In theory, Home James (www.homejames.com) is a splendid idea for public- transportation-challenged cities like Los Angeles. When you’re too drunk to drive, you call Home James and a guy on a motor scooter arrives wherever you happen to be staggering. He folds the scooter, tosses it in your trunk, and drives you home. Then he unfolds the scooter and zooms away. The cost, $55 for the first five miles and $5 per mile thereafter, is hardly more than the price of two cabs (one to get home and another to retrieve your car the next morning). And it’s a downright bargain compared to the cost of a DUI or, worse, an accident. Makes what could be an awful experience kind of funny.
When I scheduled for Home James to pick me up after my weekly Tuesday-night post-game tailgate with my softball buddies, I discovered that the company is grappling with the success of its clever idea. Home James lost my reservation and had to scramble to get me a driver. My teammates had all gone home by the time James (actually, a nice guy named Lawrence) showed up, 20 minutes after he promised. And he arrived not on a scooter but in another car with another person who’d follow behind my car to take Lawrence to his next appointment. It turns out that nearly half of Home James’s rides are of this variety, since the scooters are too slow for freeway driving. Simon Horwell, Home James’ Director of Operations, said he toyed with limiting the service’s range to scootable distances, but felt he couldn’t turn down the calls he kept getting from far-flung drunks. “We felt like we were missing out, so we just charged them more.” Horwell said he’s also received more than 300 requests for franchises worldwide.
The rest of my night went as planned, and my car and I both arrived home safely. Who’da thunk it: an L.A. business that delivers the goods but neglects the glamour.