For many people, Uber has become an integral part of their lives. The company was founded in 2009 and has since expanded its reach, transporting passengers from point A to point B in more than 600 cities across the globe.
A non-Uber user asked me the other day what the benefits of using that service would be (versus plain old Taxi). I came up with two answers, which I heard from my friends and family in the past. The main advantage is the lower cost. Not only are the rates cheaper than those of an average cab, but you can also use the “pool” option, which enables you to slash the fare even more by riding with other random “Uberers” (Uber users. I just came up with that. Is there a different name?).
The other reason for choosing this service over a taxi is convenience. We all know how important convenience is in today’s day and age. This one is a 2 in 1 advantage. Not only is it convenient because you order it by clicking a few buttons on your phone and because it notifies you when your ride is ready (You do not have to stand outside in the cold/ rain trying to hail a cab.), but also because you do not have to worry about searching for spare change (or credit card) in your pocket/ purse/ wallet. Instead, you just link your credit card at the time of the app’s installation, and voila! – When you arrive at your destination, you just step out of the car and slam the door shut. No need to waste any more time on figuring out tips, signing receipts, etc. Afterwards, you even get to rate the driver (like anything else in this world).
[Let us get back to the Uber pool for a minute. If you use this feature – do you like riding with random people? Do you befriend them, or do you keep to yourself? Are you relaxed when they sit next to you, or do you keep your finger on the trigger in case they try something funny?]
This past week Uber has been in the news’ spotlight for two issues. Aside from sexual harassment accusations within the company and violent crimes committed by their drivers in the past, they now join the ranks of companies with stolen personal information of their customers (and drivers). Not only were they hacked, but they also covered up that fact. The names, email addresses and phone numbers of more than 50 million riders were stolen. Security experts say that that is enough for further successful phishing. (The skeptic in me wonders if that information was ALL that was stolen. What about credit card info?) As far as the drivers are concerned, more than half a million driver license numbers were hacked. Uber paid the hackers to delete the stolen info (yea, right) and keep quiet about the breach (how ethical!). But of course, they are a business and are focused on their shareholders and not really on their employees or their customers.
The second issue is related to the vetting (or lack of) of their drivers. Uber was fined almost $9 million for “allowing 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses” to drive for them in the past 1.5 years. There was an investigation launched several months ago into the company, which found that people who had felony convictions on their record were still able to sign up and drive for Uber. You might think that it is very noble of the company to allow those people to start over and earn some well deserved money, but not so fast. Would you feel safe to be driven around by a reckless driver, or a DUI offender? Many of them had their driver license suspended, revoked or cancelled. They were not even allowed to legally drive a car, let alone transport humans. Would you feel safe putting your kid into an Uber with a driver with no license and with a DUI? One of the convicted felons ESCAPED FROM PRISON (!!!) and was still able to work for Uber and drive unsuspecting passengers around. The linked article above further states: “The PUC cross-checked the Uber drivers with state crime and court databases, finding that many had aliases and other violations. While 63 were found to have issues with their driver’s licenses, the PUC focused on 57 who had additional violations, because of the impact on public safety.” One of the ultimatums for their atonement is to enforce fingerprinting. However, history shows that Uber does not travel down that road and prefers to withdraw from the market entirely (ex. Austin, TX; Uber since has returned due to the reversal of the law).
A little over a week ago, a friend of mine was telling me about their day, and when an Uber ride was mentioned, I did not hold back, and expressed my general weariness of that company. That was even before I heard of the scandals which came to light this past week. Oh, but their driver was so wonderful. “OK, if you say so” – I thought to myself, remembering all the other allegations the company’s drivers have faced throughout the years (including rape and murder). My friend went on about how fabulous their day has been, and I soon forgot there was even mention of Uber at the beginning of the story. Until the end… where the story linked back to the beginning and I found out that that driver was not so wonderful after-all. Without going into detail, I will just say that the whole Uber experience left a sour taste in my friend’s mouth. My friend in this story is a very nice, polite, forgiving, chilled person, who does not get negative too often. The driver might or might have not lost their job because of that experience.
Personally, I do not employ Uber services due to various reasons. Widely defined safety is a major one, and I think this post shows how careful you need to be. Sure, bad things happen to cab riders, but I dare to say your odds are better in a taxi than in a random Uber car with a driver who might not have been properly vetted and for whom Uber does not feel any responsibility.
[You can tell a lot about a business by how it treats its employees. This is a lengthy, but very interesting article about tactics Uber implements to trick its drivers to work more.]
Are you a user of Uber?
If so, why do you choose them over other taxi services?
If not, is it because of some of the things I mentioned in this blog?