d pay for a yellow cab of the same route (minus tip).
Uber screenshot
Our drivers weren’t necessarily aware of the promotion (fare and tip are all included and paid through the app), but they were very aware of Uber, which is expanding its footprint. All three drivers—taxis and black cars who are TLC licensed—said Uber had reached out to them through a number of channels and that overall they felt the system is a fair deal to them. An Uber representative didn’t yet have statistics about how many people used the free service or downloaded the app this weekend, but called it “successful.
As for me, I really enjoyed the convenience but unless I stumble into a lot more money, I’m still, for the most part, sticking to the subway.