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The Ghost Cab Chronicles

The story of Curb app’s terrible UX.

You are huddled in the doorway to an apartment building in the east village. It’s 2 am and it’s pouring rain.

“Don’t worry,” you tell your friend Lorena, “even though it seems like there are no cabs right now this app Curb says that one agreed to meet us at this address.”

We had purposely chosen an address about 20 feet in from the corner and all the other poor souls trying to catch a cab on the avenue at the end of their rainy night.

The little yellow cab on your phone seems to be moving extraordinarily slow considering the light traffic. The cartoon app cab drives by you but you see nothing. Is it a Ghost Cab?

Nope, it’s just bad UX (user experience) .

The app then asks you a question, (even though you are texting the driver, asking for a call back) in 2 small boxes at the bottom, which has 2 options.

One of the options of the 2 small boxes is Cancel.  All I can remember is “I don’t know where this cab is, the map is incorrect and I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT WANT TO CANCEL.”

This kind of confusing wording is terrible user experience.  In addition the boxes were small, and if it was (or is now) a pop-up window - they cause the most conscientious of us to instinctively close them.

Now, standing there huddled in the doorway you patiently wait, where is the F is my ride?

The first time this happened I watched the tiny cab on the map drive away.  Someone stole my pre-ordered cab and it became clear to me that I was going to be charged for this jerkoff’s ride home.  I fumbled with the app trying to find where to contact customer service, phone number, email, messages, twitter.  It took them 3 days to respond.  THREE DAYS.  At this point I had already contacted Amex to dispute the $40 charge.  What an amazing pain in the ass.

The SECOND time this happened I stood at the address, the cab was pictured on the map at the address never moving, I sent 3 texts to the driver (Where ARE you?), requested 3 call back messages and then... Boom!  “You’ve been charged $12.56.  Thanks for using Curb.”

I did not get the “are you in the cab? / cancel” question this time.  I send a few angry emails and posted on twitter twice.  

“@gocurb my pre-ordered cab got taken AGAIN & I paid.  Will you answer me under 3 days this time?  I’ve known tinder ghosts w better manners.”

They responded to my email within 24 hours (the same form letter as before reminding me about the “are you in the cab / cancel” buttons, and the pat response of “we’ll talk to our driver about it”).  But it took another 3 days to be reimbursed for that ride.  In the meantime, someone got a free cab ride and Curb lost more money.  


Dear Curb, your abysmal customer service aside, there is a better way.  Allow me to tell you how to easily update your app so people don’t get charged for cabs they aren’t in and you stop losing money.  

broken image

Before the driver lets the passenger in the cab - he rolls down the window and asks to see this: his medallion number on the screen of the correct passenger.  No matter what nationality, their reading level, grasp of the English language; the driver knows his medallion number.  

This could also work for Uber as well - trading the medallion # for the license plate # or the driver’s name.  Hey, Raul (my last uber driver’s name) - let’s start this trip off right!

And if you are an extraordinary gentlemen and paying for your date to get an uber home (like my dear friend Simon Jones does for his ladies quite often) - add the option to Share - and Simon can easily send this screen to the lucky lady.

This could also work for pre-ordering Starbucks. I have had my drink taken once (out of about Kagillion, but still) but the same applies.  You have a screen with your name & an order.  


Problem solved.  

Imagine a world where you can be assured that you can order a cab or a car or a coffee and don’t have to worry about standing alone in the rain at a late hour, just trying to get home safely, being charged for a ride you didn’t take and waiting 3 days after many emails, texts and tweets to be reimbursed.  Dare to dream, young Americans, dare to dream.