Everyone knows Uber. You use it, your parents use it, even your grandmother uses it. But this widely popular ride-sharing service has quite a disruptive, and possibly immoral, corporate company. Fighting rival companies, legislations, regulations and even the taxi industry, Uber has pushed far and wide into the business world- but at a great cost.
Eight years ago, Uber was little known among the population outside of San Francisco. Back then, as it was known as UberCab, this nifty little app let you hail a car with just a text or push of a button. Now, Uber has drivers in over 559 cities in 70 countries around the world. In a panel of University of Denver students, Jill Wickline, a San Francisco native, commented on Uber’s decline in popularity, “my family used Uber when it first came out, it really is a great idea, however the company is being represented and handled horribly now.”
Even its start-up remains under speculation as many rider’s agree that CEO, Travis Kalanick, had stolen the idea for Uber from a LeWeb Technology Conference in December of 2008, as a way of revamping the black-car service industry. Even though their company website says they came up with the idea “on a snowy Paris evening in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab.” But even with this speculation, Uber and its company have grow to produce over $20 million per week.
Since then, Uber has been under fire for a number of poor company decisions. Most notably, Uber’s handling of the JFK airport strike against Trump’s Immigration ban lost the company more than 200,000 customers, according to Mobile Action which studies the app market. Protests against Uber aren’t just throughout the US, but also worldwide where protesters in France burned tires and put up road blocks in support of taxi drivers who have been receiving less customers. Recently, Uber has been under scrutiny for its lack of extensive background checks and a rise of sexual assault cases from female riders.
Kate Staudenmaier, DU student, supported Uber saying “I love Uber, even with all the problems its convenient and affordable, I don’t know what else I would use. I feel like the problems that Uber and even Lyft have are easily solvable.” Which brings up the question, if the problems Uber is having are easily solvable, why haven’t they been solved? A companies negative public relations doesn’t emerge on its own, but is instead promoted through lack of interference, and in this case an incompetent CEO.
Kalanick, a California native has an extensive background in entrepreneurship. As CEO of the $60 billion company, Kalanick also has a horrible reputation among businesses, city officials, citizens and even friends. In an interview with Business Insider friend’s showcased their appreciation of him as little more than “an asshole”. Kalanick’s reputation has its own history, through his disagreements with the other founders, and his poor business choices. In the same Business Insider article, Shafqat Islam, part of the Merrill Lynch Bank Suisse, commented on the Uber CEO selling RedSwoosh, a company Kalanick founded in 2001 to be able to turn the litigants who sued Scour, into customers. Scour was a previous company founded by Kalanick which he eventually filed bankruptcy for to avoid legal charges.
As Uber continues to be a large force in the ride sharing industry, it continues to produce major disruptions in people’s everyday lives. After the JFK strike and #deleteuber incident, you would think that the company’s managers would take more immediate and long-lasting changes. However, in terms of the JFK incident Kalanick sent out a message online saying, “we are working out a process to identify these drivers and compensate them pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table. We will have more details on this in the coming days.” But no new information ever came. Compared to Lyft who had taken immediate action by donating $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, along with supporting the strike. Matt Brennan, a sophomore at the University of Denver, admitted that he had never used lyft before but “Lyft’s decision to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union compared to Uber’s decision to keep rides open during the JFK strike, made me officially delete Uber.”
Uber’s recent increase of sexual assault cases has lead the company to reach major headlines and more public discourse. There have been multiple high-level incidents of sexual assault towards Uber’s drivers, including rape and kidnapping. Kalanick claims that he wants to eradicate the employees that are causing these issues yet, he has had multiple allegations of sexual assault against himself.
What’s worse is that Uber has not made any moves to tighten the background checks on drivers even though the relaxed atmosphere have led to several lawsuits. Uber continues to claim no responsibility over its drivers when passengers are assaulted or injured by drivers, including sexual assault. Many women are concerned to use the ride-share apps in the first place and Uber’s inability to maintain safety continues to lose customers. Margot Painter, another DU students, refuses to use Uber until they have fixed their internal and sexual assault problems.
Sexual harassment has even reached as far as inside the company where a former engineer, Susan J. Fowler, spoke of her direct supervisor, “It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line…Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him.” Even with Internal investigations into the claims of sexual harassment, women continue to feel unsafe with using the app and being part of the company.
Major backlash has erupted towards Uber’s incompetent company organization. In a Forbes study done in 2015 it was found that “the usage rates dip up and down in correlation with weekend use spikes, but of users who have Lyft installed, a consistently higher percentage are more likely to open it than those who have Uber installed.” Which in Jill’s mind is correlated to Uber’s company performance, “their actions have definitely led me to use Lyft more than Uber.” Time will tell is Uber’s incompetent organization will continually lead to public discourse and loss of employees and customers.