Well Greenpoint, strange things are happening in the world of transportation these days. Whether you are hoofing it on NAG’s Industrial History walking tour this Saturday, or simply looking for a way around this nasty L train shutdown business, you might want to reexamine your travel plans because there other options you might or might not want to consider.

Stop horsing around

Photo © Chriscubeta via Instagram

Earlier this week, Williamsburg saw something that it hasn’t seen in a loooong time—I’ll let you guess, and no, it wasn’t a grungy hipster.

What had curious onlookers furiously snapping pics?

The sight of a man and his horse casually trotting along Union Avenue, with sun on their backs and a breeze blowing through their manes.


The rider, Walter Blankinship, is the owner and manager of  Kensington Stables located in nearby Prospect Park.  When Mr. Blankinship is not taking out trail rides inside the Brooklyn park, he and his horse ride up to Williamburg and act as live models for paintings. Now that’s what I call a job!

Say what? Uber charges gal $16,000 for a 35 minute trip?

Yep, you read that correctly.  A whopping $16,000 dollars is what Uber claims Jamie Hessel owed them, but only after correcting her previous $12,000 bill!

The nightmare began on March 28th. It was flurrying outside and Hessel was running late for Crawl for Cancer–a pub-hopping fundraiser which was set to kickoff at 1pm.  Instead of leaving it to chance, Hessel hit up Uber rather than hopping on the train. A mistake she quickly wished she had never made.

Hessel said despite knowing a price-surge was in effect, she had the driver pick her up at her East Williamsburg apartment and whisk her off to East 50th Street in midtown Manhattan. The alarm bell first rang when the driver took his sweet time before leaving for the destination. Hessel told the Gothamist, “The guy picked me up, and sat there for a bit. Maybe for five minutes or so.”

Once on their way, with the GPS on, Hessel noticed the driver was more interested in placing calls on his cellphone and checking his voicemail than paying attention to the road.  ”I’m paying attention to his GPS, and I’m very familiar with the area, and I see him go right by McGuiness, and I’m really curious how he’s going to get to 50th Street.”

Upon his second attempt to get on McGuiness Blvd, he misses the turn again and directs the car onto the nearby BQE ramp. Realizing what he had done, Hessel says, “He slams on his breaks and he stops in the middle of the ramp, and puts his car in reverse.” She urged the man to stop driving like a maniac and follow the traffic like a normal human being. Towards the end of the trip, the driver hauled ass down bus lanes and cut off cars on both sides of the East River to make up for lost time.

Once in the city, Hessel requested to be let out a block away from her destination. She later admitted feeling stupid that she didn’t get out of the cab sooner.

The initial taxi receipt was for $56.40, which she immediately contested, claiming the driver overextended the trip. She filed a comment with Uber, which they followed up several says later saying they were going to reimburse her for $15 dollars of the trip.

End of story? Not a chance in hell

Days later after not receiving the reimbursment on her credit card, Hessel realized her credit card had expired and she checked in on the situation with Uber to fix the glitch.

“I received two e-mails yesterday. One about the status of my credit saying it should be there, it’s been processed. And then a second email saying they [Uber] are trying to charge me $16,000, but then $4,000 had already been taken care of, so I owed them $12,000. I couldn’t even tell you what this was about, because I checked my credit cards and there was no charge. I emailed them numerous times and they kept giving me the runaround. I was furious. I mean, you can’t give me an explanation?”

What happened next was a flurry of frustrating emails back and forth between Hessel and an Uber agent, who claimed the charge was a mistake. Meanwhile, Uber was still trying to charge $16,000 to Hessel’s expired credit card!

Hessel told Uber they could keep the $15 dollar refund because there would be no way in hell she’d give them her new credit card information. And it was a good thing she didn’t! Days later she received yet another invoice from Uber, only this time they were attempting to charge her $16,251.46!!!

When Hessel contacted Uber again to complain, the representative said, “Let me explain,” and then the phone went dead.

What did Uber have to say about this serious error in accounting? According to them, they were merely trying to reimburse Hessel for the whole trip and punched in the wrong numbers. Yeah right Uber, let’s blame it on a couple of fat fingers. That statement has as much truth to it as the NY Times claiming George Bush Jr. can paint.

Moral of the story? Hop on a horse like Walter Blankinship–at least you won’t ever have to deal with shady drivers or Uber accountants with hot-dog fingers again.

Join the Conversation


    1. Why? The Uber drivers live in the neighborhood as well, so as far as I can tell, using a local car service only benefits the owners of the car service.

      I’ve also had terrible experience with local car services, including cars not showing up, having to negotiate over fares, getting stopped on the side of the road and drivers getting lost.

      I haven’t seen any indication that the local service drivers get paid more than the Uber drivers, and local fleet owners have a reputation for treating their drivers terribly.

      I don’t work for Uber, and I’m not trying to pick a fight – I’m genuinely wondering who benefits if I decide to “shop local” by calling a local car service over Uber…

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