As we all know, there was a tragic event in Sydney where hostages were taken in a cafe. Most of us reach out with compassion and concern at moments like this. Uber… not so much. Here’s what happened.
Remind me: What’s Uber?
It’s an app-based taxi service where you can call a driver and pay through the app. If you live in a major city, you probably have Uber service and it’s likely fairly controversial.
I feel like I’ve heard about Uber screwing up before.
Oh, yeah, you definitely have. They’ve gotten in trouble with their own drivers. When contacted about a driver essentially abducting a passenger, they called it an “inefficient route.” They got roasted over charging a “safe rides” fee.
Uber’s response to these PR problems? Looking for strategies to attack journalists instead of resolving the issues or revising their business model.
…What the hell is wrong with this company?
Meet Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO and huge Ayn Rand fan.
Is there a reason you’re bringing up the company’s long history of PR missteps and solution of charging the consumer more money for problems Uber itself creates with its service?
Why, yes! The reason everybody’s angry at Uber in Australia is that when the Sydney hostage crisis broke, Uber started charging what they call “surge pricing”, adding a multiple to the standard fare. In this case, Uber wanted a minimum of $82 to flee the scene of a hostage crisis.
Well, the drivers are risking their lives.
This is true, and the drivers should be highly compensated for doing so! But there are two problems with that justification. The first is that Uber pitched it as an necessary price increase to get drivers to show up, raising the question of why Uber didn’t make the rides free and just pay the drivers out of their own pocket.
The second is that, more awkwardly, they promised to stop doing this in New York after getting busted for price gouging during a blizzard. Apparently, the company didn’t learn much from a state attorney general showing up with a subpeona.
I assume the Australian reaction was swift and merciless?
Uber got roasted on Twitter and is frantically handing out refunds. But the damage is likely already done. It’s pretty hard to come back from seeing a hostage situation as a great opportunity to really rack up those fees. But we’re sure Uber will try. Maybe they’ll resort to blaming their drivers, since that worked so well last time.