Uber Used the Boston Bombing Anniversary as a Promotion

After helicopter rides to the Hamptons, surge pricing, and snide Facebook posts, we shouldn't be surprised when Uber displays contempt for the species. But using post-terrorism "BOSTON STRONG" mania as an advertisement might be a new low.

The last time a company tried to cash in on Boston's mix of ad hoc patriotism, coping mechanisms, and sloganeering, that company was shamed into retreat. Granted, Chevy's attempt at co-opting a city's trauma was much closer to the actual bombing—but was there anything better about Uber's "BostonX" promotion, even a year later?

Before the runners and supportive swarms lined up along the marathon course yesterday, Uber sent the following email to certain users:

This weekend, people will come together from all over the globe to celebrate human perseverance in the city of champions.

In the spirit of the Boston Marathon, we'd like to show appreciation to some of the amazing drivers that have been helping Bostonians get around the city over the past year.

Introducing BostonX:

Get picked up by a local hero within the Boston community, yet another reason that our city has always been revered as the City upon a Hill.

  • Saturday, 4/19, from 9am to 5pm EST, you'll be able to request a ride on BostonX.
  • Simply open up your app and swipe all the way right to the "BostonX" view and request a car.
  • All BostonX rides are at uberX rates.
Who's Driving You:
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Soldiers
  • Teachers
  • ...the list goes on! Learn even more about your heroes here.

Uber Used the Boston Bombing Anniversary as a Promotion

Vague allusions to a terrorist act? Check. Using "local heroes" as marketing materials? Check. A "Boston strong" tag in the accompanying blog post? Of course. What's left unexplained about this celebration of human perseverance and the unyielding determination of the New Englander to stare fear in the face and... something something something... is why anyone would want a local hero to drive them around. Wouldn't a more fitting tribute to Boston's police officers, firefighters, and so forth, be giving them the rides?

The startup tossed in a self-interested donation to The United Way—For every new Uber Bostonian that applies and rides with that code between now and April 28th, we're contributing $20 to United Way on behalf of the rider community!—but this is still plain marketing, dressed in a Red Sox uniform.

Actual Bostonians aren't so impressed: