Uber for Meetings?

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UberEverybody wants a piece of the $325 billion annual spend generated by the U.S. events industry, and a question that is being asked is, “Uber for meetings?” The ride-hailing giant offers an event service as part of its Uber for Business platform. Although it’s been around for more than four years, the service doesn’t appear to be on the radar screen of most business-event organizers. Here’s a look at how it works.

When it comes to Uber for meetings, planners start by creating a voucher program on the Uber for Business website, customizing pick-up locations and drop-offs, times, dates, and how much of the ride cost to be covered. A link is then sent to a list of riders on the voucher program. To track the cost of the program in real-time, event organizers use the ride-hailing company’s web tool to see how many vouchers have been accepted and used. They can also use an editing tool to change dates, times, locations of pick-ups, etc. Organizers pay only for the vouchers that are used within the value limits per ride that they’ve set. There is no service charge.

For events that need more than $10,000 worth of ride passes, or if an event will run for longer than seven days, organizers need to contact Uber to set up a customized program,  which requires a lead time of several months or more.

There is also Uber Events, a different, more limited ride service aimed at private events like weddings and parties. The event organizer buys passes for a preset value and sends guests the custom ride-pass link or promo code. The organizer pays only for the ride passes that are used, but the service involves a 2.5 percent administrative fee on the full value of the ride passes at time of purchase.

We asked freelance meeting planner Nancy Sutta Berns, Conference Management Services, Inc., if Uber is for meetings. She explained that she tried to use Uber for group transport but gave up after reading conflicting information on its websites and finding no way to call the company for information. (Its websites list no customer service phone number. Customers send an email with their information and request.) “I’ve not found a way to get to speak to an actual person,” she said, echoing a frustration of many users. “They may have a great online tool, but for facilitating ride service but there’s so much more involved when it comes to event transportation. Live customer service is just the start.”

It may be some time before it can be declared that, “Uber is for meetings.”

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