retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I was at an event last night in Chicago, and was speaking to some folks who'd gotten there a little later than expected. The problem, they said, was that at the McCormick Place convention center, there were about 200 people waiting for cabs - and no cabs.

They'd circumvented the problem, he said, by using the Uber application on a smartphone, which allows passengers to instantly connect with private drivers … in just a few minutes, a large black SUV showed up, picked up his group, and then delivered them to the party. The cost? $40 - higher than a cab would've been, but worth it because there were no taxis to be found.

I didn't know a lot about Uber, though I'd certainly heard of it; I'd even had a Chicago cab driver complaining about it was wrong that he'd paid so much for a taxi license and had to follow certain rules, and that Uber drivers could put him out of business.

I think that's called disruption.

Then, just in the last 12 hours, there have been a number of stories in the media about Uber - especially because cities are trying to figure out how to regulate a business that so far has defied regulation, and is costing some of these cities revenue.

But what is clear in most of the stories about Uber - which I have yet to try - is that consumers like it. It isn't a perfect service, but people seem to like the fact that it is highly responsive to their needs, and that while costs are different from traditional taxis and limos, the numbers are transparent and seem fair.

In other words, it is a system designed for consumers, without the shackles of legacy systems and traditional rules.

It never stops. It pervades every industry. it changes lives and businesses.

And it consistently is an Eye-Opener.
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