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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47 Responses:

  1. bcrypt says:

    you forgot the part where Uber sponsored a police militarization conference. https://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/9/7/1327806/-Uber-Supports-Police-Militarization

  2. odeer says:

    Suggested search term: "Rides of Glory".

    Uber used ride data to determine which customers had had one night stands, and made graphs of it.

    They're not a company you want to be letting know where you've been and where you're going.

  3. MattyJ says:

    Companies typically reflect on their CEO. D-bag CEO, d-bag company.

    Paying their drivers less and less but somehow increasing their burn rate to perhaps $3 billion a year:

    http://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203

  4. Otto says:

    Not to dismiss any of this, but have any normal taxi dispatch systems improved in response? If that happens, then the demise of Uber is assured.

    • plumpy says:

      That's very optimistic. Here in Manhattan, getting a cab is perfectly easy and often _faster_ than an Uber, but... basically everyone I know still uses Uber primarily. We even have four other faux-Uber options (Juno, Gett, Lyft, Via) to choose from, but... most people still use Uber.

      I try to use Juno because drivers love it the most (they pay more) but even I sometimes forget and use Uber because "call an Uber" is the verb we all use. (I guess I should just delete it.)

      • Otto says:

        Yeah, NYC is the last place I care about in that respect. Try hailing a cab anywhere in the Midwest. Or even calling one for a specific time. That's the problem to be solved. Outside the giant city situation.

        • plumpy says:

          Ah, I see your point. I still feel like Uber's momentum and name recognition is going to be hard to overcome even in those markets, but yeah, that's a very different game.

        • ssl-3 says:

          Here in the Midwest, we have a couple of tiny cab companies -- none of which troll the streets looking for a fare.

          We also have no Uber.

          I'm moving to a much larger city in the midwest very soon, where both Uber and cabs (at least downtown, ish) are a thing.

          I still have no interest in hailing a cab, or ordering one by phone.

          Uber, though? Yeah, probably -- sometimes.

    • Mariachi says:

      In SF, Luxor, Yellow, and Flywheel all have Uberesque apps and convenience, if not black cars. They're definitely 100% more responsive than they were ten years ago, so at least rideshares have done some good.

    • Chris says:

      In Amsterdam it's still the same crowd of shady assholes who refuse short rides and cheat travelers. There is no app to actually order a cab, you have to call a number and then wait while often nobody shows up. Prices are still crazy high , at least double Uber and you usually can't pay with a card in the cab. Not holding out nay hope here.

    • Christof says:

      I guess it depends on the location. Here in Barcelona the taxis are good enough that Uber doesn't make sense, there are good apps and the cars a nice. Uber is also banned.

      In Germany the prices for taxis are insane, apps and cars are OK. Uber is banned.

      Lisbon has Uber, which I preferred as taxis seem to like to take you on a detour.

      In Manila I am just glad I never have to get into a taxi again. Uber is cheaper, the cars are nicer (not a dump), you don't have to haggle every single time with the driver and sometimes Uber is the only way to get a ride.

      I am OK with hating Uber as long as I can continue hating taxis.

  5. J. Peterson says:

    Fortunately, they may not be around that long. "...the chart shows the company is not only unprofitable but that its losses are sometimes greater than 100% of its revenue."

  6. Mr Published Name says:

    If it's rotten on the outside, it's sure as hell rotten on the inside. the shenanigans with Lyft three years ago should have been sufficient warning...

  7. Amy says:

    As someone without a car, living on the edge between AC Transit and VTA service areas in the east & south bay, I occasionally need to call something when public transit can't cover me, or I need to carry stuff that is really annoying to take on a bus. I currently fall back on Lyft because it's less loathsome, but if there's a better option that's reliable in the suburbs, I'd love to hear about it.

  8. Joey H. says:

    There's nothing here about Uber and disabled people, beginning with refusing to support the ADA. You can search for their history losing court cases about wheelchair access and service animals. This article is also informative: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/21/uber-disability-laws-don-t-apply-to-us.html

    I'm glad they're finally being brought to task but it's very dispiriting that it didn't seem to matter when it was "only" cruelty and denying human rights to disabled people.

    (If I did miss a section on disability, my apologies.)

    • jwz says:

      An oversight. There is just so much to hate.

      I very nearly posted this without including the Trump shit, because the list was so long already that I almost forgot about that one, too!

  9. joe says:

    there's also the news that uber apparently stole google's lidar designs. starting to think this is part of why they would not seek certification from the state for their self-driving vehicles.

  10. Bai Hui says:

    I don't give a fuck. Uber is cheaper and better than taxi cabs. No matter how much people whine, it will continue to operate.

    • jwz says:

      If you could just get UNFETTERED CAPITALISM tattooed across your forehead, that would be really helpful for the rest of us.

      I recommend Comic Sans.

    • Elusis says:

      "I got mine; fuck you, Jack."

    • Not Frank says:

      You, of course, realize that it's cheaper because of the venture capitalists subsidizing your rides, given the massive losses they're taking? The endgame there isn't to keep it cheap indefinitely, it's to kill the competition and then ramp the rates severely. Probably to higher than they were, to make up for all the cash lost.

      I'll admit can't argue much with certain aspects of "better" (mainly, the convenience of feeding your GPS location right to your driver) but even then when I used them in 2015 I had them fuck that up and try to pick other people up half a block away.

  11. Karellen says:

    How was Kalanick's statement a fauxpology? I've seen a lot of crappy corporate fauxpologies in my time, and that doesn't read like any of them.

    It didn't say "I'm sorry you were offended", or "I'm sorry you misunderstood what I meant to say", it said "What I did cannot be explained away. [...] the video is a reflection of me [...] I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up [...] I want to profoundly apologise".

    That ranks as a good apology to me. How am I misreading it?

    (Also, while the charge that Uber and its drivers are scabs for not joining/supporting NYTWA's strike has some merit, the article you link to is pretty shoddy journalism for suggesting that the cancellation of surge pricing was particularly egregious, when the cancellation of surge pricing was not brought in until after the strike had ended.)

    • jwz says:

      "I have come here to nitpick the tone of 2 of these 25 despicable links."

      • Karellen says:

        I don't give a fuck about the tone, I'm nitpicking the substance of those articles.

        I'm not saying it was mean to bring up Uber's decision to drop surge pricing when talking about how they didn't join in with the strike, I'm saying it's bullshit because they didn't drop surge pricing during the strike, at all. I'm not saying it's mean to characterise Kalanick's statement as a notpology, and I didn't bring up the "appeared to congratulte himself" interpretation of part of it (which would have been a tone troll), I'm saying that - as far as I can tell - his statement literally does not contain a single marker characteristic of notpologies, and plenty of markers for genuine apologies.

        And that's 2 of the first 3 links, about 2 different incidents. After realising that the characterisation of both incidents was dubious and overblown, I was sufficiently mistrustful of the accuracy of the other links that I didn't consider it worth my time to read any further.

    • J. Peterson says:

      It's a fauxpology because any promises of actually changing behavior are completely hollow.

  12. Anonymous Coward says:

    Uber have a couple of floors in Aldgate Tower in London, where I used to work. The floors of this building are enormous, and the only way in and out is via the lobby of 10 lifts.

    These lifts let you briefly sample the culture of each company. Aecom, a boring engineering firm on floors 7 and 8, employed charming, older people who would talk about their families or weekend trips to the countryside. WeWork on 4, 5 and 6 had your usual mix of overenthusiastic dreamers, taking their dogs to work.

    Uber had floors 1 and 2. Their male employees were almost all spivs; brash, testosterone charged douchebags whilst the women looked like overweight Kim Kardashian clones. Nouveau riche scum with not a shred of decency, worshiping at the alter of consumerism, capitalism, celebrity and show. If Uber's corporate behaviour could be embodied by its people, these would be it.

  13. Derpatron9000 says:

    > convenience outweighed your momentary dalliance with having principles

    Removing all Facebook related 'like' buttons, pages etc any time soon?

  14. margaret says:

    the best thing about uber is it gives me time to check in on facebook

  15. mathew says:

    I can't believe you missed the Naked Capitalism articles about why Uber is awful from a business and economics point of view, part one.

    Then there's part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven, part eight.

    TL;DR: Uber is using venture capital dollars to sell its service below cost, in the hope of driving existing car services out of business. At that point it aims to pivot to being a high cost unregulated monopoly thanks to network effects.

  16. Don't forget Uber's unpermitted use of autonomous cars in California that made illegal right hook turns, endangering cyclists. http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-that-think/transportation/self-driving/the-selfdriving-cars-bicycle-problem.

  17. margaret says:

    +1 reason for hating uber:
    https://twitter.com/susanthesquark/status/837339141520023552
    ** i'd embed this iffn i knew how

  18. SK says:

    I have problem with their name in the first place. Who in the right mind would call company "Uber"? What are they alluding to?

  19. Patrick LeClair says:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/technology/uber-greyball-program-evade-authorities.html

    "Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement, or in some instances, had been outright banned.

    The program, which involves a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from Uber’s app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these to evade authorities in cities such as Paris, Boston and Las Vegas, and in countries including Australia, China, South Korea and Italy."

  20. A Kaleberg says:

    In Seattle, most drivers use both Uber and Lyft. They often have two phones in double mounts on their dashboards. Almost all of them prefer Lyft when we ask. One driver, an MBA between jobs, explained that Lyft paid more, encouraged tipping and paid on a simple percentage with fewer gotchas. She was trying to figure out if driving for a pick up service car could actually pay for her car. I guess that's the kind of thing MBAs do for hack value instead of designing digital clocks that run in Conway's Life game.

    Last year, the Seattle city council passed an ordinance allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize. Interestingly, that pit the professional drivers against the amateurs. It's also bringing out the usual ugly union busting as drivers worry that both Uber and Lyft might leave town. Does anyone have an open source dispatch system they could use, maybe for a fixed percentage of each fare? They could run it on AWS, at least when AWS is working.

  21. Pronoiac says:

    Wow, it's already been three years since the Sarah Lacy thing, which was the last straw for me.

    These notes should continue. Maybe as a tag (Pinboard? Twitter?) or a wiki page?

  22. The fundamental wrongs of Uber: it requires customers to run software that doesn't respect their freedom--it's not free (libre)-- and that it requires them to identify themselves--it is a system of massive surveillance.

    I refuse to submit to either of these wrongs, so I never call or pay for a Uber car. But I have reason to go further than that. Uber runs at a loss in an attempt to eliminate the traditional options that respect our freedom. For our future freedom's sake, it behooves us to thwart that plan. So I decided not to ride in a Uber car even if someone else arranges the ride for me (which people occasionally offer to do). I take advantage of the opportunity to educate others about the dangerous injustice of Uber.

    See https://gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html for who a nonfree program subjugates its users and thus we should refuse to let it on our computers.

    See https://gnu.org/philosophy/surveillance-vs-democracy.html for why massive surveillance endangers democracy.

    See stallman.org/uber.html for many more bad things about Uber, including why I sometimes call it Guber.

  23. Richard says:

    if you use "the founder is an asshole to his customers and employees" as a guide for not supporting a business, then DNA is doomed.

  24. J. Peterson says:

    There's a nice review of Waymo's case against Uber. Kinda looks like Otto (the company Uber acquired for self driving tech) was founded specifically to funnel Google's self-driving tech into Uber.

    • Ben says:

      You'd think they could have found a less obvious way than acquiring a 6 month old company for $680M, but people always think they're being clever.