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Uber's experiment in behavioral science to subtly entice drivers (nytimes.com)
322 points by nikolasavic on Apr 3, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 221 comments

> It has even concocted an algorithm similar to a Netflix feature that automatically loads the next program, which many experts believe encourages binge-watching. In Uber’s case, this means sending drivers their next fare opportunity before their current ride is even over.

I have to say that as a USER, I've noticed this change (I think it's been fairly recent) that they assign you a driver who hasn't yet finished a trip.

What ends up happening is Uber tells you an "estimate" of 3 minutes to arrival before you book. Then it assigns the driver and says "10 minutes" to arrival, but the driver hasn't even dropped off their last passenger yet. So, what's happened multiple times is that the 10 minute estimate ends up staying at "10 minutes" for 5-10 minutes straight and 15-20 minutes after I booked, the driver shows up.

I would understand this if I ordered an Uber pool, but I ordered a black car and it still operated like that.

I'm not sure when they made this specific change, but I've noticed it a lot more in 2017 and overall I've been really disappointed with the uber app this year as they seem to be trying to over-optimize everything to the hilt and it's starting to backfire

They also sweeten the deal so that if you cancel more than 5 minutes AFTER you accept the fare, they still charge you a cancellation fee.

So, they give you a pie-in-the-sky estimate, you wait ten minutes, realize it's still gonna be an extra 10 minutes and then cancel because you can grab a taxi right there and they want to charge you a cancellation fee.

I understood that when they were at least close on their estimate times, but now it just seems like they're intentionally being difficult.

I stopped using Uber after a couple of instances where a driver accepted my ride request and then drove steadily in the opposite direction for quite a while before canceling and triggering a charge to my account for not 'being where I was supposed to be'.

Each time this happened on a busy Manhattan avenue where I watched empty yellowcabs fly past for 15 minutes. Totally infuriating. Used to take a few per month but now haven't taken an Uber since September.

I've had this a few times too. I assume it's a driver trick to drive in the wrong direction so the rider has to cancel, pay the cancellation fee, and you don't even get to rate the driver in that case so it doesn't affect their score.

I'm not sure why they don't just decline the fare, but maybe they don't see the destination until they accept and they don't want to go there, or maybe Uber penalizes them for declining too many fares and this is a hack around that.

In my experience Uber is quite good at refunding the cancellation fee when you tell them what happened.

I live in NYC. That used to be a frequent problem, but I haven't had that happen to me recently. Whenever it did happen, I would cancel, contact support, and get my $5 back. It only takes a few minutes to contact support from within the app.

I was able contest the fee each time (with an extra step to get it actually refunded rather than a credit for future rides), but the reason I started using Uber to begin with was largely about accountability and convenience, both of which seemed to be on the decline when this was happening. Plus there's something especially insulting about being charged a fee for the privilege of being stood up.

Maybe things have improved recently but their corporate behavior hasn't given me much reason to start using the app again.

Having lived (and survived!) the NYC dating scene it took me until the "I would cancel, contact support..." part of your post to realize you were talking about Uber and not the lunatics you encounter during the NYC dating experience.

That is not going to win the driver a good rating - or do you not get to rate the driver in that case? Either way, a pattern of such events (with the same bogus reason given) would suggest that someone - the drivers, Uber itself, or both - has found a way to screw customers.

It's the drivers. If you read /r/uberdrivers one discovers that there are a host of tricks designed to game the system.

Uber presents itself as the alternative to customer-unfriendly taxis and cab companies. So much for that.

Maybe its worth having a cup of coffee in hand to drop on the upholstery if the driver tries that trick.

Seems only fair if the system is rigged against you.

This seems like something that could kill Uber eventually. Their whole setup is pathological, most of the drivers and riders I know have an array of tricks to use or watch out for, and the results are deeply unpleasant.

I suppose the bar set by cabs is really low, since I've never worried about an Uber driver mugging me or kicking me out in an empty industrial park, but it's still ugly. I'd pay more for something that was just "cabs, but we actually don't scam you".

But the drivers' beef is with Uber, not the customer.

Right. Regardless of if their sentiment is justified or not generally what you see from the drivers on that sub is a sentiment of "damn the man" against uber itself.

Occasionally this behavior will be described as linked to riders in annoying locations or with low ratings but usually it's uber they're targeting

Since you cancel, you don't get to rate them, which is why the trick works.

You can contact support for a refund, but I don't know if that data is connected back to the drivers doing it - I doubt it if the trick is still popular.

Complain to Corp

On the other hand, I haven't had good experiences with other services. Coming home from my last trip to Texas I landed at LaGuardia and there was a guy there asking if I needed a car. I was super tired, so I just said, yeah, how much to get to <my address>. He says 60 bucks, and I can smoke in the car.

Okay fine. Whatever. Get to my place, and oh, it's 80 bucks. Seriously?! Okay fine. I tipped him anyway because that's what you do. Threw 20 bucks down for an even 100. Not the worst I've been screwed. And getting to smoke in the car on the way home was kind of nice.

Fucker charged me $140.

Uber also won't tell you when they charge you a cancellation fee.

They'll pop a message saying something like "Sorry about that your driver had to cancel. But don't worry there are other drivers". But then you check your ride history and you've been charged $5.

Downright unethical and should be illegal.

They usually refund the cancel fee if you ask. I've had issues with both uber and lyft where cancel fees were charged when I wasn't at fault (driver went to wrong place, etc) and just reported and got refunded.

They don't refund, they just credit your account. It didn't count for much after I switched to Lyft entirely.

In general, I find Lyft is wholly more pleasant, both as an app and as a customer.

If you push enough, they will. Once I had an 18 hour layover in Honolulu and I decided to go to the Pearl Harbor memorial (sentimental, I know) and Uber was a mess. I got cancelled on, and I cancelled one...both times I was charged the fee. After a few emails of back and forth they actually refunded my credit card instead of just giving me "Uber credits."

They will put it back on your card if you ask. It's a dark pattern for sure though.

You should not have to ask for a refund if, after reasonable time after the original estimate has passed, the cab has not appeared. Of course, Uber is also free to screw around with the customers to the extent that they will acquiesce to it.

No argument there.

I've also had times where the charge was more than it showed upfront. I think what's going on there is I'm let off and the driver marks it as the location I left, which is a tiny bit away from the original destination, so it recalculates the fee and no longer uses the fixed fee. They should be able to tell if the dropoff location is within say 1000 feet of the expected destination and not charge more.

I've requested a refund multiple times and never been rejected.

Furthermore, when the estimates are more than a couple of minutes off as GP suggests, Uber waives the cancellation fee.

I don't think that's true unless you specifically request it.

With pool at least, I've had them charge me a fee when I cancel immediately.

I was in a rush to the train station and accidentally booked a pool. I cancelled within a few seconds and booked an Uber X, but they still charged a cancellation fee.

And I was in a rush because the first pool I booked that morning didnt show up (he called and asked me to cancel).

i wonder if you could dispute through credit card. they would have paid more for such stupid system.

It's faster and easier to just get a refund through the app first, and then try a credit card dispute. %99 of the time they do it. I've never had something not refunded when it should of been.

> %99 of the time they do it.

This would need to stop - how many of the clients file a dispute? Maybe a large percentage of HN readers - but not so much from the general public. Uber wins money it never was entitled to. No service provided, no pay.

I see now why legislation might have been the better choice, after all.

I don't think that is correct. I'd wager that people outside of HN would spend more time to make sure their $5 is returned.

If you're suggesting that lower-income people would be more likely to dispute the charge due to it having a larger impact on their bottom line, I strongly suspect you're wrong.

People in that demographic tend to, in my experience, not put forward the effort to get things like that refunded. Even though the money is important to them, it's frequently conditioned that it will take hours of time and effort to recoup the $5, and that's hours and effort they simply don't have.

Whether or not it actually takes that amount of time is irrelevant. The problem is that people expect it will take too much of their time to deal with and simply let the money go.

This is yet another example of Uber treating their customers like shit. If it's easy enough for them to determine that the cancellation was legitimate and issue the refund, they should do so proactively. Waiting for customers to complain before returning money they collected for a service they did not provide is as user-hostile as anything else they do.

I will never give another dollar of my money to Uber.

As others have pointed it out - they don't even return the money. They credit your account which is even worse than taking it the first time.

I reckon a class action regarding this scummy behaviour will be filed soon.

filing through credit card would cost uber money. consider it a punishment (For the lack of a better word) by the consumer.

Whether it works out in favor of consumer is a question. I would probably not use uber in the first place.

Filing a charge back with a credit card company is painful compared to complaining about something in the $rideshare_company app in 2 minutes, and then getting refunded in less than a day. It's your life / time.

the downside is it's in terms of "Credit". With dispute, it's as good as cash.

The difference between the two might be less than many would think.

Also with dispute, you are sending business a message: if they charge you for their mistakes (in scheduling), you'll look for disputing (which costs them around 25$/dispute, i believe?).

In Vietnam, Uber required a credit card for the longest time. This is a silly position to take, given most Vietnamese do not have credit cards. You can now use Uber without a credit card, but Uber's position had a cost.

Grab Taxi has now taken much of the market and do not require a credit card. I will never use a hailing service requiring a credit card, and as such I can never be charged a cancellation fee.

That's almost as bad as the Taxi companies!!

How so? If I book a taxi and then don't show up they can't charge me a thing. Quite the opposite, they send me a text saying "driver couldn't find you, reply YES if you still need a cab".

I've been required to give a credit card over the phone to book. When the taxi didn't show up thirty minutes later, it was a chargeback to avoid their fees. Uber is becoming a horrible company. But in most cities (e.g. Silicon Valley, Austin, D.C., New York) they replaced something much, much worse.

Wow, that's awful, sounds like a blatant cash grab! You're basically guaranteed money from everyone that calls, there's no incentive to have enough drivers to cover demand.


It's been my experience that, when calling, I've never waited less than 20 minutes for a cab and often have waited an hour. It's amazing that taking the bus is quicker than calling a cab. Once I actually was unable to even get through. I was in a small hotel lobby and the owner offered to give me a ride instead. Later on, in another hotel lobby, I paid it forward and offered to give a lady a ride to the airport when she was having trouble getting a cab on the phone.

I guess my point is, for all its flaws, Uber is still better than a taxi in less populated areas....

I did say almost. In place of an app, a charge and a process to ask for a refund I have to call someone to order a car. Then it shows up more or less on time and costs some money.

Read all the other complaints here. There is very little difference​ between Uber and Lyft and the age old cab companies.

I've noticed this so much that I've recently started a spreadsheet of estimated arrival times, actual arrival times, estimated trip duration, and actual trip duration. I currently only have 4 entries so the results don't really hold weight (though right now the average wait is ~4 minutes estimated with ~12 minutes actual). Uber's time estimates have been simply atrocious lately.

Me too! I have roughly ~35 entries and I observe, on average, that actual times are ~2.5 times the estimate (roughly what you have seen as well). I am sure that there is some strategy here, estimates that are consistently 2.5x off are just ridiculous... With the amount of trip data that they have, they could easily build a fairly accurate ETA predictor. Even google maps would do MUCH better...

This makes me think that drivers aren't the only ones whose mental circuitry Uber is trying to master. "Well well well, looks like users don't notice if our ETA is off by 10 minutes as long as we show them an interactive map..."

This smells like the prototypical A/B-tested product 'optimization' that has become widespread these days. Sure the data probably makes it look like an unequivocal win in the short term, but it compounds ill will towards the platform every time someone goes downstairs to meet their car 10 minutes too early in a downpour.

This reminds me of Schlitz beer and its downfall [0]. Schlitz went from battling Budweiser for domestic supremacy to a case study in how to ruin your brand by repeatedly cheapening your product coupled with a belief that your customers are stupid.

Uber has been like Teflon so far, and Lyft is no Budweiser, but do I wonder if there's a tipping point.

[0] http://www.philcooke.com/the-schlitz-mistake-and-what-beer-c...

I think it's the exact opposite of "users don't notice". I think it's more that people are annoyed but Uber can't measure that easily, so they don't realize. Anecdote: my friends and I have frequently experienced this recently and the result has just been frustration - "it said 3 minutes and now it says 10 minutes" or "why's he driving over there?!". I hang on for the Uber, but if there was a taxi driving by I probably would have hailed it.

Thanks for mentioning this.

I've stopped using Uber because this happened to me the last 4 times I've tried to book one.

I feel like it's bait and switch. I have better luck to just walk toward a busy road and hail a taxi.

Yeah, I noticed this for the first time a few weeks ago when I was ordering one. Their time estimates are already pretty horrific in Midtown NYC traffic, assigning me to someone that is "5 minutes away" from dropping someone off "5 minutes away" from me can easily be 15+ minutes of wall clock time before a car gets there.

When the driver is on another trip the app tells you "Joe is completing another trip".

I don't think this feature has much to do with behavioral science, more to do with combating the previous behavior which was drivers starting a Lyft ride as they get near the end of a Uber trip and vice versa.

Yes, but they only point that out AFTER you've requested the ride.

They give you 3 times that are all not the same thing (but are obviously insinuated to be).

1) It gives you the 3 minute estimate. 2) Then says that Joe is completing a ride 5 minutes away 3) And then he drops the person and they say he's 5 minutes away (this is 5 minutes after you initially requested).

You could make a case that they're technically not lying because [1] is an estimate, [2] is a truth and [3] is the actual, real ETA but the whole thing is obviously confusing, deceitful and makes for a terrible user experience.

I've also seen the opposite - 10 minute estimate and the car shows up in less than 3. This is just as bad...maybe I ordered the car early because of the long projected lead time, now the driver has to wait for me while possibly blocking traffic.

Consider yourself lucky. It's never happened to me. I've only been charged numerous cancellation fees. Im starting to think i can just walked there faster.

"estimate ends up staying at "10 minutes" for 5-10 minutes straight and 15-20 minutes after I booked"

this is the type of organization uber likes to run. these are the types of experiments they're comfortable with green-lighting. i wonder what else they're concocting.

I was in Charleston this weekend. On East Bay Street, I was connected to a driver who was 11 minutes away and had another fare. I canceled immediately and tried Lyft. After agreeing to a 450% surcharge, it reported a 12 minute wait with the driver also carrying another fare.

I looked up from my phone and found a cab within 10 seconds. $8 ride. Nice guy.

Unfortunately, we are starting how easily small changes to the business model can impact user experience at companies like Lyft and Uber. Ride surcharges, cancellation charges, getting connected to over-busy drivers...It seems simple in concept but the execution is really hard, as taxi cab companies are aware. They just don't have billions in VC money to cover up the problems.

> So, what's happened multiple times is that the 10 minute estimate ends up staying at "10 minutes" for 5-10 minutes straight and 15-20 minutes after I booked, the driver shows up.

I have noticed this over the weekend as well. Got an estimate of 15 minutes (which is much more than usual). After 7 minutes the car was still 15 minutes away and it was even further! Had to cancel, got charged, used my own car as I was already late.

This has happened in Vilnius. What fascinates me most is that how a single shift in software behaviour has an instant impact on people lives around the world. Makes me think what economical impact would happen if it unexpectedly stopped working (or worse behaving as expected).

I've observed this too, where the driver accepts your trip but he is yet to drop his current passenger. While this may be 'optimization' from a business point of view, it's actually bad from a user perspective. We have cancelled so many trips because there is a mismatch in the expected time of arrival! I have a feeling sooner or later they will have to either stop this or show longer wait times.

Just use Lyft, its a better experience all the way around.

I hate Lyft, if Uber is evil then Lyft is just dumb.

I started using Lyft because they allowed me to tip the drivers after a ride. So I preferred Lyft whenever I knew I would be a difficult passenger (like when I have to take my cat to the Vet or my wife is sick and she might have (and did) throw up in the car). The idea was that I would just tip the driver at the end of the ride for the extra trouble caused.

Months later when my ratings were tanked, some driver told me that I had really low rating on Lyft and that I seemed like a nice guy to have the low ratings. It turned out Lyft pooled the tip money together and paid the driver at the end of the week. So now tipping had no meaning other than 'just give your driver some extra money anonymously'.

I attribute this behavior to simple stupidity on the part of Lyft. Since then I just use Uber and pay all my tips in cash everytime I think it would be a problem.

Lyft now does this too. It just happened to me two days ago after requesting a pickup at SFO.

I try to domestically. They do not seem to have the network effect internationally though :(

They seem to operate only in the USA, but form an "alliance" with other services in other countries (Didi Chuxing, Grab Taxi, etc.), for which you need the respective app though.

Wait, does that mean Uber charge you if the car doesn't turn up? There must be an upper limit on how long you have to wait before that's a non-delivery of service.

>"We've underinvested in the driver experience," a senior official said. "We are now re-examining everything we do in order to rebuild that love."

This just seems so crazy to me. A company who's very foundations are built on its number one assets: drivers has been neglecting them. It's like an airline neglecting its pilots or hospital neglecting its surgeons. Without drivers, Uber dies. I know they're investing in self-driving vehicles, but self-driving Uber's are a long way off after a spate of incidents and the pending Waymo lawsuit. It's going to take many more millions and countless lobbying to adopt laws for self-driving vehicles.

Seems to me that Uber see their drivers as temporary pawns in a long game of chess. Eventually, Uber hopes to replace their drivers with self-driving vehicles a dream they've been aggressively trying to make happen. What a horrible business.

Hospitals abuse residents who are the future lifeblood of the hospitals. Just because the personnel are essential doesn't preclude the abuse.

Hospitals have the luxury of choice. Where else are the doctors going to practice?

I feel like there's less choice in that case. With Uber, I can flip to lift or a taxi or black car service with the push of a button - don't have to think about what's closest or in-plan.

That's a form of institutionalized hazing. Probably unethical, but I've seen behavioral science defenses of it.

Have you ever spoken to a surgeon or pilot? Both are probably more disgruntled than the average Uber driver.

What else are the drivers going to do? Flip burgers at McDonald's? Driving an Uber is still as good as you're going to get with flexible hours and no skills. I say this as someone who drives for Uber (albeit part-time for fun).

> A company who's very foundations are built on its number one assets: drivers

Uber is still built on vc rounds and it's foundation is the idea that they might be a monopoly if they can survive enough to drive all competitors out of business.

That foundation is shaking, but they're not ready yet to compete at market prices. I fully expect more shenanigan involving messing with drivers, as they are not ready to pull out the veil they put in front of the customers yet.

Airlines do underinvest in their pilots and hospitals in their nurses. Management is shockingly short sighted about these things.

Are they actually short sighted or are they actually behaving economically rationally?

Drivers are not Uber's life blood. Passengers ignorant of the company's treatment of their drivers, and other shady tactics are.

Passengers ignorant of the company's treatment of their drivers, and other shady tactics are.

This is such a mindblowing thing to me; as you can't throw a rock without finding site after site, blogpost among blogpost among forum post among social media share/tweet/post of this-among other instances of Uber conducting some very ugly, clandestine business that screws drivers over and because they're so damn convenient people just ignore it completely at best-shoot the messenger with a .50 caliber barrage at worst.

None of this is more prevalent than in my city subreddit of /r/austin where people are convinced that the city banned Uber/Lyft when every news outlet in the city wrote at length how the former bought a referendum over fingerprinting rules (which Uber complies with in more profitable cities), lost said referendum vote, and then left of their own volition after targeting a(n admittedly unpopular) councilwoman.

That hasn't stopped the overriding narrative that we forced the company out unfairly.

It's a weird phenomenon to behold. They treat their workers like utter crap; I wonder if you took some of the tactics they employ, apply them to any other sector and make them as public as Uber's have been-if anyone would stand for it. Or does the convenience factor of Uber compared to a cab make it easier for people to engage in rampant whataboutism?

> This is such a mindblowing thing to me; as you can't throw a rock without finding site after site, blogpost among blogpost among forum post among social media share/tweet/post of this-among other instances of Uber conducting some very ugly, clandestine business that screws drivers over and because they're so damn convenient people just ignore it completely at best-shoot the messenger with a .50 caliber barrage at worst.

Yes you can. Here in Australia literally nobody that doesn't browse HN gives a fuck. I can't name one person I know IRL that knows anything about Uber other than that it's 1000x better and more convenient than the taxi service here.

Well, there's only one way to change that.. I can hardly name one person I know IRL who hasn't copped an Uber rant from me :)

So in said rant, how do you address the fact that, at least here in Melbourne, Uber is a much better experience than taxis?

I know a lot about how Uber works, and I still use them, because the experience is so much better.

Haven't caught an Uber in Melbourne, but I've caught both cabs and Ubers in Sydney and aside from a few dollars extra a fare and maybe a more service-y vibe in cabs, I've hardly noticed a difference. My Melbourne cab experiences were more or less the same as what I get in Sydney, but I much preferred taking rental bikes or the tram anyway.

What stands out for you in Ubers? I actually prefer the atmosphere of a cab - I really dislike the whole "let's be friends haha have a mint what music do you like I'm a Cool Guy™" Uber thing, I find it super corny and transparent. You're not my friend if I'm paying you for a service, and I know you're just gaming me to get your stars or a tip.

> It's like an airline neglecting its pilots

Sorry but that's a really bad comparison. In Europe pilots go on strike all the time due to the abuse.

The sad reality is that Uber's drivers are dispensable and replaceable. There's an endless supply of unemployed/underemployed people, and they'll do whatever it takes to support themselves and their families, even if it means begrudgingly working for Evil Corporation.

Their promo video from a year ago tells you everything. [1]

They thought they'd get to self driving cars pretty quick. They didn't (yet).

[1] https://youtu.be/bx1-im6i8uk?t=1m40s

The problem here is that to some degree it's a zero-sum game between drivers and passengers. Anything Uber does to benefit the one probably comes at the expense of the other.

They underinvested in drivers because they were very optimistic about self-driving cars. Now they see that replacing drivers won't happen quick enough they realizing need to pump investment in drivers.

I'll just point out that every two-sided marketplace in existence uses tons of data and behavioral techniques to get "suppliers" (e.g. drivers on Uber, hosts on AirBnB, sellers on eBay, manufacturers on Alibaba, etc. etc.) to offer the best buyer experience at the lowest cost.

That's certainly one approach toward interactive journalism.

Works incredibly well on mobile devices too.

Did anyone else find the treatment of "forward dispatch" here strange?

Obviously a lot of the things in this article are gross (why the hell does Uber give out badges?), but forward dispatch makes a lot of sense. It convinces drivers to work longer hours by making them more money. Driver downtime is uniformly terrible - it delays rides, diminishes Uber's revenue, and cuts drivers' wages. It's textbook market inefficiency (unmet supply and demand at once), and reducing it is a win for everyone.

Some of the things surrounding forward dispatch are messy, yes. It makes for inaccurate estimates, activating it every login is ugly, and deploying it without a pause button was malicious or idiotic (remember that drivers take hits for rejecting rides). But why is a central piece of this article a claim that a driver-requested, wage-increasing feature really just undermines self-control?

A slightly off-topic question: when was the last time when Hacker News front page hasn't featured a negative post about Uber?

Probably back when they were focused on disrupting a market, more than on improving their operations in kind-of shady ways ?

When was the last time anyone had anything positive to say about Uber?

> When was the last time anyone had anything positive to say about Uber?

This is the exact reason why I find it hard to take seriously anything anyone says about Uber on the internet. The completely one-sided 'discussion' is so divorced from reality - if there was really nothing positive to say about Uber, why do people still choose to use and drive for them?

"if there was really nothing positive to say about Uber, why do people still choose to use and drive for them?"

if there was really nothing positive to say about Comcast, why do people still choose to use them?

Because in many markets, Comcast is the only provider.

Is "taxis are even worse" really all that positive?

Yes, because one hardly sees outrage directed at the taxi companies?

If Uber is an improvement over status quo, stop trying to bring them down for not being perfect. Sure, talk about how Uber could be better. But 'Uber is evil ZOMG never use them' is counter-productive.

I'm not sure I can agree. There's clearly a market there, because taxis suck almost everywhere they exist, but nothing, including its having identified that market, requires that Uber continue to be the primary company in it. I can see an argument that "Uber is evil ZOMG never use them", should it actually result in Uber doing less business - itself a questionable surmise, but whatever - opens up more space in the market for Uber's presumably less exploitive competitors.

It's also a little much to suggest that Uber is merely "not perfect". Its business model has always been predicated upon the near-term advent of self-driving car technology, which has clearly not occurred quickly enough to make the company sustainable. That being so, Uber's instead been forced to fall back on tactics toward its drivers and customers which are widely regarded with what we might charitably call considerable distaste. As such, Uber itself has become ripe for disruption, and I think that's the intent toward which "Uber is evil ZOMG never use them" is ultimately directed - the underlying reasoning being that Uber, having been designed around an unsustainable model, is pretty much screwed no matter what happens, and the question now is how to limit the extent of damage it can do before its inevitable collapse and replacement in the market by more sustainable competitors and successors.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I saw a Uber-labeled vehicle tday on I-280 near Woodside, equipped with an older model rotating Velodyne scanner on top. It didn't look like Uber's publicly known self-driving cars. It was doing a steady 45 in the middle lane, and I suspect it was mapping, not self-driving.


Uber have had mapping cars for quite some time - they also acquired Bing Maps from Microsoft in 2015.

What do you mean they acquired Bing Maps from Microsoft? Bing Maps is owned by Uber now? Sorry if this is common-knowledge to everyone; I don't remember reading about it.

News to me too, but apparently they bought a bunch of tech and 100 Bing Maps employees in 2015:


Not related. Can someone share what are those interactive "images" made of? Or what are the correct terms to call those "images"?

They're Javascript canvases. They're very neat... https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2017/03/07/uber/563471...

My initial assumption was they were made of d3.js (SVG) but looking at the inspector they seem to be canvas elements (<canvas>).

I didn't see any mention on d3.js in the js libraries being pulled in, so not sure.

I had a really bad date about a month ago. In a part of Brooklyn I'm not familiar with. Things started well, and the woman asked me if I would help her move some stuff because she was having some remodeling done. I was all, "Okay. Sure."

I wasn't set up all that well to begin with. Long day at work, tired. My phone was close to dead. So euphemism for hooking up or not, I went home with her. And she's legit trying to move stuff. So I start helping out. She has a lot of art, and she's telling me really specifically about where to put stuff. I take one painting and put it where I thought she wanted it.

That was not where she wanted it. Because the way I placed it in the closet it was touching some of her clothes. This was not okay. And she flips the fuck out on me and starts screaming at me about how I don't care about her things.

Okay, okay. I'm sorry. We're cool now, right honey bunny? We're cool. She's cool. So then we're trying to move her biggest piece out of the living room. It's an 8'x15'-ish mural. Large. Heavy. We get it off the wall hooks holding it up, and she straight up drops her end of it, causing the corner of the thing I was holding over my head to crash down on my face. The corner landed straight on my left eye and cut me on the eyebrow before sinking into the eye itself.

And then she starts screaming again about how this is what I deserve for disrespecting her art.

At this point, I'm out. I just left. I left my man purse and everything. Did not care. Just wanted out. Because this woman is crazy.

I had about 5% on my phone at that point, and I tried to get an uber to take me home. Got a connection to a driver, and my phone died. About this time, I started feeling really sketchy. Like something was wrong. Not wrong in a "I've had too much to drink." but more like, "There are probably drugs involved here." And I don't do drugs.

Uber driver never showed up. I woke up in my apartment about 8 hours later. Have no idea how I got there. Judging from the way my legs felt, I suspect I walked the whole way home from Williamsburg to Ditmas Park. My entire face was caked in blood, and I had to get 6 stitches put in my left eyebrow and a badly blackened eye. Also ruined my favorite sweater and jeans. I mean, it was a date. I was dressed up nice.

Bonus points to Uber for charging me the cancellation fee. I get it, they are not an ambulance service or a medical team. But come on, you have to have a better solution to a user whose phone dies than, "fuck you. give me five bucks."

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14020225. Tangents are fine when they aren't generic (e.g. getting stuck in some kind of boilerplate argument) but this one took on a life of its own.

You have good writing skills. Your story, though shocking, had me gripped :)

Did you ever find out why you felt sketchy and why you don't remember how you got home? Was that because of the injury?

As far as Uber charging cancellation fee, I don't think they have a way to know if your phone died. For them, it's equivalent to the driver being unable to contact you.

Thank you for the compliment. I try to write as well as I can.

I did talk to the woman later to get my man purse back. She straight up ruffied me. I have no idea for what purpose.

As for Uber seeing stuff, I have some posts below on the topic. I think this is not a difficult problem to solve.

Actually, what it really boils down to is CAP theorem. Uber is just making the wrong choices about CAP.

In this case we aren't talking about a networked system in the normal way we do with distributed database systems. We're talking about a network of people. How do you handle it when there's a partition event? Uber's default choice is fuck it. Write one part of the transaction to the database and charge the user a disconnect fee.

That's not in anyway the correct way to handle a network partition. That's like if you have an application that receives a message and logs it, but can't get a response to my callback, and it just says, "Okay. My work here is done." And then makes a new entry in a table that says the failed callback owes 5 bucks.

That's absolutely stupid and wrong. Network partitions are going to happen. All the damn time. And if your best mechanism for dealing with them is blame the callback . . . you have some serious thinking to do. Because that shit is broken.

Ignoring the rest of your story, which is interesting and weird, I think your analogy to CAP breaks down fast. The driver cannot roll back their time spent. You called them to a spot, presumably they went there and you weren't there. They are out their time, it's gone. Any number of bad things could have happened to you, but the user agreement is that if you don't show, you pay.

Based on the assumption that he wasn't actually where he was supposed to be. I've had several cancellations from drivers, when being worse for wear, for not being where I'm supposed to be even when I've not moved and seen the car drive past without a phonecall. Probably don't want the hassle of a half-cut passenger, but it's a nuisance from their end. Do they get a cut of the charge?

I think they do -- and agreed it's a problem when it's their fault. That's what the call button is for after all.

CAP theorem doesn't address rollbacks. That's an implementation detail for the admins to work out based on the results of how a particular distributed system addresses Consistency, Availability, and Partition tolerance.

User agreements are irrelevant--or at least a cheap cop out--for defining how a distributed system behaves in failure cases. In this particular case, I was where I was supposed to be, but I had an actual network partition event. My phone died. It's not really an analogy at this point. It's an actual P partition event. And Uber's default choice in that case is to assume the rider is no longer there. That's a bad practice, in reality.

No one would tolerate a data store that behaves this way.

It should be obvious that a network of drivers and riders and a coordinating piece of software that links the two of them up has every characteristic of a distributed network.

So, you're saying the driver should have waited patiently for you to wake up, and then the network would have become consistent? While the CAP theorem says nothing about rollbacks, application of the concepts of CAP certainly involve rollbacks, eventual consistency, or data loss. Perhaps if we are to take your analogy literally, the data loss is your money? But if you don't want that, you have to present an alternative. You are doing a poor job of convincing me that you truly believe this is a literal event.

Instead of considering an abstract CS theory, let's talk about reality. Reality is that you ordered a service and then weren't Available to receive that service, so the other Party was due some of your Cash because that's the user agreement you signed. Saying this is a copout won't get you very far in the real world of law.

You're still not getting the facts correct. I apologize for not being more clear.

I was at the right place at the right time. Uber assumed I wasn't because my phone ran out of juice.

Reality is that in a case of a literal network partition, Uber says, "Fuck you. And by the way, pay us 5 dollars."

Fair enough. The way I read the story you ordered an Uber, your phone died, and you don't remember anything else until you woke up the next morning. I assumed it was likely that you weren't where you ordered the car when it arrived.

Since you were in the right place, you shouldn't have been charged, and I agree Uber is wrong how they treat this. The phone dying case is an interesting twist because the driver couldn't call you, but s/he shouldn't have needed to.

That's the point I was trying to make. If you experience a literal network partition between the driver and the rider, what should be the correct response from Uber?

I was definitely in the right place, but my phone died. Is it the correct response to assume the rider is either not at the right place or was and has moved on?

I don't think that's the right approach. We wouldn't do that with a distributed system. A node in a network that isn't getting response from other nodes--particularly slave nodes--doesn't mean the node is down. It might just be busy with something else. You don't know. Assuming that it's not accepting data is the wrong way to handle this scenario. It's a problem.

In this case, I'd call it a committed write that wasn't successfully transmitted to the rest of the system. I was told a driver was on the way. I was there, and the partition tolerance said, "Aww fuck this guy." to Uber's system. That's pretty bad.

If you want to think of it in human terms or in business terms, that's fine. But I think that CAP theorem is the best way to handle these situations from a tech point of view.

The driver didn't need to contact me. All the driver had to do was go to the agreed location and pick me up. But Uber prevented that by cancelling the trip when my phone was no longer in service. That seems broken to me.

Please report this woman to potentially save others from her. If you think this is too much of a hassle and don’t do it, and she harms someone else, you will have blood on your hands.

Please report this woman to the police. Drugging you is a crime. We'll never know for sure what she planned to do to you, but I doubt it was just furniture moving. And this probably wasn't her first or last time. You might be able to stop her.

It could also have been a head injury. Hard to say from the description.

From another comment of his: "I did talk to the woman later to get my man purse back. She straight up ruffied me. I have no idea for what purpose."

This one of the most interesting stories I've read in a while

How could they have cancellation fees at all if you could just turn off your phone and claim it died to evade them?

The Uber app already requests a lot of access to your phone as it is. Shouldn't be a problem for the app to get info about the state of your phone re: battery power. There are iOS APIs that can tell you this.

I don't know Android well enough to say, but my instinct is that every mobile device capable of running the Uber app has a low power mode. The app should be able to query the state of the phone to determine whether or not the user is likely to lose power before the pickup occurs.

But of course, doing that would require that the Uber app was honest about when the driver is actually going to get to the rider.

There are solutions to this problem. I don't know what all of them are, but I guarantee you that they exist. It's not that hard of a problem.

And we also don't know how much of a problem that cancellations are in reality. And we don't know how much of this hypothetical problem is actually caused by drivers fucking with things.

So, I dunno, I think your question involves a lot of assumptions that aren't really correct. Like, not even remotely. You're pretending there's a legit problem, where we have no evidence of one.

    > I don't know Android well enough to say.
You can easily fake the battery status on Android: https://stanfy.com/blog/android-shell-part-1-mocking-battery...

    > It's not that hard of a problem.
You and the grandparent are proposing that Uber somehow use information provided by the user's phone to waive the cancellation fee, when the user is in control of their phone and has every economic incentive to game the system.

Even if you could get this to work it's not at all obvious that it's desirable. Right now the system is simple, you order a car and for some reason the app turns off, you get charged a cancellation fee. That's a hard problem to solve.

What if you have one Uber and two customers who'd like to order it, one with 3% battery and one with 97%? Should the risk of sending the car to the user with 3% battery purely be assumed by Uber?

Uber currently use low battery status to charge higher surge pricing from the user. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/05/22/uber-app-can-...

So its not whether its possible to do this or not. It's whether its something you want to do. An elegant middle ground can be attained by putting phone in power saving mode or by asking for an alternative phone number ( of your date ??) in case the battery is dangerously low .

The article you link specifically says that they do NOT use the status information to charge, but have noticed a higher willingness to accept surge pricing (makes sense) [0].

[0] "'We absolutely don’t use that to push you a higher surge price, but it’s an interesting psychological fact of human behaviour.'” - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/05/22/uber-app-can-...


    > That's stupid and wrong, just like you are.
I think your inability to have a civil discussion without needlessly throwing insults around speaks for itself.

    > Users have a desire to get from point a to
    > point b. There's no incentive to cancel.
    > People don't do that.
There are trivial no-brainer cases where the potential for free cancellations allows you to offload costs on someone else.

E.g. you and your 4 friends need to get from A->B together, you each order an Uber for the ride, but you only intend to use one car. The ETAs are in the range of 15-25 minutes, you all have the "Fake Battery Status" app installed & cancel 3 of the cars when the first one has an ETA of < 2 minutes.

Now you're able to get where you need to go 5-10 minutes earlier than you otherwise would have, at no extra cost, but you've incurred a cost on Uber & lost opportunity (& real fuel costs) on the driver.

I apologize for being a jerk to you. You're right. That wasn't cool at all.

But nothing about the case you just described is trivial or no-brainer. Getting into that situation takes a lot of work, planning, and collusion. I would need to see some serious data to believe that this kind of thing actually happens often enough for it to be a problem.

In a place like NYC, getting places just takes time. An extra 10 minutes to get from point a to b just isn't a thing that people care about.

If you're going to assert that cases like these are common enough to cause Uber to have a default policy of cancelling a ride when a rider's phone runs out of juice, I think the burden of proof is on you to show it. Otherwise, I'm not going to buy into that.

And again, I apologize for calling you stupid.

Edge case

Users game the system all the time. Call an Uber then get in a taxi which drives by before the Uber comes. That's what the cancellation fee is about.

A policy you dislike is not an argument for regulation. It's an argument for you to use Lyft, gett or yellow cabs.

"In the case of a 97% vs. 3% battery, the call should be exactly as it is currently. Who is going to be the more lucrative for the driver."

Well, I disagree. I think they should optimize for Life Time Value (LTV) of Customer. So If a customer (with 3% battery level ) has been a uber user for more than say six months and have no history of cancellation and likely to be using it for next six months . He should be given prefrence over the one with less Life time value .

I could get on board with that, theoretically. In reality, how do you define history of cancellation. This thread has popped up at least some evidence that indicates that people show up in the system as cancelling rides for reasons that are not legitimate. Driver screws around and then cancels, claiming the user wasn't in the right place. User's phone dies, etc.

Your idea would be easier to make happen in reality if reality weren't so messy.

Well, this is what "Sex in the City" is about in real life :)

I carry a pair of Manolo's in my work bag just in case I ever run into Sarah Jessica Parker. Which really sucked last week when I was taking a brisket to work that I smoked when I was visiting my family in Texas. The BBQ sauce spilled, and man, Manolo's and BBQ sauce are not as sexy in the city as you would think. I literally ruined a 1,200 dollar pair of shoes.

My team claims the brisket was worth it.

Do Taxi services with employeed drivers simply not exist in the US anymore? So curious why people complain about how Uber treats their drivers when they could support Taxi companies that employ drivers. They may even have app's for generation Y to use for hailing as well.

Taxis cost a lot more, but to make up for it, they provide a much shittier service.

If you live in a dense city, taxis are a viable option. In SF, Flywheel is a good way to hail a cab by phone. The problem is outside of certain areas, driving a cab full time is a not a good way to make a living. I am glad Lyft, Uber, etc came along because it wasn't that long ago that your only option was to call Yellow Cab, who might as well have had a recording that said "Thank you for calling Yellow Cab, now go fuck yourself!". No words for how bad service used to be.

As far as I understand, taxi companies never had employees. They've always been independent contractors. Taxi situation has always sucked, it just sucks a little less with an app, and the drivers tend to not be bottom of the barrel cigarette smokers.

If you have some money though, you can just use a nice car service which will come with a professionally dressed driver and doesn't smell like cigarettes.

I'd like to say you have hit rock bottom when you treat your employes (or "independent contractors") like whales in a pay-for-play MMO, but Uber always finds a way to go lower.

The article says that some companies have switched to an employee model to ensure workers are available during peak hours. But there are other ways to do that:

- Pay workers more during rush hours, and less during other times. This could be surge pricing, or the platform choosing to not take a commission during rush hour, and take a higher commission than normal during off-peak hours.

- Tell workers they should be available from 8 AM to 11 AM and 5 - 8, at least four days of every work week, but are free at other times to work or not work.

I don't think it's necessary to have employees to make them available at certain times.

There seems to me to be an optimal, market-based solution to this: form a Rideshare Drivers Alliance, hire brilliant former Uber programmers and data scientists, and build an app intended to run in the background on drivers' phones that optimizes for their interests. If you build something awesome, you should be able to charge millions of drivers a small monthly fee to show them metrics and data aligned to their interests. The real difficulty​ to overcome is the information imbalance between drivers and rideshare services.

Edit: typo

"While surges do mitigate shortages, they do so in part by repelling passengers..."

Supply and demand -- what will those crafty manipulators at Uber dream up next? The author makes it sound like some kind of voodoo magic.

The point is that Uber would rather mitigate shortages in ways less likely to impact revenue. An increase in drivers has less bottom-line impact than a reduction in passengers.

TL;DR: here's the list of psychological tricks mentioned in the article:

1. When driver's are about to log off, it tells them that they are very close to reaching an earnings target, such as "You are $6 away from making $40 net earnings". The target is set by Uber, and is always just out of reach.

2. Uber suggests to drivers that they should go to a certain area for better chance of finding riders. The article says this might be an example of where Uber benefits at the expense of drivers because Uber does not prefer surge pricing.

3. Uber prompts drivers to accept the next fare opportunity before the current ride is over.

4. Uber tells new drivers when they are 50% towards the goal of 25 first rides. At 25 rides Uber will pay a 'signing on' bonus.

5. Some Uber employee's would pretend to be women when communicating with the (overwhelmingly male) drivers.

6. Lyft did a split test of two different calls to action: (a) "You're losing $15 per hour by driving on Tuesday mornings instead of Friday evenings"; and (b) "You would make $15 per hour more by driving on Friday evenings instead of Tuesday mornings". They found that (a) was more effective, but eventually decided not to use this approach [for reasons not explained in the article]

7. Uber provides non-cash rewards to drivers in the form of 'badges' like "Above and Beyond", "Excellent Service" and "Entertaining Drive". It also gives drivers stats like how many trips they have taken in the current week, how much money they have made, how much time they have spent logged on and what their overall rating from passengers is.

I hate when companies use basically zero-value rewards like badges to incentivize very-real-valued work like giving people rides. All I can think of is the "fuck you, pay me" quote when I see this happening. My last company wanted us to comment our code thoroughly and write better repository readmes and documentation -- except they would never build in explicit time for these tasks. Being a manager, I was asked how can we get folks to do this in their own time. My response was "carrot or stick, take your pick, but it needs to have real value or cost or nobody will get behind it". They looked at me like I was crazy and proceeded to roll out a "kudos and accolades" program where people just verbally acknowledged each other for extra work like this in a public forum. You guessed it, behavior changed 0% and morale went down because all the engineers were like "do they think we are idiots?"

1) Probably the most manipulative by far. Interesting to learn.

2) Also how driver get the most rides helping to maximize their earnings. In fact isn't this the whole point of surge in the first place? To push drivers to high surge areas? I would hardly call this a "psychological trick" and is very reasonable.

3) How is this a "psychological trick"? This clearly is in the drivers' benefit as it helps maximize the number of rides they take. All their time becomes productive if they get dispatched to another trip ahead of their current trip ending. Also, it's clear this makes Uber more efficient as a platform as they can treat occupied cars as active supply.

4) Is this not simply providing transparency of the bonuses/incentives Uber is offering?

5) Weird but even weirder that it works. Not the first time I've heard of this. Apparently works on emails too. A number of companies use this. A quick google show's it's well known.

6) Not shocking. Seems like relatively standard A/B testing of copy.

7) Some of this is gamification and some is transparency. All standard.

This article to me largely seems like an attempt to play on the recent many bad deeds of Uber for a click-bait article that deliberately perturbs some facts to fit the narrative. This article could very easily have been written about any other company in the world. But writing it about Uber now, generates clicks and upvotes.

I agree very much with you. I would categorize point 6) as manipulation though, because it is about choosing wording to change behavior. IMO this creates stress though, and connecting your service with stress can backfire in the long term.

The wording is an example of loss aversion, and has been studied many times in behavioral psychology. The company's intent is to change behavior (getting the driver to drive on a different day). Anyone would choose the better outcome. Is that manipulation? Or optimization? And the driver could benefit from having this information vs not at all (though of course the company benefits most of all).

I try to view manipulation neutrally. In the end, I think what makes us despise certain manipulations is a concurrent lack of empathy, or the intent to only further one's own goals (vs seeking win-win solutions through manipulation).

Parents manipulate their kids a lot, but with the kids' very best interests in mind (mostly :)).

Agree with you 100%. This is hardly manipulative, not in the way the author is making out it to be. @ any rate this is not first time that its happening . Ford motors used to turn back clocks on shop floor to steal extra hal an hour of unpaid time.

5) What did you search for? Top results for "uber employees pretending to be women" shows only sexual harassment suits

Not sure why that would be your search, but here you go: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&e...

Interesting. One of the limits for independent contractos is that you can't really give them a specific schedule like you would an employee. If you do, the government could eventually come down on you and tell you that you really need to classify them as employees.

In Uber's case, they let drivers work whenever and wherever they want, but give them strong suggestions about where they should be.

Obviously employment law wasn't designed to account for the kinds of businesses we have today, and I think a strong case could be made that it needs to be rethought entirely, but regardless, Uber is certainly benefiting a great deal from their relationship With their drivers and how they are able to use data to motivate them as opposed to outright telling them what to do.

"Some Uber employee's would pretend to be women when communicating with the (overwhelmingly male) drivers."

That is sort of odd. Most people can tell male and female from voice alone ... plus it would be easier to hire women as they dont need to pretend to be women.

Communication was by text message. And hiring on the basis of gender would invite a class-action lawsuit. More likely it's not an official policy, just something that some male employees have discovered improves their commission.

If being a woman is relevant for the position you're hiring for, then I don't think it would involve a lawsuit. Just like modeling, or some stores in the mall can legally hire only good looking young people without it being discrimination, like Abercrombie and Fitch.

>"We've underinvested in the driver experience," a senior official said. "We are now re-examining everything we do in order to rebuild that love."

This is a pretty troubling way to phrase using behavioral science to manipulate your employees.

In Uber's defense, the article doesn't mention much or anything that isn't covered in Business 101.

Encouraging drivers to locate in busy areas does not require behavioral science.

Not employees. Free agents, totally independent contractors.

Who have no control over their work schedule or fares among other things. They're technically contractors but the super court in California has ruled otherwise.

they probably control their work schedule, but not fare?

> This is a pretty troubling way to phrase using behavioral science to manipulate your employees.

Isn't this pretty common across all companies? Can the HN modifying the ranking of articles be categorized as user manipulation and evil?

I didn't say manipulation was evil, just pointing out that manipulating someone and calling it love seems more like abuse than love.

That sounds like an extremely creepy evening. Sounds like you got away cheaper than the worst outcome that night, and that's saying something.

Were there any other signs that things were gonna turn out like they did with that lady, before the picture escapade?

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14021030 and marked it off-topic.

I really got nothing. She wasn't any more flaggy than any other woman I've met on OKCupid who is born and raised in NYC.

I'm starting to think that born and raised in NYC is itself a flag.

OkCupid you say?

I got drugged by a woman on OkC as well. It was in Seattle however and no furniture removal was involved, but it was an equally bad situation.

You should have left the second she freaked out on you over her clothes. That was the red flag.

You should have left when you realised it wasn't an euphemism. It is not okay for her to use first dates as slave labour.

I would not have left. She could just be seeing whether he was a nice guy before them bangin'. The minute she started yelling, yes, probably. But before? Why? Because she needed help moving a painting around.

Anyway it all depends on the contents of the conversation, how he request was made etc.

>She could just be seeing whether he was a nice guy before them bangin'.

^^^ I find it incredibly sexy when someone attractive does me a nice favor.

Well, it is the NYC dating scene. There's a ton of head cases in this town and you more or less get used to it after awhile - it becomes normal.

Probably so.

I'm so sorry but this is hilarious.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14021030 and marked it off-topic.

You know, it is funny. It just is. Sometimes all you can do is laugh about stuff, and this is a thing to laugh about. What else are you going to do?

It's super funny the way date rape is funny.

Oh tone it down a little bit. I'm an upper middle class white male. I'm pretty fucking privileged. I was trying to get laid. And I was being stupid. I own my mistakes here, okay?

It's okay to laugh about it in retrospect.

No one got raped. And I learned a lesson. Sort of. I kind of want to hang out with her again. That kind of crazy is a little hot.

I mean, sometimes you just need to put your dick in crazy. Even when you know it's bad idea.

(I'm trolling you, by the way. I can't not troll you. You're like my boss who hates it when I shoot him in the crotch with a nerf gun in client meetings. I just have to do it. 38-year-old me will never stop acting like a 12-year-old. But trolling is nicer than downvoting.)

Man I dunno call me crazy but I don't care what your demographic privilege is: getting roofied in a strange part of NYC sounds pretty terrifying and not like a "laugh it off" moment. It's great that you survived with just a few stitches and ruined clothes, but that could have ended far worse, no?

Given that there was no consequences for this woman's actions, what are the chances she did or will do this again to another person?

Man, i dunno call me crazy but policing other people's emotional responses to events seems insane.

maybe you should take a look at this [1]



Dude gets roofied, hit in the face, and walks around bloodied in a city and it's not okay to say "That's fucked up"?

If common sense triggered my pet peeves that much I'd have to stay out of internet comments.

It was fucked up, and there's nothing wrong with saying that.

I don't know, as a pretty recent transplant from Texas to NYC, I find a lot of things to be fucked up here. I have a choice about how to respond. I can get very deeply upset by how messed up everything is, or I can accept responsibility for my choices, realize when I've made a bad one, and find some humor in the situation while I make a mental note to not do that again.

Sounds like a healthy outlook to have on life. As someone else mentioned, you're a great writer and compelled my response. My initial response was more "holy shit that person needs to be locked away" than "you need to be offended by that".

Did you ever file a police report or anything? Sure, it could be your fault for getting yourself in that situation, but this person sounds violent/dangerous.

thats fucked up isnt what you said, you specifically said the story was not something to laugh about.

you are policing what people are allowed to laugh at, no one claimed it wasnt fucked up, but that doesnt mean they cant laugh, laughter is one of many ways to cope with trauma.

you are either being intellectually dishonest by trying to reframe my argument incorrectly, or you didnt understand it in the first place

Sorry, I don't agree that calling attention to something that seems to be obvious and common sense can or should be characterized as "policing people's emotions".

I'd say it's a tad intellectually dishonest to frame my argument that way in the first place.

right and talking down to the person who experienced it and telling them they shouldnt laugh about it is..... common sense?

I did neither of those things.

I wasn't saying you shouldn't laugh about it, and I'm not attempting to downplay your agency. You obviously know how to handle yourself. If you find other people laughing about this experience nice, good on ya!

But outside of that context, given the drug part, it does seem that this "crazy" woman's actions were likely on the same moral level as armed robbery or attempted rape, so all else being equal, I would prefer that someone called out any external brushing-aside of that aspect. Being white and privileged does not a legal victim make ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So I'm still confused - was it the lack of blood that made you feel drugged? Or did you actually drink something?

Glad you're ok. What a strange occurrence.

I'm wondering if it was a concussion and not drugs. That can cause the wooziness feeling as well as amnesia around the event.

Yeah, it may (likely?) have been the head injury - post traumatic amnesia is a real (not to mention scary) thing even though it's played for laughs on sitcoms. I recall stories of football players getting hit in the head, finishing the game, but having no recollection of the latter part of the game the next day. The rest of the symptoms are also symptoms of a head injury.

Either is possible though.

Please google Susan Fowler and stop using Uber altogether -- like it really shouldn't be a debate about how crappy their arrival estimates are at this point -- they are a company that has no soul.

There are places where Uber is the safest way to get to the right destination without getting scammed, ripped off, or taken to a competing hotel or "travel agent" by a driver who's getting kickbacks from them. And in those places it's either Uber or take your chances.


For those that didn't google her. The first hit I got was a blog post about her sexual harassment at Uber.

After reporting the incident: "I was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that. I remarked that this didn't seem like much of a choice, and that I wanted to stay on the team because I had significant expertise in the exact project that the team was struggling to complete (it was genuinely in the company's best interest to have me on that team), but they told me the same thing again and again. One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn't be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been "given an option". I tried to escalate the situation but got nowhere with either HR or with my own management chain (who continued to insist that they had given him a stern-talking to and didn't want to ruin his career over his "first offense")."


Corresponding Hacker News submission.

Note that past the initial furor, there has been no followup.

Also, there was no externally substantiated non-anonymous evidence backing up her assertions.

The fact that a blog post with no evidence can still linger in peoples' minds is troubling.

Right on, seems like consumers underestimate how powerful their spending choices are. Would love to see more of this mentality when people decide which companies to support when buying gas, food, medicine, telecom, etc.

> Some local managers who were men went so far as to adopt a female persona for texting drivers, having found that the uptake was higher when they did. [...] Uber acknowledged that it had experimented with female personas to increase engagement with drivers.

Classic. Men are predictable, and Uber is predictably amoral.

Many, many years ago, when I was thinking of moving, I was looking for salary ranges for a particular American city. It was pre-Glassdoor so there wasn't a website that aggregated that information.

I decided to go the HackerNews of that particular industry, except instead of using my own account, I decided to make a fake one with an avatar of an attractive but non-famous female. Basically it looked like it was a genuine personal photograph rather than a professionally shot photo you would've found in a magazine. I basically posted one post, introducing myself and asked if anyone had an idea of salary ranges for that city given a specific job position.

Holy. Crap. The number of replies I got was unbelievable. I think on average threads on that news site had double digit responses but this one had over 100. I even had people private message me to say they wanted to interview me despite not including any links to a personal website or resume.

When I sign up for services where the goal is to get tech support (i.e. StackExchange, Discord, Slack) I use a female persona.

I've had to explain to a few people (including my wife) that it's not a gender confusion thing at all, it's purely for the perks.

It's ridiculous how far people will go to help a "woman" online.

Does this actually work on SO? You don't see the avatar until after you read both the title AND the problem (since it's at the bottom of the page instead of alongside it). Plus, the avatar is very tiny. I feel like most people would either have a solution by the time they finish reading or they won't, but a female picture wouldn't change that.

(Serious question by the way, this is an interesting idea)

They might have an answer to the question in their heads, but whether or not they choose to type it up and submit is a different question.

While I haven't done any formal research on the topic anecdotally it totally works on SO and abroad.

People seem to start from a more eager position of "How can I help this person?" rather than the more typical "Does this person deserve help?" attitude support channels tend to have. The nature of the discussion is more clarifying than patronizing.

I suspect the idea of a female disarms the typical competitive "Which of us knows more?" attitude discussions tend to take in IT circles and without that in the way things are more productive for both parties.

But this can't be true, everyone knows STEM fields and IT in particular discriminate against women. >.>

The voice for warnings and cautions in fighter jets is a woman. It makes us pay attention better. Source: 1000+ flights hearing her voice...

I've always wanted a nag for my navigator turn directions:

"Ya shoulda tarned bak dare, ya fakkin twit! Now you're making me recalculate! Whazza matta wit ya?"

There's a reason both Siri and Cortana are female.

By default. But you can change the voice setting. Maybe women will prefer to do that.

Don't have the source link on me, but apparently the default is a male voice in Saudi Arabia and some other countries.

I have a customer who does exactly this. They operate a simple online printing business printing custom & library artwork.

He told me apparently he gets a lot more replies and conversions using a female persona for the support address - double interesting given that in many places you can place an order without contacting them.

Why is that amoral?

Thank you for TL;DR

Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), Narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), Psychopathy (lack of remorse and empathy), Sadism (pleasure in suffering of others);

This breaks the HN guideline against name-calling. Elevating everyone's rage level by calling the most awful names you can think of does nothing for thoughtful discussion except destroy it. Please don't post like this here.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14020489 and marked it off-topic.

> Psychopathy (lack of remorse and empathy), Sadism (pleasure in suffering of others)

Where did you get these from? Especially the second one.

Not the op, but probably because it is a confidence game, and con persons are more likely to have such traits.


Actually the second one is connected to the former. I'm too lazy to cite a reference but there is evidence that psychopaths feel relaxed when others are not. (There are a few popular documentaries about that one Youtube) Of course 'psychopath' is a spectrum, so this doesn't mean Uber management consists of complete psychopaths. Actually there are clinical psychopaths that end up being altruistic - obviously not in this case though.

> Actually the second one is connected to the former.

Sure, but I am asking where it even came from to begin with. Like sadism, what bullet point does it apply to on the top comment?

> .. but there is evidence that psychopaths feel relaxed when others are not.

Also, sure it might be true but why do you even bring this point into the discussion? Does the article or comment mention anything about "calmness" (or similar)? I didn't find it but I might be missing.

I guess when looking at the articles about Uber from this years that made it onto the front page here, we are seeing a pattern of unethical behaviour. Even Uber admitted that something like this exists by letting go one Executive and planning to transform the company into a more benevolent direction.

Why do people repeatedly do things that are bad for others and generally considered unethical, likely even being aware of that? In my opinion this needs no further explanation.

Three out of four of these form the dark triad (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_triad). Sadism doesn't belong in that list.

Don't see the reason for the heavy down voting. The post refers to the often suggested relatively high percentage of aggressive, sociopathic managers at Uber.

EDIT: OTOH, after looking at his profile, this seems took be a template answer.

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