I Double Dare You to Stop Using Uber

One of the reoccurring discussions we’ve had in class as of late is whether or not Uber will survive. Across social media platforms, people are calling for Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick’s job.

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Here is a summary of a few of the many different problems Uber has faced recently.

Former Uber Engineer Sexual Harassment Claims
On February 19, 2017, Susan Fowler, a former engineer for Uber who left last December posted a fiery blog accusing the company of sexual harassment. She writes:

“He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn’t. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn’t help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.”

 She later went on to write that instead of handling this situation in an organized, professional manner, HR at Uber told Fowler to find a new group. She found many female employees at Uber who suffered from similar circumstances.

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As you can see, Kalanick took a swift stance against this. In a statement, he essentially wrote that this is not what Uber is about and he will work diligently to investigate who was involved.

#DeleteUber
In the final week of January, president Donald Trump set forth an executive order that banned both immigrants and refugees from countries all over the world. On the Saturday after the executive order was issued, a union designed to represent New York City taxi drivers stated they would not service passengers traveling from Kennedy Airport in Queens. This was designed in protest of the executive order and in support of immigrants. Instead of Uber aligning with the cause, they decided to turn off surge pricing around 7:30 p.m. that night, likely in an effort to profit from the statement from NYC. This called for widespread promotion of the hashtag #DeleteUber from those who found out about what Uber had done. By the end of this nightmare for the Uber brand, over 200,000 people had uninstalled their accounts.

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Travis Kalanick Video
In a video released at the end of February by former Uber driver Fawzi Kamel, Kalanick gets in an argument and belittles the driver on Super Bowl Sunday. The driver tells Kalanick that he is bankrupt due to the changes Kalanick has made to the company and he has lost $97,000 because of him. In his final statement to the driver, Kalanick says, “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!”

In response to the release of the video, Kalanick issued a statement saying:

“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”

Obviously this video was not a great look for Kalanick or the company that has been struggling so much in 2017 with PR nightmares.

What does this mean?

Going forward—what does this mean for the company? Are people really going to stop using Uber? There are competitors such as Lyft, taxi drivers, Fasten that could steal marketshare from the company but Uber is the giant. Is it too big to fall?

No.

The top reasons people use Uber include price competitiveness, reliability, and accountability.

Price competitiveness
If price was not such a major determining factor, people leaving airports/train stations would always choose to use the taxi out front rather than calling an Uber. However, when I can save over 30% by calling a car that will meet me in my exact location, I am using the on-demand car service every single time.

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Reliability
When I call an Uber, I see a picture of my driver, the vehicle he will be driving, and the time he will be arriving. I even get a numerical score as to how other passengers view their experience in terms of quality. When I hop in the back of a taxi, I get none of this. In the past, I have typically received a disgruntled driver in a smelly vehicle who typically takes a longer route that I would like. If this were to ever happen in an Uber ride for me, I would simply put in a request with the Uber help center to take a look and I would get a readjusted fare giving me my money back.

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Accountability
I have never had an issue with the Uber help center. I have been involved in trips that have gotten in accidents, took too long to arrive, or drivers who simply could not find me. All I need to do when this happens is put in a request with the Uber Help Center and I get my money back.

Why would I ever want to switch from Uber to Lyft or taxis when I receive this type of service from Uber? I rely so much on Uber almost every day and they have treated me as nothing short of a valued customer. Can I turn a blind eye towards Uber’s diversity problems or corporate issues? No. However, I am not so strong-willed that I am willing and even able to pay an additional 20-30% on my rides because of these problems. I know that my family and friends feel the same way and I bet you do too.

Sources:

  1. https://www.recode.net/2017/2/28/14766964/video-uber-travis-kalanick-driver-argument
  2. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-28/in-video-uber-ceo-argues-with-driver-over-falling-fares
  3. https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber

 

 

10 comments

  1. I agree that Uber is cheaper and more reliable than taxis, but what about comparing it in these categories to Lyft or Fasten? I don’t think that Uber will ever flop completely, but they have a lot of ground to give up to their competitors. I can see that Uber probably has the best customer service just because they’re the biggest of those 3 companies, but in terms of cost and reliability it’s not like there’s anything about Uber that makes it inherently better. I’ve switched to using Lyft for personal rides, but still use Uber when I’m going out with friends because that’s what they use and so we can ridesplit. If it wasn’t for that, then I would gladly delete Uber from my phone.

  2. @joshlartman Since Uber is so much bigger, there are more cars on the road. That leads to less wait times, less chance of surge price (last 2x I checked Lyft it was 200%, making a ride 3X its normal price), and Uber has a better functioning App and easier to use interface. Lyft also has a way to split, but they charge a fee for splitting. For friends who are not studying social media/digital business, do you think they are in the know of all the challenges Uber is facing? If the answer is yes, are they really willing to switch services over it and do they understand any of the stances that Lyft or Fasten take? I don’t think we have hit the point in our society where social causes stop us from using a product/service we like more. If we did- nobody would shop at Wal-Mart or buy Nike shoes due to the way they treat their workers.

  3. Great post. We have talked about Uber a lot in class, and I think this post really pointed out some of the really important parts. It is definitely really interesting to see how Uber has managed to survive, despite all of the negativity that has been surrounding it. And while I do not feel too strongly either way about Uber, I have many friends who feel exactly the way you do about the company!

  4. I gotta admit, I thought your post would include arguments in favor of stopping the use of Uber for all the reasons that you have mentioned above, and I was going to tell you that I am not ready for that yet. As someone who doesn’t drive, Uber has been a lifesaver for me – there’s simply no better, cheaper, and faster way for me to get directly from point A to point B. Even with competitors like Lyft, the “faster” aspect often suffers, as they simply don’t have the critical mass of drivers and passengers to support the “2-minute” pick up requests. And I think that is the main advantage of Uber – having spent (or maybe wasted?) billions on agressive expansion, they have managed to build a strong network on both driver and passenger sides and a refined product and are superior to all their competitors.

    Now, since the switching costs between Uber/Lyft/the next competitior are pretty low, someone, let’s say Lyft, could potentially take over Uber in the future IF they make it a point to aggressively expand as well and to bring the quality of service to Uber levels. Since Uber’s brand has suffered so much over the past few months (and before that too), a competitor’s expansion could be a very real threat for Uber – seems like most users are currently loyal to the service, and not to the brand (and for some, Uber’s brand image itself is enough to leave the platform). Given the advance of technology, I don’t see the same quality level being very hard to achieve for someone like Lyft, as they already have traction in the market, and at taht stage, taking over Uber would be a pretty easy task.

  5. Nice post, Dan. I think you’re right that Uber isn’t going to fail because the demand is too high and as students in this class, we certainly pay more attention to this than anybody else our age, or of any age that matter. I used Lyft 2 years ago and got an inexperienced driver who didn’t know where he was going despite his GPS and that left a bad taste in my mouth because ever since then, I’ve always viewed Uber as the more reliable and more professional ride sharing service. I don’t normally talk to drivers unless I’m alone riding to/from the airport but the most recent conversation that I had led to this topic. The driver filled me in on some of the secrets between Lyft & Uber and about how he feels far more valued driving for Lyft than he does for Uber, but he continues to drive for both because it earns him more money and allows him to have a wider customer range. Little fact that I didn’t know, Lyft pays their drivers 25% of the ride compared to Uber’s 17% and Lyft also allows tips through the app. The biggest thing that jumped out to me from that conversation was this: he’s met a bunch of different drivers during his time working for Uber/Lyft and according to him, most of them drive for both companies. All of that being said, I’m still going to use whichever service is cheaper to my destination because the apps are fundamentally the same – Uber also charges 25 cents per ride split and the company with the lower price varies depending on the time of day. At the end of the day, people are going to use whichever they want to but regardless, I don’t see Uber failing/dying in the short term future. Really thought provoking post, thanks for sharing.

  6. I agree with @itsulker in that I thought the point of your article was to influence people to stop using Uber. I really like the approach you took in writing this post, by highlighting the major problems that the company has seen in the media lately, yet still depicting the great features that Uber offers to its customers. I am a big Uber advocate because it is simple to use and I really like the reliability aspect to it; I use it a few times a week! However, I definitely don’t agree with the sexual harassment issues and bad leadership by its CEO. I am very interested to see what the future will bring for Uber. Great post!

  7. Great way to summarize all the recent events. Similar to @joshlartman, I exclusively use Lyft for personal rides, and only keep Uber on my phone because my friends don’t have Lyft. Fasten is another issue…their prices are incredibly low and they treat their drivers really well, but after months of frustration with the buggy interface and 20 minute wait times, I’ve nearly abandoned it.

    While switching costs may be technically low, as prices, wait times, and app quality are essentially the same, I think there are hidden cultural switching costs. Namely, that Uber has become a verb. While I use Lyft, I still say “I’m ubering there now.” This already puts Uber at an advantage similar to Google over Bing–even if Bing may be better, everyone knows Google and uses Google as a verb. It’s also important to consider storage constraints on phones. Nearly all of my friends struggle with running out of space, and constantly have to delete apps and photos to make more room. When two apps fulfill essentially the exact same function, an easy way to save space is to delete one. You have to choose. Since Uber is the ubiquitous verb, Lyft is the one to go. Uber has become the cultural norm, and it’s hard to change that.

  8. Great post. I actually think Uber is missing an opportunity with the Atlanta bridge collapse. They could step in to help out solve the traffic problem. Would be a great brand boost and demonstrate the power of the platform. Or Lyft should have done it.

  9. Great post! I think you bring up plenty of good points regarding the series issues with Kalanick and while there are 200,000 that have already uninstalled the app, there are still plenty users that really don’t know about the scandals behind those that run Uber. In sort of a general survey of Boston College students, I’ve never seen anyone refer to Lyft over Uber in the last two years. I think it’s going to take much more publicity and a larger scandal to really put Uber in danger.

  10. Great post, Dan! I think you make a lot of really great points throughout it. There’s several reasons to stop using Uber because of the way Kalanick has handled himself lately, but there are several reasons to keep using it. Personally, I tend to use ubers in groups when were going out at night so I dont really have the option to delete it because then I wouldnt be able to use it with my friends. I feel like a lot of people dont like what the CEO has been doing but they use Uber so much and its such a part of their life that most people will get past it and continue to use the app.

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