Sober Dudes to the rescue: 'Keep the roads as safe as possible'

Sober Dudes to the rescue: 'Keep the roads as safe as possible'
Ralph Falls, marketing manager for Sober Dudes, drives his VW Beatle while working for the Bend-based designated-driving service owned by his wife , Jennifer. Here Ralph Falls stands by his car in Bend, Ore., Monday, Aug, 27, 2013. (AP Photo/The Bulletin, Andy Tullis)

BEND, Ore. (AP) — Whether you need a ride home in your car after having a little too much to drink or want a six-pack and a late-night munchie delivered, Sober Dudes will provide the service.

The Bend business began its designated-driving service in April 2011. For a fee, a company employee will drive an intoxicated person home in the customer's vehicle. A Sober Dudes' vehicle follows for the designated driver's return trip.

But when Jennifer Falls, who has been involved with the company since the beginning, bought the company in August 2011, she expanded Sober Dudes' services, adding chauffeur and alcohol-and-food delivery services, designated drivers for weddings and other events, as well as memberships for individuals and companies.

And the strategy is working, said Ralph Falls, marketing manager and Jennifer's husband. The number of rides has increased 36.5 percent this year over last year, as of Monday. And business for two recent events, Bend Brewfest and the Ghost Tree Invitational golf tournament, each increased 58 percent over the same events last year, he said.

Ralph Falls said Sober Dudes has given a total of 3,635 rides since it started business. And about half were repeat customers.

In April, he said, the company raised prices by $5 and created $100 annual membership packages that include $5 discounts and other perks.

"All through last summer we did VIP cards, which gave clients the opportunity for every seven fares they would have an eighth ride free," Ralph Falls said. "But as intoxicated people are, they lost them."

With the membership packages, he said, Sober Dudes tracks clients' usage, such as dates and times. Members also get their eighth rides free and free rides on their birthdays.

Prices for the designated driver service vary from $25 to $125, depending on the location. Because its drivers use customers' vehicles to transport clients, Sober Dudes is different from a taxi service and exempt from taxi insurance and licensing requirements, said Jennifer Falls.

Ralph Falls said he wants to take what he learns in Bend and expand into other cities in Oregon.

"The idea behind what we do is keep the roads as safe as possible," he said.

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Information from: The Bulletin

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press