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A friend of mine mentioned (via social media) that he had used an “on demand” limo service in Chicago yesterday. Of course, I immediately scolded him…not for using this limo service…but instead for “referring to it” as a limo service. As I’ve said in the past, “on demand” apps operate differently than REAL limousine services in Chicago and other major markets around the country. Learning the differences will help travelers make more informed decisions about the vehicle they choose to get in to.
Starting with the basics difference, “on demand” limo companies are not limo companies at all…they are applications for “Smart Devices” (like Ghost Radar or Angry Birds) that summon a car and driver that is essentially prowling the metropolitan area waiting for a notification that someone needs a ride. Adding an app to your Smart Device that dials up a reputable limousine service will get you to the same place, with real limousine company backing it up. And if you have a problem, you’ll likely be able to find a solution, unlike an “on demand” app. which offers little or no back end customer support.
The “on demand” apps are able to skirt local regulations, because they are NOT limousine services, and they know how to exploit this fact. No taxes, offices, no vehicle inspections…and why would there be? As an app, they just take their money up front and hand clients off to the closest guy. Sure…they lure unsuspecting clients by saying they know who or what is running these trips, but the truth is far more disturbing (to me anyway). Once someone is signed up to run trips with an app company, there is no way for that company to know “who” or “what” will show up at the clients’ door.
Massive discounts are another way these apps gain traction in various markets. “Free trip Fridays” and coupon code promotions have a similar appeal as that of a well known (but currently reeling) on-line coupon site. How to put this mildly…there is no business I can think of that can succeed by giving its product away. To their credit, most “on demand” car companies are backed by major investors, with many well-known zillionaires behind the most “social media relevant” models. REAL limousine companies don’t have the luxury of giving business away. There are bills to be paid and employees to take care of.
These services are here to stay, and have popped up in most major cities. Face it…there is blood in the water, and a shark can smell blood (blood meaning money of course). Trust me; these app companies didn’t go into business because they want to help people, unless by helping we’re talking about helping people get rid of some disposable income. They are running a business just like we are. But by using semantics and getting their clientele to believe they are the David while the taxi and limousine industry represents Goliath, they have painted an unfair picture of reality. Newspapers and magazines have run articles expounding on the virtues of technology driven limousine services while characterizing established companies as outdated and ineffectual cheaters whose pricing is unnecessarily high; an interesting comment considering the unique “surge pricing” methods used to blindside their clients during high demand periods. More appropriately…THEY should be represented as King Midas, and the taxi and limo industry as the lowly peasant class.
Is there another service someone would order without knowing who is providing that service? Would you hire a babysitter by hitting an “on demand” babysitter app? Of course not, because your child’s safety is important. So why would you use an app to summon a car, not knowing who will show?

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Dale Schahczinski
Goal driven team leader, with industry experience spanning all aspects of operations and administration.