Another day, another awful Uber story: the latest news is that one of its drivers has been accused of kidnapping and raping a rider in Massachusetts. The 46-year-old Boston man has pleaded not guilty.
It's not the only misdoing the ride service has come under fire for lately: the others would be sexism, intimidating journalists who write negatively of Uber, tracking a user without permission, poor treatment of drivers, and sabotaging its biggest competitor, Lyft. Uber recently made headlines when one of its executives, Emil Michael, suggested hiring a team that would "give the media a taste of its own medicine" by digging up dirt on journalists as a scare tactic that would ultimately fix the company's poor public image. CEO Travis Kalanick apologized profusely on Twitter, but investor Ashton Kutcher bizarrely came to the executive's defense with this tweet: "What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?"
The executive was referring to one journalist in particular, PandoDaily founder Sarah Lacy, who wrote that she deleted Uber from her phone because she felt that Uber's misogyny had gotten out of control. She was responding to an Uber campaign that paired riders with "hot chick" drivers. Many riders upset with Uber's unethical behavior have declared that they are getting rid of the app entirely. Since Lacy's article was published, the hashtag #deleteuber has steadily gained momentum.
1/ Emil's comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company.— travis kalanick (@travisk) November 18, 2014
Should you join these users in deleting Uber? Read on for four reasons why you might consider it.
1. Sexism and Safety Issues
The CEO's comment and the marketing campaign are just one side of the story. After entering in her home address, one woman was taken 20 miles out of her way, to an empty parking lot. It was not until she protested repeatedly that the driver agreed to take her home. Uber responded that it was simply, "an inefficient route." In July, another woman accused an Uber driver of sexual assault. She fell asleep in the car and awoke to the driver rubbing her breasts and removing her underwear. The company responded with a statement that the driver's account had been suspended and that the company is ready to assist in the investigation. And of course, there's the new case in Massachusetts. Sexual assault issues are, unfortunately, not exclusive to Uber. In fact, one POPSUGAR editor experienced a scary situation while riding with Sidecar.
2. Driver Mistreatment
Outspoken drivers like these have pushed Uber to back down from policies that didn't benefit the worker, including one where New York City drivers who drove more expensive Uber black cars were required to pick up cheaper UberX fares. When the drivers threatened to strike, Uber reversed the policy. A blog post that appeared today on Uber's website touted how much the company values it drivers; Uber revealed driver benefits which will include discounts on auto repairs, health insurance recommendations, and wireless service discounts.
3. Dubious Business Practices
It was reported that Uber was intentionally ordering then canceling thousands of Lyft rides. The company then wrote a blog post claiming, "We never use marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living — and that includes never intentionally canceling rides."
Uber also allegedly launched a detailed recruitment program to poach Lyft drivers. Uber drivers would request Lyft rides and ask drivers a series of questions to convince them to join Uber instead. The Verge obtained several internal emails and websites pointing to this program.
And then there's its questionable surge charging practices. For instance, during the recent hostage situation in Australia, Uber initially quadrupled fares for people trying to flee the area. Oh, and one girl was charged $362 for a ride on Halloween that she says took 20 minutes.
4. Disregard For User Privacy
An internal tool called "God View" that gives access to the ride history and current location of any Uber user has been misappropriated several times. Venture capitalist Peter Sims wrote in September that during an Uber ride in Manhattan, an acquaintance texted him, telling him exactly where he was. Apparently "God View" was used at a launch party for Uber Chicago, showing the location of 30 "cool" New Yorkers in real time. The company did not comment.
Uber also recently began investigating one of its top executives after discovering he had used God View to see a journalist's location without her permission.
It's important to note that there's another side of the story about the BuzzFeed editor who outed executive Emil Michael's comments on journalist scare tactics. The remarks were made at an off-the-record dinner and the journalist who invited the BuzzFeed editor claims that the article exposing the Uber executive misrepresented the overall tone of that dinner.
It's also important to note that Uber has certainly disrupted the taxi market in many ways. It started a ride-share revolution that led to the creation of such Uber alternatives as Lyft, Sidecar, Curb, and even one created for traditional taxis, Flywheel. The ease of credit card payments, pickup no matter your location, and the convenience to do it all from your smartphone is the ride-share economy that Uber created. It's why Google Ventures, Ashton Kutcher, and many others have invested over $1.5 billion in the company.
But there's also something to be said about corporate responsibility and safety. Ultimately it's up to you, the rider, to decide what's right and choose to support (or undermine) these new services with your wallet. Will you delete Uber from your phone? Let us know.