Monday, June 15, 2015

Uber Service Sucks Compared to Lyft

Uber, the ridesharing service, sucks. They portray themselves as a fiesty little start-up shaking the foundations of modern business - always an heroic narrative - but there's really no difference between the creeping corporate evil of, say, Google or Monsanto and that perpetrated by Uber.

So what is Uber? For those not yet in the loop, Uber is a 'ridesharing' service, started in San Francisco and branching out all over the world. The business's central conceit is that, unlike regular taxi drivers, Uber drivers are not pros, they're just schmoes like you and me who happen to be going somewhere and are willing to take others along. For a price.

This is the lie. Uber drivers do not go anywhere, they sit behind the wheel and drive others places they themselves are not visiting. Which, if you look it up, is what taxi drivers do.

A 'rideshare' would be if I were going to an outlet mall and agreed to take others along. I'd get out of the car, do my shopping, gather everyone up at the end of the day and go home. Sharing a ride to a common destination. If I pile people in my car, drop them off at the outlet mall for a fee, then go find others to take somewhere else, I'd be a taxi driver. Which is what Uber drivers are.

Why does that mean Uber sucks?

Because Uber knows it's a taxi service, it's calling itself a 'rideshare' service to skirt the laws and ordinances where it operates. The owners think that as long as they don't call themselves a taxi service they don't have to comply with any taxi service regulations. But the name does not make the business, the practice does.

If I call myself a 'curandero' and start performing surgery, no amount of protesting on my part will keep me from being prosecuted for impersonating a physician. If I were to call myself an 'alchemist' instead of a meth dealer, the title would make me no less a criminal. By the same token, if an Uber driver takes you from one point in the city to another and you have to pay him for the privilege, then that driver is a taxi driver. No matter how loudly Uber insists otherwise.

The worst part of this juvenile misdirection is that Uber contends its drivers do not have to have commercial licenses, or commercial insurance, or criminal background checks, etc. etc. etc. They're putting their drivers and their customers at a very real risk of injury and death. Because it's a 'rideshare' and not a taxi.

Uber sucks

How is this emblematic of larger corporate evil?

Uber is lying, they know they're lying, and they're challenging local governments to catch them at it and stop them. Which is what giant evil corporations do. In the past corporations have tried to keep their evil secret, like tobacco companies making more addictive cigarettes, or corporate agriculture companies patenting seeds so they can charge farmers in perpetuity, even when farmers only bought seeds once (a lifetime seed subscription fee, as it were).

The big game changer for corporate evil, though, was Google. Those guys were the ones who made brazen audacity a marketing tactic. For instance, Google took it upon themselves to digitize entire libraries to make the contents available online. The problem with that effort was Google did not own the rights to those books, and didn't notify the authors of their intentions. They just did it, legality, ethics, and morality be damned. Same thing with Google street view, Google glass, and on and on. Their business model is to ask forgiveness rather than permission. After the damage is already done, of course.

The case can be made that Google does its thing in legal gray areas (not really), where the technology is new and the rules are not set (still, not really). Just a bunch of nerds trying to change the world and stepping on stodgy old men's toes along the way.

The problem is Google infected others with its 'laws be damned' attitude. People like the owners and backers of Uber, who are not operating in any new tech areas, they're putting butts in seats and taking them from point A to point B. They'll say it's different because they have an app for it, but that's not even a weak argument, it's an excuse for flouting laws.

Uber sucks

Most of all though, Uber sucks because it's clearly the vanguard for more of its kind. Assholes who think that they can do whatever they want, as long as they get away with it for long enough to make money. Uber will go out of business, that's an inevitability and a very short-term reality, but the damage it's done will inspire others to imitate it, and make their malfeasance everyone else's problem.

Seriously, Uber Sucks
Seriously, Uber Sucks
Seriously, Uber Sucks

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Uber Cancels Lyft

Uber and Lyft are battling for customers looking for rides via smartphones, but maybe not everyone is fighting fairly.

Lyft reports that Uber employees have ordered and canceled more than 5,000 Lyft rides since October, according to Lyft's data.

"And it's not just a rogue employee or two,". "Lyft claims 177 Uber employees around the country have booked and canceled rides in that time frame."

With both services, users have to create a profile to order rides on demand with the company's app. Canceled rides can tie up drivers, causing them to lose time and money driving to fake customers.

Lyft "there was nothing to suggest" that the scam was commissioned by Uber's corporate office or that it was even aware of the canceled ride requests.

A statement from Uber, posted by The New York Times, called Lyft's claims "baseless and simply untrue." It goes on to suggest that Uber has been a victim of nearly 13,000 fraudulent trip requests by Lyft drivers and employees:

"But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers."

This isn't the first time Uber has been accused of using such tactics. Gawker reported in January that Uber employees were scheduling and canceling rides with New York competitor Gett. (Gawker cites screenshots "showing multiple instances of Uber staffers using dummy Gett accounts for the sole purpose of canceling rides as diversions.")

Both Uber and Lyft continue to seek out new markets (they were approved to operate in Virginia this month), though not every city or country is welcoming.

This startup battle "is lopsided," the Wall Street Journal reports: Uber "operates in nearly three times as many markets as Lyft" and has "four times as many employees and five times the amount of funding from investors."