January 2016, I lost my job. Knowing there was an option I could immediately jump into to pay the bills, I signed up for both Uber and Lyft. At that time, I had no preconceived ideas of each company. I started out driving on the Uber platform and added Lyft as soon as I was accepted. Within a week I found my self driving Lyft solely. The key factor in this decision was the pay and tipping. At the time I looked at Uber’s policy on tipping and It stated that tipping was not necessary. This further solidified my decision. In recent months I have noticed that the company has changed the wording to, as I see it, grudgingly accept that tipping is somewhat supported by the company. The question is, will they take a percentage of our tips, as they do with the cancellation fee or will we get the full tip?
I have recently found out that many Uber passengers always assumed that the tip was built into the fare. Because of the unclear messaging, I encountered a man who was going a short distance that gave me a $10 tip. He said that he recently discovered that tipping was okay and was over tipping his drivers to ease his conscience and make up for all the times he did not tip. Another passenger shared that they always thought the tip was built in as well and offered me a cash tip. Offering the tip option within the app will be beneficial for the times when a passenger is looking for change and since I usually only carry a couple of emergency dollars, I cannot accommodate.
How does this relate to Uber’s troubles? It seems the culture stems from the highest office in the company to the drivers. Let me explain. It has been widely reported that the negative corporate culture lends itself to not caring about the employees. As a driver, I am not an employee but I still need to contact the company when there is a problem. The first issue is finding a way to communicate. There are a LOT of steps to get to a form to issue a grievance or concern. When you finally did get it sent, many times there is no response or the response is less than resolving of the issue. A couple of weeks ago, Uber opened phone lines for drivers to connect with customer service. Although it is labeled as a pilot introduction, this could be a great way to deal with driver concerns. When it is that hard to communicate, you start to feel like the company does not want to talk to you.
So on to why there may be concern of the company surviving. Though there has been talk of a pending IPO, there has also been a lot of internal scandal and turmoil. Over the last couple of years, the company has been sued several times by drivers and passengers. Yes, most large corporations get sued but it seems the lawsuits are a constant distraction and major expense for Uber. According to Mercury News, “The company is fighting more than 70 federal lawsuits in courts across the country and has resolved at least another 60, according to a search of a national database of federal court cases. And that doesn’t include actions in state courts. Uber was sued 46 times in federal court this year alone. Airbnb, the next most valuable U.S. startup, racked up six lawsuits during that time. Lyft, Uber’s chief competitor, faced seven and Facebook had 27.” Talk about millions the company cannot afford to be hemorrhaging.
Investors have essentially forced the CEO out but he will remain on the board of directors who are charged with managing the company. As a board member, he is in a key decision making position which begs to answer, how does the company build confidence when the same people who allowed the issues to fester are still making business decisions?
With so many lawsuits pending and a failed automated, driverless car technology that looks like is heading to court for technology theft, concerns about passenger safety as more stories come out about drivers assaulting drunk passengers, saying this but is in crisis mode and struggling to dig its way out. Personally, I hope they hire a good crisis management team and get the company on track to a more positive image that fully supports both the passenger AND driver equally.