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Uber investigating after Toronto woman left stranded ‘in middle of nowhere’ during Calgary snowstorm

WATCH: A Toronto woman is speaking out after a nightmare Uber ride in Calgary left her stranded in the middle of nowhere, unprepared for a snowstorm she had been caught in. Heide Pearson reports.

A quick trip during a visit to Calgary turned into a snowy, cold nightmare for a Toronto woman who was left alone and unprepared on the side of an industrial road by her Uber driver.

Lorena Sanchez was in Calgary for just 24 hours last week and when she needed a lift from her hotel near the airport to a business meeting on the morning of Oct. 9, she hailed an Uber.

Calgary was under a snowfall warning that morning, and Sanchez wasn’t prepared for the surprise blast of wintry weather she woke up to that day — when she left her hotel, she was wearing closed-toe shoes and a light coat.

“We made a little chat about how is the weather in Calgary; is this normal? So [the driver] knew that I wasn’t from there,” Sanchez told Global News.
Snowstorm sweeps through Calgary leaving roads a mess
Snowstorm sweeps through Calgary leaving roads a mess

As she was on the way to her meeting — being held at an office building on Country Hills Boulevard N.E. — Sanchez said the driver stopped on not-so-close-by 36 Street N.E. and said according to his map, this was the end of her trip — despite it being three kilometres away from the destination she’d entered in her app.

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Confused and unaware of where in Calgary she was, Sanchez called the office and asked if she was close by. They told her she was a ways away and gave her directions, which Sanchez said she relayed to her driver, asking that he continue and drop her off at her destination.

The driver refused, Sanchez said.

“These were his words basically: ‘You’re making me wasting my time, I need to get another ride,'” Sanchez said.

“So instead of getting me a solution — even though his map was saying that that’s the end of the destination but there’s nothing there, right – he wasn’t into giving me a solution or taking me to my destination by any means.

“So long story short, he left me on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and he took off.”

READ MORE: Calgary Uber driver removed from app after sending profanity-laced, sexual email to customer

Sanchez said she was left stranded in a snowstorm, unprepared for the weather, in an unfamiliar city with all her luggage and no buildings around she could go in to keep warm.

“The first few seconds I just wanted to cry,” Sanchez recalled. “I felt overwhelmed, I felt I was mad, frustrated and I was in a rush. I was going to a meeting and all those things, and I was cold. Then it took me a few other seconds to put myself together and try to find a solution quickly.

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“I have a strong personality — I’m an Ironman athlete, so I’m used to being put in a limit. So I can bring myself back to normal pretty quickly… But it was overwhelming for a few seconds and thankfully I found a solution very quickly.​”

She called the office back and explained what happened and someone eventually came to pick her up, but not before she spent about 20 minutes waiting in the cold.

“His attitude basically was: ‘I don’t care, I leave you here and I don’t care what happens to you,'” she said, adding she was concerned this kind of thing could happen to others who aren’t necessarily as quick at troubleshooting as she was.

“That’s what I’m really mad about, is the lack of respect for the passenger.

“I was lucky enough that I had my phone, it was fully charged, people were able to pick me up quickly, and I was able to reach my contact on the other side. Everything lined up for [it] to be no more than unpleasant moment, but it could have been something else — that’s the problem.​”

Hours later, Sanchez said she took another Uber, with a different driver, from the office to the airport for her flight back to Toronto.

Trouble reporting the incident

Sanchez said it was difficult to find a way to file a complaint on her experience but eventually selected the “My driver’s behaviour made me feel unsafe,” section of the website — an option that isn’t available on the app.

She got an automated response where Uber apologized for the incident, saying “We’re sorry to hear you weren’t able to make it to your destination as smoothly as you may have expected.”

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The email went on to say her experience “is not the type of experience we want our riders to have” and that Uber has a high standard of service.

READ MORE: Calgary Uber driver warns against sending kids solo in rideshare service

There was a prompt to reply to the email if Sanchez had any questions, which she quickly did.

“I replied to the email saying: well, thank you for your email it seems like you are apologizing, I understand that, but I don’t see any solution. What are the measures are you going to take? Are you going to do something against the driver? How are you going to follow up on this?” she said.

“After I punched send, I got the same email back – the first email that I got, so it was an automatic response again.”

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Hours after Global News reached out to Uber for a response about the incident, Sanchez got an email from Uber saying her fare had been refunded for the trip, but nothing else.

Uber driver’s account under review

A few hours later, Sanchez got another email saying the driver’s account was under review to “determine whether they should continue to have access to the app” and that the fare was refunded as a result of her complaint.

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Uber confirmed to Global News on Wednesday that it had confirmed Sanchez’s trip and that she was in fact dropped off at the wrong location.

As part of its review into the driver’s conduct, Uber said it reached out to the driver to hear his side of the story and was waiting to hear back, which could take a few days.

As for the duplicate automated responses, Uber said all messages get a response like that to notify the customer their complaint has been received and it’s then triaged to the proper department and an investigation is launched. Uber said the investigation was launched into Sanchez’s ride experience before Global reached out on Wednesday.

In addition to refunding Sanchez’s trip, Uber also gave her a $50 credit for future Uber rides.

Sanchez said she doesn’t care about the money, instead, she feels action on the part of the driver is more important, to ensure he doesn’t leave another customer stranded like her.

She said she’s happy to see Uber taking action, but was disappointed she didn’t see any movement on her file until the media got involved.