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‘Rent is Too Damn High’ candidate campaigns against Uber

Jimmy McMillan, the founder of New York's The Rent is Too Damn High party, took to D.C.'s streets to promote an Uber competitor. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer
Jimmy McMillan, the founder of New York’s The Rent is Too Damn High party, took to D.C.’s streets to promote an Uber competitor. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Victoria Sheridan.

The political activist known for lambasting New York rent prices for being “too damn high” rode a float across campus Monday because “Uber’s rates are too damn high.”

Jimmy McMillan, founder and central candidate of New York’s Rent is Too Damn High Party, turned his efforts to GW’s campus to promote Hailo, a car service app that is marketing itself as a cheaper version of Uber. Passersby took pictures as the float made its way through campus on a route that also took it past the Verizon Center and down U Street.

McMillan said young people, like GW students, deserve “extra money in their pocket to spend” on other luxuries and “necessities like breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

“This is not about us,” he said. “This is about the millions of public people who can’t afford to make ends meet.”

Known for his catchy campaign slogans and unique facial hair, McMillan’s 2010 campaign to become governor of New York gained national attention and mockery. McMillan became the focus of many parodies, most notably when Kenan Thompson portrayed him on Saturday Night Live after McMillan announced his candidacy for the 2012 presidential election.

McMillan said when officials from Hailo reached out to him, he decided to join the app’s advertising campaign because it was “the first company that listened to me and believed my message, other than Saturday Night Live.”

The app claims to be cheaper than competitors because it will reduce prices by 50 percent for a limited time every weekday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to Hailo’s press release from the event.

Jonna Humphries, the D.C. marketing manager for Hailo, said another way the app works to make rates lower than similar taxi services, like UberX, is by removing surge prices for ordering a cab. She said along with the D.C. area, the app provides service to Arlington, Alexandria and Prince George’s County.

McMillan said he wanted to publicize the app in the District because several members of the Rent is Too Damn High Party were elected to the D.C. Democratic State Committee this past year.

“I’m going to let them know how they can download the app,” McMillan said.

Sophomore Austin Lavin, who stopped to meet McMillan and other Hailo promoters, said he was drawn to the float because of McMillan’s internet fame.

“He doesn’t have a lot of authority or credibility, but I think it’s really clever that the service uses him as a catchphrase to market their program,” Lavin said. “It’s impossible to hail a cab around D.C., and Uber is kind of expensive, so I definitely will be looking into Hailo.”

Another sophomore who noticed the campaign, Sachin Kumar, said he downloaded the Hailo app to see if the company’s claims about lower rates were true, but he found no proof that their prices were cheaper than Uber.

He said unlike Uber, Hailo doesn’t allow users to look at a fare quote, which allows them to find out in advance the cost of arriving at their destination.

“I guess you only find out once you get there,” Kumar said.

Hailo charges users each time they call for a cab, but when the cab arrives, customers pay drivers per standard metered fare rates, according to consumer issues blog the Consumerist. While Hailo cannot reduce the typical fare rates cab drivers charge, they have reduced the $1.50 fee for hailing a cab.

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