Uber Calls A Kidnapping An “Inefficient Route” (And Various Other Reasons Not To Use Uber)

An Uber customer in Los Angeles was kidnapped by her driver, driven 20 miles out of her way to a dark, abandoned parking lot, and only when she started to scream did the driver take her back home. The customer reported the incident to Uber, and they responded by e-mailing her an apology for the driver’s “inefficient route.” The customer is now staying in a hotel, since there’s a dangerous stranger out there who has her home address.

Sam Biddle at Valleywag has been doing a lot of great reporting about Uber’s unethical practices, including the ways they’ve tried to undermine Lyft and, more frighteningly, the fact that they’ve been fighting against regulations that would require tighter background checks on their drivers (Lyft is fighting it, too). On top of that, they’ve started passing the cost of background checks onto the customer, charging a $1 fee for a “safe ride.”

Fighting regulation also allows Uber to mistreat and mislead its drivers by using the cop-out that they’re “independent contractors” and not employees to whom the company owes any kind of benefits or oversight. But Uber drivers are convinced that Uber will take over the industry, so it seems futile to leave and important to demand changes in Uber’s policies.

The catch is, of course, that Uber’s customers have to want those changes, too, for any progress to be made. So far, the only thing that customers have really cared about is the fact that they get overcharged and receive bad customer service — although it happens so often that customer complaints have earned Uber an F from the Better Business Bureau. (That stands to reason, if their customer service calls a kidnapping an “inefficient route.”)

But if it comes to kidnappings or repeated sexual assaults by Uber drivers who neither face the scrutiny nor receive the benefits of industry oversight, does it start to matter to customers? I just want to point this out: This is the checklist that you have to go through in order to become a cab driver in the city of Chicago. It’s 17 items long and it includes a good driving record, a training course, a licensing exam, and applying for a license after all of that. The City of Chicago guarantees taxi drivers maximum lease rates for their vehicles and timely payment, plus it offers drivers protection through the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Through that agency, the City also makes chauffeur license information public and provides consumers with a place to complain about cab services.

None of that exists for Uber. Chicago’s local NBC station showed that over and over again, Uber drivers had driving infractions on their record, and even that Uber hired an ex-con with a three-page rap sheet. Drivers have no guarantees from the company about their working conditions, and customers have no guarantees from the company or from any local regulating body about the drivers.

So, sure, Uber is convenient. But personally, I’ll be hailing a cab and giving a nice tip instead.

[Gawker (1)]
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[Buzzfeed]
[CNET]
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[City of Chicago (1)]
[City of Chicago (2)]
[NBC 5]

[Image via Gawker]

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