In another episode of the perils of clicktivism, Uber was unfairly vilified for continuing service during the Muslim Ban protests.
By Rae-Kwon Andrews, Saint Leo University
Were you one of the good Samaritans that participated in #DeleteUber?
Well, if you were, you may not be as altruistic as you thought. If you haven’t had a chance to read this “Forbes” article yet, go ahead and do so, as it might temper your clickbait trigger a mite. In the meantime, here’s a more concise explanation of the events that led the vindictive hashtag to be retweeted into history.
Uber, on the other hand, decided to allow their drivers to continue service to the airport if they wished, and, because demand for rides would skyrocket without the option of taxis, the ride-share service also suspended surge pricing. Unfortunately, Uber’s decision was interpreted as a way of capitalizing off of the Muslim Ban, and though I couldn’t tell you who this person is, their tweet ignited the firestorm that later swept through Twitter.
Since not everyone may understand how surge pricing works, in short, when demand for rides is high in a particular area, Uber will increase the rate at which they pay their drivers, as well hike the rate they charge customers, which encourages more drivers to get on the road. In the instance of the Muslim Ban though, Uber suspended their normal policy, one that allows the company and its drivers to make more money, which seems like the exact opposite of “capitalizing” on the crisis.
When the taxis disappeared, Uber just replaced them, which is what the service does in the first place—provide travelers with cheap travel; the company had and still has the right to do that. Uber is not a taxi service, as just like their competitor, Lyft (who did try to capitalize with a P.R. stunt), they are in the ride-share market, a market that competes with the taxi market.
Unless you have missed the last four years of Uber vs. Taxi in-fighting, you would know that the two transportation models have been fighting tooth and nail over regulations and jurisdiction. I’ll link one article for reference, but this should be common knowledge.
The other issue critics had with Uber was the fact that the CEO, Travis Kalanick, sat (but has reportedly left) on President Trump’s Economic Advisory Group. Before leaving, Kalanick produced a statement on the matter, in which he outlined his stance on opposing the Muslim Ban and why he chose to be a part of the group in the first place.
As a result, the question must be asked: What is the consumer’s responsibility in an issue like this? When your misinformation harms your own life, that’s one thing, but when it impacts businesses that are composed of people, that’s another. I’m not asking you to cry for Uber, although I’m sure they lost a decent portion of business (not mine), but this sort of thing can unfairly tarnish a reputation.
Furthermore, I am disappointed in Kalanick’s move to step down from the advisory group, as I understood and agreed with his reasoning. Even if I didn’t though, and even if he was lying in his statement, as he noted, we have the right to agree and disagree just like with anything. The problem isn’t so much what your belief is, but on what facts is that belief based?
I had some discourse with some of my Twitter mutuals on the matter, and immediately someone hopped in with the suggestion, “Oh, the CEO supports Trump [which is why] they broke the boycott.”
Really? Dozens of other businesses continued business as usual during the protests, and I’m sure the kiosks hawking bottled water and cold cuts made a killing, though their alliances with the president seem to have been glossed over. Plus, sitting on Trump’s business advisory board in no way condones his behavior; if it does, then Teslas and Pepsi are off the table as well.
In an age where everyone and everything needs to have a political opinion, Uber is unfairly coming under fire for letting their employees make a living; doesn’t it make more sense to allow the individual drivers to make their own decisions, rather than be slave to their CEO’s public persona? On top of it all, the taxi boycott lasted all of one hour, hardly a massive show of solidarity.
Next time Twitter urges you to make an economic decision, do a little research beforehand. There are likely to be many more protests and bans in the next four years, so learning how to navigate their accusations and edicts will be critical. Trump wins if the finger-pointing the current atmosphere of finger-pointing persists, because it keeps everyone preoccupied with each other. Think critically about political decisions, just as you would personal or professional ones. Sometimes, being the first person to respond actually means being the first person to be wrong.