The Gist

  • Unresolved issues. Doordash customer support struggles to handle complex, persistent problems, leaving users frustrated.
  • Unreliable rides. Uber's unpredictable driver cancellations and refusals risk leaving passengers stranded and stressed.
  • Trust dilemmas. Airbnb's occasional unauthorized rentals can lead to last-minute cancellations, compromising user trust and satisfaction.

As a frequent user of sharing economy apps, I have always been impressed with the convenience and flexibility they offer. From booking a ride on Uber, renting a room on Airbnb, to getting food delivered through DoorDash, these platforms have given me a sense of freedom and control, peppered with often beautiful serendipity. However, three recent experiences with the sharing economy have left me feeling let down and frustrated.

Doordash Customer Support Disappoints

My disappointment started with Doordash, an app that I had come to rely on heavily for food delivery. I even had a paid account through a promotion with my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. One day, out of the blue, I found myself locked out of my account, unable to make a payment. I contacted customer service through chat and phone multiple times, and each time they reinstated my account, attributing the issue to a system error. However, the problem kept recurring, and I was left in a constant cycle of being locked out of my account and contacting customer service for help.

Despite my vocation in technology, and a strong feeling that I needed to get more in-depth assistance from the Doordash technology team, I was powerless to resolve the issue. I came to realize that as an individual customer, I was not important in the grand scheme of things, and there was no higher power to appeal to. Eventually, I gave up on my DoorDash account altogether, and now rely on my wife's account — which we had to set up in response to my troubles — for any food delivery needs. 

DoorDash customer support is 24/7, always on, but the nature of the things they can help with are limited. They probably can handle most customer issues, but what about one — like mine — that seemed persistent and more complex?

Uber Leaves Me Stranded

Another instance that left me feeling disillusioned with the sharing economy was during a recent trip to London, England. I had a “redeye” overnight flight to catch from JFK airport, which is located quite far from my home in northwest New Jersey. I had planned to use Uber to get to the airport. 

I figured I could take advantage of the American Express monthly benefit for Uber users, write off the ride as a business expense and use the opportunity to continue working while someone else drove. However, I ran into a major obstacle when the first Uber driver I booked refused to take me to JFK, despite agreeing to the ride beforehand. He showed up at my house, I loaded my luggage and even got into the car. When the destination appeared on the dashboard, he said he would not go to JFK; he had thought it was Newark, New Jersey, which is much closer. 

I was suddenly left stranded — I live in a somewhat rural area — with no other drivers available, causing me to become increasingly anxious about missing my flight. Eventually, thinking on my feet when I had planned to put my feet up, I figured my best move was to drive 25 minutes south to a major mall complex, park my car and try booking another Uber or Lyft in a more trafficked area.

This process was frustrating, too, as several drivers accepted my request only to cancel it, leaving me feeling helpless and uncertain. Finally and fortunately, I was able to secure a driver who took me to JFK, but not before a great deal of stress and inconvenience. Add to it that I had to stash my car at the side of a mega movie theater and ask my wife to come pick it up while I was away on my trip. It felt like the scene in Back to the Future where Marty McFly hides the DeLorean in 1955.

Related Article: What the Heck Is Happening at Uber?

Airbnb 'Host' Shuts Door Abruptly

Finally, another recent experience, this time with Airbnb, left an extremely sour taste in my mouth. I was able to book a luxury high-rise apartment overlooking the George Washington Bridge and New York City for my wedding anniversary. It was relatively affordable, especially for a New Year’s Eve. 

Learning Opportunities

Strangely, I received a message from the host asking for my phone number. This immediately raised red flags. I ended up chatting with the host, and he told me that his building was technically off-limits for Airbnb use. He said it would not be a problem, though, as he would meet me and my wife in the parking garage and then walk us past the front desk by pretending that we were family. To add to the weirdness, he offered to rent me a car, such as a Ferrari, Bentley or Lamborghini. I politely declined. None of this was instilling much confidence.

Wasn’t the sharing economy supposed to be less about human-to-human negotiation in the securing of the services and more about ubiquitous technology handling all that? A few weeks went on without incident. But then, a few days before our stay, the reservation was abruptly canceled, leaving me scrambling to find a new accommodation for my anniversary celebration.

Airbnb customer service did everything it could, from refunding the reservation to assisting with alternate accommodations. But nothing compared to what we had booked, and few places — on Airbnb or otherwise — were even available at that late juncture, especially for as popular a date as New Year’s Eve. We ended up at — how conventional — a fine hotel in the area. Airbnb even covered 20% of that stay. 

That said, the entire experience left me wondering about the trustworthiness and reliability of the sharing economy. I also kept imagining how bad things would have been if we did not live relatively close to the area. What if we had to travel by plane, for instance, to this accommodation?

Related Article: The State of Digital Customer Experience: Where We're Headed

Rethinking the Reliability of the Sharing Economy

These three experiences represent those of just one individual in a sea of ubiquity. But they did happen across three different sharing, “gig” economy platforms. I have been using these services generally without incident for several years. But could they represent a worrisome trend? It was a straw that broke the camel’s back, right? 

I am left questioning the reliability of these platforms. While they have provided me with great convenience in the past, there are issues that need to be addressed. As a user (or tester, in our industry parlance), I can only hope that these companies will take my feedback and experiences seriously and work toward improving their services to provide a better and more seamless customer experience.

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