Hello. I am that 26-year-old girl and City Paper contributor who crowdfunded her $362 Halloween Uber ride. Approving a nine-times fare increase without realizing it is completely my fault, I understand that. The GoFundMe page was made in a very playful manner after a couple of my friends told me they would donate if I made it, in an attempt to brighten my birthday after seeing how upset I was. I'm no stranger to how the internet works, but this was never intended to go viral or garner sympathy from the general public. Almost every single one of the donations I received was directly from my close friends and family (yes, even the $220 anonymous donation, which was from my Uncle John).
I never thought I would come anywhere close to reaching the goal, much less surpass it. When I woke up the next morning and saw that I had over $500 in donations, I was truly shocked, and unbelievably thankful to have such amazing friends and family. I never thought this would be a story that would go viral and end up on Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Jezebel, E! News, and plenty of other blogs, nor did I think I would be fielding calls for comment from CBS, ABC, and local radio stations. I declined to comment to all of these places throughout the very interesting day because I'm a writer myself and I figure if all those people are dying to know what I have to say so badly, then I may as well tell them on my own terms.
Because what really happened is that a bored blogger turned what was intended as a page made and shared for my friends and family to see into a story when there really wasn't one there.
All of the things that made the story seem like such a big deal were also what should have made these outlets suspicious of the story. How could someone with around 1,300 friends on Facebook and 779 followers on Instagram who made no real effort to spread this campaign raise so much money so fast? Because it only happened thanks to my friends and family, and they know me well enough to know that the title of the campaign was meant to be sarcastic and that it was written in a playful manner.
There is no story and I'm not a symbol or a representation of anything, really, and it seems like the internet isn't getting to me as much as I'm sure they were hoping. Additionally, some people read the name "Muhammad" in my written message as a racist jab, but the driver's name really was Muhammad, and if I am sorry to anyone about what has happened, it is to him for involving him at all (as I know that his name could've gone without saying and this isn’t his fault either, since he's not in charge of determining the fare).
The only thing more shocking to me than receiving so many donations in the first place is the amount of attention this has generated—"You’re a celebrity! You're irresponsible! You're the worst! You made BuzzFeed! You're famous! They spelled your name wrong!"—and just how many people appear to be concerned about how much Starbucks I drink (little to none) or where on Earth I live in Baltimore that my rent is only $450 (in the suburbs, with a roommate, if you must know) or how my financial situation at this age while working three jobs stacks up against theirs.
I halted donations and deleted the page due to the uproar and the fact that I did indeed reach the goal. I didn't trick anyone into donating. I was blatantly honest about the details of my situation in the description. It is a shame that something that started out as an outpouring of love and support from my friends and family, who knew exactly where their money was going and made the choice to donate on their own, was turned bittersweet and unexpectedly taken out of my hands on such a national and negative level.
There is still something to be said about Uber and its rate hikes. I understand how surge pricing works, and I understand I agreed to the charge—and requested Uber Black, which is more expensive than the UberX I would have normally requested, since it was the only one available—but, dead sober or not, I know I wasn't the only person who felt outraged that a company they trusted, and probably had good experiences with up to this point, would ask their users to agree to something as outlandish as $362 for a 20-minute ride. While Uber says that the surge prices are to encourage drivers to meet demand, as a consumer it feels like Uber took advantage of a holiday, knowing they would be a last resort for a lot of people trying to avoid driving, in Baltimore and elsewhere.
I won't make the same mistake again, and hopefully Uber will consider lowering their surge pricing on holidays to avoid losing more customers who were in my situation in the future.
A staff writer for the City Paper, Edward Ericson Jr., has written about the perils of the "sharing economy" before as it pertains to Uber, and I'd recommend you read his piece and spread that around the internet instead.