Get Uber and Lyft without a Smartphone
By Robert Plunkett and Gary Kaye
The older we get, the tougher it is to drive safely. That’s the conclusion of numerous studies from research companies which cite the elevated statistics on accidents. Many seniors try to ignore these results because they threaten to take away their independence. But that doesn’t have to be the case, thanks to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. It’s a potential win-win answer. But there is a problem – ride-sharing programs are contacted with a smartphone and many seniors don’t have one. Or they lack the technical experience to navigate through phone apps.
It is very simple. First you need to establish an account – this is generally done not by the senior but by a caregiver or loved one. When you do that you establish the “Home” location, and you can also specify other regular pickup points such as a doctor’s office or supermarket as well as instructions (pickup should be by door marked “Pharmacy” for example. To initiate the trip the senior dials the GoGoGrandparent 800 number. To get picked up at home, the senior dials “1”, to get picked up at the last drop-off, he dials “2” if it’s a pre-set alternate he dials that number. For anything unusual he just hits “0” and speaks to the operator. So all the senior needs is a landline phone. Period. That’s what makes it different. It need not be limited to seniors, but they are the primary audience. It can be for anyone who is smartphone challenged. But since you pay a fee of 19 cents a minute while the car is in motion, why would you do that if you were smartphone conversant?
One entrepreneur has come up with a solution. Jeff Boogaard started GoGoGrandparent as a service that lets a senior access a ride-sharing service with the touch of a button – on a landline or cell phone. Boogaard’s inspiration was in his grandmother who needed a car sharing service. She had a phone but found Uber isn’t really designed to work with a caller that doesn’t have the ability to contact the driver and walk down the street to meet the driver. Services like Uber and Lyft put much of the responsibility on the passengers to complete the ride. So GoGoGrandparent steps in to communicate with the driver, oversee the ride, and we make sure the whole trip goes off without a hitch every time.
Boogaard’s grandmother told her bridge club members and they told other friends and soon word was spreading out across the United States and that’s when he turned it into a business.
Most users are over the age of 75. They call from a cell phone or landline. They press “1” and that tells the service they want a car sent to their home. When they want to come home, they press “2” and the car is sent to their drop-off location. If they are anywhere else, they press “0” and speak with an operator who will take their location and estimate how many minutes until the driver arrives form them. It is really that simple. They just call the number, press a digit, if they need to they can speak to an operator – they can. GoGoGrandparent will also call when the driver is about three minutes away so that users can start heading outside. After the trip, they get an email or a phone call asking about their experience.
Family members get a little bit more. They can come in and set up a GoGoGrandparent account for their older loved one. They can customize the account according to needs – if there’s a walker, a foldable wheelchair or if they prefer to get picked up on the side of their house with fewer steps.
A family member or caregiver gets notified as the trip is in progress, usually by text.
When the senior initiates the call the loved one or caregiver is notified by text with the name of the driver, car description, and expected arrival time. Not sure if there’s an opt-out but I would doubt it since the caregiver is generally getting the bill.
They can communicate with the driver at any time – to say the rider is in front of the store, for example, or if they have groceries, they’re going to need some help.
GoGoGrandparent works with Uber and Lyft and has just added See Jane Go, which is an all-women service – women driving women. Riders are getting the customized experience overseen by a full-time operator that’s available 24/7 for just 19 cents a minute while they’re in the car. So
If they call the operator it doesn’t cost any more money. Operators can communicate directly to the drivers and relay special instructions such as pickup point, whether the driver will need to carry packages, etc.
it usually comes out to be an extra dollar or two more per ride. Customers automatically get a receipt that lays out all the costs. The service is available in 47 states and 3 provinces in Canada.