A round-up on why Uber is awful

Maybe you deleted the Uber app when they scabbed the deportation protest in New York, then re-installed it the next day because convenience outweighed your momentary dalliance with having principles. So here's a brief round-up of reasons why you should have stopped giving them your money years ago.

I had hoped that I could just find someone else's round-up of all the reasons, but now I understand why I couldn't: there are so many and it's such a moving target.

Let's dive right in:

  • 2017: Uber CEO Argues With Driver Over Falling Fares. Travis Kalanick tells a driver to take responsibility for his problems and boasts about a tough culture:
    "Bullshit. You know what? Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!"

  • Oh, but he fauxpologized:
    After the video quickly made the media rounds, Uber publicly posted a short email Kalanick sent to all employees. Kalanick apologized to the driver, and added, "I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up." He also appeared to congratulate himself for his apology: "This is the first time I've been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."

  • 2017: Susan Fowler published an essay alleging that Uber's human resources representatives ignored multiple reports of sexual harassment and sexism during her year-long stint at the company:

    Fowler also wrote that her manager threatened to fire her if she ever reported his boss to HR again -- which is called retaliation and is illegal according to equal employment laws. Fowler also wrote that she made the company's chief technology officer, Thuan Pham, aware that her manager was threatening retaliation -- which he acknowledged was illegal. However, nothing was done about it, Fowler wrote.

  • 2017: Uber says it's 'absolutely not' behind a smear campaign against ex-employee Susan Fowler Rigetti:

    Rigetti took to Twitter this morning to post that people were being contacted for "personal and intimate info" about her, causing many to conclude Uber was behind these actions.

    It's an easy assumption to make, given the company has said it would be holding an independent investigation into the claims and has used similar tactics before. In 2015, Uber hired a CIA-linked intelligence firm Ergo to look into the background of a conservationist suing the company. It used the same firm in 2016 to look into the backgrounds of the plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the company.

  • 2017: Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture:

    When new employees join Uber, they are asked to subscribe to 14 core company values, including making bold bets, being "obsessed" with the customer, and "always be hustlin'." The ride-hailing service particularly emphasizes "meritocracy," the idea that the best and brightest will rise to the top based on their efforts, even if it means stepping on toes to get there. [...]

    As chief executive, Mr. Kalanick has long set the tone for Uber. [...] Mr. Kalanick, 40, has made pointed displays of ego: In a GQ article in 2014, he referred to Uber as "Boob-er" because of how the company helped him attract women.

    That tone has been echoed in Uber's workplace. At least two former Uber workers said they had notified Thuan Pham, the company's chief technical officer, of workplace harassment at the hands of managers and colleagues in 2016. One also emailed Mr. Kalanick.

    Uber also faces at least three lawsuits in at least two countries from former employees alleging sexual harassment or verbal abuse at the hands of managers, according to legal documents reviewed by The Times. Other current and former employees said they were considering legal action against the company.

  • Oh yeah, that: Uber Cab Confessions:
    But the way he talks now -- which is large -- he's surely making up for lost time. When I tease him about his skyrocketing desirability, he deflects with a wisecrack about women on demand: Yeah, we call that Boob-er.

  • 2016: Uber's process of background checks and accountability remains top notch: Uber drivers accused of 32 rapes and sex attacks on London passengers over the past year:

    Freedom of Information data obtained by The Sun newspaper revealed 32 assault claims were made against employees of the taxi-hailing app in London over the past twelve months, equal to one every eleven days. The figure represents more than a fifth of all claims against taxi and car-hire drivers filed to 14 UK police forces last year, which totalled at 154 allegations including attacks in minicabs and chauffeur vehicles.

  • A very long roundup of articles about Uber and Lyft assaults.

  • 2016: Uber collaborated with Trump, but only until they suffered financially from that decision:

    "We'll partner with anyone in the world as long they're about making transportation in cities better, creating job opportunities, making it easier to get around, getting pollution out of the air and traffic off the streets," Kalanick told employees. [...]

    Outside of the internal pressure, Uber faced other fallout from Mr. Kalanick's stance. More than 200,000 customers had deleted their accounts.

  • 2015: Thinking About Suing Uber? Let This Be a Warning:

    After learning of Mr. Meyer's background as a conservationist, Ergo's investigator, Miguel Santos-Neves, misrepresented himself as he conducted interviews [...] All the "sources believe that I am profiling Meyer for a report on leading figures in conservation," Mr. Santos-Neves said in a message to a superior. [...]

    "The court cannot help but be troubled by this whole dismal incident," the judge added, later noting that the secret investigation had also delved into the background of Mr. Meyer's lawyer, Andrew Schmidt.

    A spokesman for Uber and Mr. Kalanick declined to comment.

  • 2016: Uber illegally launched self-driving cars on the streets of SF, immediately running red lights and literally trying to murder me.

  • 2017: They claimed that the red-light-running was "human error", and that the cars were not in self-driving mode when that happened. They lied.

    But even though Uber said it had suspended an employee riding in the Volvo, the self-driving car was, in fact, driving itself when it barreled through the red light, according to two Uber employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements with the company, and internal Uber documents viewed by The New York Times.

  • 2017: Oh gosh, that's too bad: Google's Robocar Lawsuit Could Kill Uber's Future and Send Execs to Prison:

    The lawsuit, which Waymo filed Thursday, alleges former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski secretly downloaded 14,000 proprietary technical files before leaving [...] "From a criminal perspective, I would be surprised if the FBI weren't looking into this."

  • 2014: A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media -- and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company:

    Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending "a million dollars" to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press -- they'd look into "your personal lives, your families," and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

    Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of "sexism and misogyny." She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. "I don't know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn't respect us or prioritize our safety," she wrote.

  • Oh yeah, that: Sexist French Uber Promotion Pairs Riders With "Hot Chick" Drivers. "Who said women don't know how to drive?" the Uber blog post asks.
    Thanks to a media backlash, the creepy promo never actually rolled out. "They didn't anticipate the reaction of Uber US," said Pierre Garonnaire, co-founder of Avions de Chasse, the escort service that co-sponsored the idea."In the US, you are more Puritan. For me and most of the people of France, it was a good [idea]. It was fun."

  • 2014: Lyft: "Uber scheduled, canceled 5,000 rides to hassle us":

    CNN reports that people associated with car-on-demand service Uber have been attempting to sabotage an Uber competitor, Lyft, by ordering and canceling as many as 5,000 rides since October 2013. Lyft drivers have also complained that Uber employees will call them to take "short, low-profit rides largely devoted to luring them to work for Uber."

    Lyft claims to have sussed out the fake requests using phone numbers used by "known Uber recruiters." Lyft claims that one Uber recruiter requested and canceled 300 rides from May 26 to June 10, and it said that recruiter's phone number was associated with 21 more accounts with 1,524 canceled rides between them.

    My understanding is that using burner phones to DDoS your competition is completely in line with Libertarian ideals.

  • How To (Really) Delete Your Uber Account.

And, by the way...

Lyft = Uber Lite:

Uber gets a lot of negative press (and rightfully so) for the actions it takes to reduce the pay of its drivers and to deny them basic workers' rights. Yet Lyft often evades similar scrutiny. That doesn't mean it isn't doing many of the exact same things. [...]

The idea that Lyft is a more compassionate or morally sound ride-hailing company is false. It continues to place profitability and ridership growth before fair wages and working conditions for its drivers, using the same methods as Uber. Lyft simply escapes the same level of scrutiny because its market share is so much smaller. [...]

Finally, those who really want to challenge the morally bankrupt model of Uber and Lyft, which denies drivers good benefits, reasonable working conditions and fair pay in the name of profitability, should instead be using public transit wherever possible and fighting to improve it. In November 2016, nearly 70 percent of all public-transit ballot measures were passed by voters, totalling more than $170 billion in additional transit funding. And from a worker standpoint, public-transit workers are generally salaried with benefits, and being a public-transit worker is still a solid path to the middle class.

Lyft saved $126 million by refusing to classify drivers as employees:

According to newly published court documents, Lyft would owe its drivers $126 million in reimbursement expenses for the last four years if the ride-hail service classified them as employees rather than independent contractors. The court documents provide a rare glimpse into the huge amount of cash that companies like Lyft and Uber save by refusing to classify its drivers as employees. [...]

Both Lyft and its much larger rival Uber face class action lawsuits from drivers challenging their classification as independent contractors. Lyft recently settled its lawsuit, agreeing to shell out $12.25 million in compensation to its drivers, while maintaining the right to classify them as non-employees.

Also, Lyft are unrepentant spammers, just in case you needed one more reason to hate them.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Mark your calendars

Upcoming events of note:

Tue, Mar 07:   Dude York @ DNA Lounge
Tue, Mar 07:   Hey Violet @ Chapel
Wed, Mar 08:   Nudie Nubie Show @ Codeword
Fri, Mar 10:   Vowws & Hide @ DNA Lounge
Sat, Mar 11:   Crazy Purim Costume Party @ Codeword
Sun, Mar 12:   John 5 & The Creatures @ DNA Lounge
Fri, Mar 17:   Turbo Drive: Protector 101 @ DNA Lounge
Tue, Mar 28:   Ladyhawke @ Independent
Thu, Mar 30:   Peelander-Z @ DNA Lounge
Fri, Mar 31:   Hotline @ DNA Lounge
Thu, Apr 06:   Gost @ DNA Lounge
Fri, Apr 14:   Turbo Drive: Future Holotape @ DNA Lounge
Tue, May 23:   Amanda Palmer @ DNA Lounge
Sun, Jul 16:   Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge @ DNA Lounge

A strong showing from DNA Lounge this month, and a weak showing from everyone else! Which almost certainly means I'm missing a lot. So what have you got?

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Confessions of a Virtual Waitress


Effectively, what these food apps have managed to do is take us one step further away from having a relationship with our food and where it comes from. They have stripped the face of labor from the service industry.

This surge in food-delivery apps seems to be yet another offshoot of the Silicon Valley -- born gig economy, whereby temporary, contracted labor is packaged in fun colors and careful vowel elimination that somehow make exploitation "fun." [...]

And it is a particularly isolated industry at that. The drivers are isolated from one another -- a tactic employers have consistently used throughout modern history to skirt attempts at unionization. Waitresses and cooks never see the consumers. Sometimes I try to imagine what the cute couple who order matching breakfast burritos every Sunday morning looks like, but I'll never know. [...]

As I confirm your orders, I have to wonder why this means of sustenance is so popular. Efficiency and ease? Maybe. It seems more likely, though, that a food app's convenience lies not in its ability to save time but rather in that it demands only minimal communication with those on the other end. It's a choice driven by the desire to limit one's chitchat to only those who also speak the language of code. With food at the tip of the fingers through a heat-activated Plexiglass button, no across-the-counter talk is required.

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