Uber is a company that doesn't care about being hated. It flips off regulators, thinks taxi cabs are obsolete, and when it comes to other smartphone car services, plays very dirty. And the sabotage is happening right at the top.
You probably haven't heard of Gett, and Uber would love to keep it that way. Gett provides an almost identical service—order a black car pickup from your phone, no cash needed—but lacks Uber's high profile or mammoth war chest. It also, crucially, uses a flat pricing system, without "surge" multipliers. During a recent snowstorm in New York, Uber's prices were an unpredictable "3x" of normal, while Gett just tacked on a $15 charge. It's an underdog in every way.
But Uber considers Gett a threat: over the past few weeks, Uber employees have been posing as pedestrians, creating Gett accounts for the sole purpose of scheduling and then canceling Gett rides. The result is clear: wasted time for Gett drivers, fewer available rides for Gett users, and general disarray for the whole service.
And it's coming from the top brass at Uber NYC.
Screenshots provided to Valleywag show multiple instances of Uber staffers using dummy Gett accounts for the sole purpose of canceling rides as a diversion. This includes Uber's New York General Manager, Josh Mohrer, who ordered and canceled at least twenty Gett rides from December 30th, 2013 to January 14th of this year. Uber's Operations and Logistics Manager, Jeanine Mendez, faked three ride requests in two days—Uber's Community Manager Kimiko Ninomaya faked seven in a single day. After these rides had been canceled, Uber texted the affected drivers in an attempt to recruit them—and after all the frustration they'd had with Gett, it'd seem like a sweet offer.
Altogether, at least 13 Uber employees of varying seniority took part in the scheme to derail Gett: Community Manager Amy Perlman, Operations Manager Andrew Salzberg, Operations and Logistics Manager Benjamin Stein, Operations and Logistics Manager Chad Dobbs, Community Manager Elliot Beltzer, Social Media Strategist Jake Langbecker, Community Manager Jake Naughtrip, Operations and Logistics Manager Kyle Thomas, Community Manager Michael Fine, Operations Manager Shalini Challa, Community Manager Randy Berridge. Uber sure has an interesting notion of community.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Uber PR chief Andrew Noyes attributes the scam to mere over-zealousness out of the local office, a "sales tactic" gone too far: "It was likely too aggressive a sales tactic and we regret the team's approach to outreach of these drivers." Noyes adds "We have messaged city teams to curtail activities that seek lead generation by requesting transportation services." This makes it sound like it was a team effort. But it wasn't—the man in charge of Uber New York was perhaps the worst offender.
Given everything we know about Uber's shark CEO and the company's general fanatical free market indifference towards the people it services, it's hard to imagine this was some rogue initiative of startup bullying. Corporate culture, poison or positive, always comes from somewhere—and all's fair in love and Ayn Rand book clubs.
When I asked Gett if it's considering legal action against Uber, I was told only that "the company and our counsel are still evaluating."
You can reach Sam Biddle via email at firstname.lastname@example.org