Sorry Uber, it’s too little, too late.
I love innovations that lessen the number of cars we have on the road. Light rails, trains, busses, bikes, you name it. Anything that keeps the traffic, oil usage and air pollution (listen to Leo, Ivanka) is something I’m going to be a big fan of. That’s just one of the reasons I’ve always been a fan of ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.
Not only do they contribute to decreasing air pollution, they give people options when it comes to getting around that would have been unattainable at lower budgets. A cab to visit your sick sister may have been a nice idea, until you get a bill for $60 for that 10 minute trip. Ride sharing is affordable, plus it provides employment opportunities for drivers of all ages and backgrounds. And it helps women achieve work and success without worrying about a sexist glass ceiling, not to mention the number of minority workers or dreamers out to make it big in Hollywood who still need a second job to fill in the gaps as they climb that ladder.
Small start-ups tend to be seen as fairly liberal, so politics didn’t come into play when it came to picking which of the two major companies you ran with. Most people have both apps on their phone and pick whichever fare is cheaper. Most drivers drive for both companies, in fact, straddling a balance between the two to help pump up their income.
But that all changed this past week.
On January 28, Trump made his now infamous anti-Muslim immigration ban in the United States, and in its aftermath, protests sprung up all over the world. The president’s home city in New York was no different; even cabbies chose to sacrifice their income for the day by refusing to provide service at their eternally bustling hub of activity at JFK airport as a sign of what would happen if immigrants left the country. The majority of cab drivers in New York City are from Muslim-majority countries, many of which are currently on the ban list.
In response to this, Uber chose to cut off its higher rates to provide discount travel.
Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.
— Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC) January 29, 2017
This effectively undermined the protest. Not only could JFK customers still get cab rides, they could get them cheaper than ever. Typically there’s an increased fee when a rider books passage to and from an airport, and by removing that they made it even easier for people to circumvent the fact that cabbies were off protesting. It was like Uber was flipping them a giant middle finger, taunting their concerns with a resounding “if you leave, we don’t care.”.
This alone may not have been enough to warrant deleting your Uber app, though it was for many. But not long after this it was also revealed that Uber’s CEO was in bed with Trump, something that makes these eliminated surge charges all the more suspicious. Travis Kalanick had accepted a position on Trump’s advisory board while most tech companies and start-ups were balking at the very idea of it.
The internet was livid. Calls went out to delete Uber and close accounts permanently. Lyft sent out a message in solidarity with those protesting the Muslim Ban. So many people deleted their accounts that Uber edited the dialogue that displays when you delete your account, to try and convince its customers it had never been an endorser of Trump’s regime.
The backlash was strong. Uber had no choice but to rush into damage control mode. By February 2, Kalanick dropped out of Trump’s advisory council, citing the Muslim Ban as his reason for being unable to participate in an economic role. For many, it was too little, too late. It seemed like Kalanick was less ashamed of his actions, more sorry he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Either way, as George Takei said, let this be a sign that protests and Twitter hashtags are far from the lazy, useless form of protest that naysayers like to claim.
Your actions produce results. Uber’s CEO listened, RESIGNED from Trump’s Corp. Advisory Council. I applaud him. https://t.co/HDLePcjhvS
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 2, 2017
Media via twitter.com.
Comment: Do you use Uber?