Maybe It’s Time to Download Lyft
I’m not much of a fun of ride sharing apps. In fact, I’m really pretty apathetic towards the industry entirely. At least, I was before recently. I use them when I absolutely have to. But recently, Uber has been generating a lot of headlines that have caught my eye, and many of them are not very flattering. Uber has been a lightning rod since they burst onto the scene a few years ago. Destined to become the next big tech giant, they have tried to build up before cashing in on what is expected to be a massive IPO. That is, until 2017 came around. The fairytale the company has been enjoying has taken a major PR hit this year and it’s causing many to seek alternatives to the app. Nothing sums up the trouble Uber is having more so than MadeinTYO, the artist whose song “Uber Everywhere” was blasted in every Uber I’ve ever been in and sounds like a bad paid advertisement, denouncing the company. The artist expressed his disapproval with Uber in a series of eloquent tweets: “usta uber a lot , not no moeeee— TOKYO ✘ (@madeintyo) January 29, 2017” “2017: @lyft everywhere — TOKYO ✘ (@madeintyo) January 29, 2017”
But what is it exactly that is making people so angry? Well, like every controversy these days, President Trump is somehow involved. But there’s more than just crazy liberals deleting the app because of some pro-Trump sentiment from the company. Recently, a high-level engineer, Susan Fowler, claimed that she was sexually assaulted by a top level executive of the company and the company ignored her complaints. Ms. Fowler wrote, “Upper management told me that he ‘was a high performer’ (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.” This came out around the same time as a report in the New York Times that interviewed 30 former and current employees of Uber and shared some horror stories about things they saw while working there. “One Uber manager groped female co-workers’ breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee’s head in with a baseball bat.”
Toxic workplace environments are nothing new to Silicon Valley, though. There’s more that’s causing people to #DeleteUber. In late January, the taxi drivers went on strike at JFK international airport to protest the President’s travel ban on Muslim immigrants. During this time, Uber shut off all surge pricing from JFK, an act that was viewed by many as the company undermining the strike and opposing the taxi drivers. This caused a firestorm on social media with #DeleteUber trending all over Twitter and over 200,000 users deleting the app. Many believed the company to be supporting Trump’s travel ban because CEO Travis Kalanick serves on Trump’s so-called CEO Council as well as Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum. This known closeness has caused many anti-Trumpers to boycott the company.
Is this fair? I’m not entirely sold myself. Uber is not obligated to stand by taxi drivers on their strike and if they see busting the strike as a major opportunity to cash-in, more power to them. Does Uber, or any company for that matter, owe us a certain level of social awareness as a company? Can’t Uber just keep picking us up and dropping us off without us having to think about complicated issues? In the age of protest that we’re currently living in, is it realistic to boycott companies because of politics? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But I think it’s fair to ask them and I think we should consider them. Personally, I’ve switched over to Lyft. And I’ll continue to use Lyft until I find out they’re a horrible company as well. At that point I guess I’ll just walk. So it goes.
Photo credits to Google