Dave Matthews Band brought its jam band music and festival atmosphere to Tampa last week. For this devoted fan, it was, give or take, the 136th DMB concert I attended.
(That’s right 136; there would be weeks at a time when I would take to the open road and follow the band around from city to city. Even after my road warrior days ended, I would still fly to Chicago or New York City to “eat, drink and be merry.”)
Approaching 40 years old and being a parent, “Dave Days” go off much differently than they once did. It’s like the story about the old bull admonishing the young bull about not running down the hill to screw just one cow. “Why not walk down there and screw them all?”
In other words, instead of doing anything stupid, why not be safe, take it easy and enjoy the night?
That’s why my wife, my friends and I relied on Lyft and Uber for transportation to and from the concert.
Because we imbibed at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino before the show, as well as overpaid for watered-down drinks at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, it was a no-brainer that we would rely on designated drivers to get us to and from the concert.
But determining who those designated drivers would be isn’t always easy in Tampa Bay.
There is the option of hiring a car service, but that can be cost-prohibitive for most people, especially the 20-somethings going to a DMB concert.
I guess we could have taken a cab, but what was the cost of doing that? Once the Pinellas-based cab company dropped us off, who would we call after the concert? Would a cab even be willing to go from the fairgrounds to deep into Pinellas? What was the cost?
And would we die of asphyxiation from the stink of cigarette smoke reeking from the taxi?
Actually, taking a cab to and from the concert was an option never really under consideration and that’s what Luddite politicians, like those on the Broward County Commission, don’t get.
According to Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com, Lyft and Uber ceased operations in Broward after the County Commission implemented onerous regulations requiring insurance and fingerprinting of drivers.
But safety concerns, legitimate or otherwise, are mostly a red herring. That’s not what the criticism of ride-sharing companies is really all about. It’s about protecting an entrenched industry, the taxi companies, which have donated enough campaign cash to Florida politicians to delay the inevitable.
But what these transportation companies — from Mears Transportation down to the local gypsy cab — don’t understand is that most ride-sharing customers don’t want the taxicabs’ product.
For many of these consumers, there is no choice between taking a cab and relying on Uber. They’ve rarely taken a cab, they don’t want to take a cab, and they won’t call for a cab.
Lyft and Uber aren’t taking business away from the taxicabs as much as they are creating an entirely new economy.
Like I said, taking a cab to the Dave Matthews Band concert was never really an option for us. We would have done what we did for the previous concerts. One person would drive, while the others drank and enjoyed themselves. It would suck for whomever drew the short straw, but oh well, DMB is not more important than avoiding a DUI.
But with Lyft and Uber operating in Tampa Bay, it was an entirely different situation. And that’s what the cab companies and the Broward County commissioners don’t understand about this new economy.
To switch gears, let me use another example from the new economy to expand upon my original point.
I’m sure you’ve been to a farmers market like the one we have in St. Pete (the largest in the Southeast) or the eclectic one in Orlando. When you would go three or four years ago, — before Apple Pay, Square, and other mobile payment options were available — how much would you spend? Probably no more than the amount of cash you had in your pocket because the farmers and the food trucks and the mom-and-pop local merchants could not physically accept a credit card payment (or without charging a cost-prohibitive fee.)
But then the Square Reader was invented. And then Apple Pay came along. And then PayPal became much easier to use.
Suddenly, you could buy more and different items at these farmers markets. You were not limited by the amount of cash you had in your pocket (or, if you are like my wife, by the cash you don’t have in your pocket.)
At art shows, like St. Petersburg’s Mainsail Festival, you can, as I did, purchase a work of art without carrying a wad of cash or writing a check. This gives you the power to be a more engaging customer.
It’s an entirely new experience. It’s an entirely new economy.
And that’s what Lyft and Uber are really about. In the long run, they don’t care about taking market share from their ugly cousins in the taxi industry. They want to create an entirely new market out of consumers who rarely, if ever, relied on any form of transportation other than their own car.
As for me and my friends, we hope to use Lyft or Uber again at Dave Matthews Band concert No. 137 and 138 and 139 and …