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Uber broke laws, duped police and built lobbying operation, leak reveals (theguardian.com)
965 points by colin_jack 28 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 528 comments



Still a million times better than what it replaced. About 20 years ago I was working with the Australian taxi cab industry. The hq of the regulatory authority shared the address of the main payment system. The regulatory authority was made up of representatives of each taxi cab company that each had one vote. There was one taxi company (the one that controlled the payment system allowed) with 200+ subsidiaries that made up that organization. If anyone tried to get into the taxi industry they'd use their 200 votes to say they are not allowed by regulations. This was a company making 2billion a year in one state of Australia alone (NSW). It was so incredibly fucking corrupt and i am thankful to Uber Lyft and all the other incumbents for managing to get their foot in. It required dirty dealing to get past this corruption.


No, in Switzerland. Instead it managed to steal almost a billion USD from drivers in Switzerland alone and give others the "idea" they can break the law too.

Uber is the worst kind of business preying on the lower class claiming independence and freedom when it's the opposite and you are basically a working slave. It did everything possible to go around government worker protections.

[1] https://www.20min.ch/story/uber-soll-fahrern-eine-halbe-mill...


Taxi Drivers in Switzerland typically earn around 40,700 CHF per year and Uber drivers make roughly the same if working full-time, more if they are working more than 40-hours a week.

Unless the union is able to explicitly explain their claim the Uber is somehow unfair to drivers, to me sounds like the union is just complaining they not getting their member dues.

Possible I missed something, so here are my sources:

How much Uber drivers make in Switzerland

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/ride-sharing-app-_uber-reaches-...

Taxi Driver Average Salary in Switzerland

http://www.salaryexplorer.com/salary-survey.php?loc=210&loct...


Uber does not pay Social Security, Overtime, workers comp etc. When these people retire they have nothing, this money was effectively stolen from the workers.

Unia has successfully sued Uber at the highest courts and Uber recently lost. Geneva has banned Uber and others are expected to follow. There will now be an attempt to recover almost a Billion USD that is owed to drivers from Uber. [1]

[1] https://www.unia.ch/de/aktuell/aktuell/artikel/a/19138


> this money was effectively stolen from the workers

Yep. And also from the state/taxpayers, as the state will have to spend money to ensure those workers aren't left out in the street when older.


Uber didn't "steal" anything as competition is not a zero-sum game. Drivers chose contract work over a full-time job, and it's their choice to save their income. Besides, pensions and Social Security aren't shields against elder poverty befalling spendthrifts. They're merely buffers and one's that come at the opportunity cost of being able to take the money at that point in time and investing it.


> Drivers chose contract work over a full-time job

And children chose to work in the coal mines and die of blacklung

> pensions and Social Security aren't shields against elder poverty befalling spendthrifts. They're merely buffers

By that logic a literal shield is not a shield against swords and arrows, they are merely buffers of stronger material that protects you.

They come at the opportunity cost of being able to use the money to hire more soldiers or bribe your enemy.


> And children chose to work in the coal mines and die of blacklung

Are you saying the average Uber driver has no more ability to make decisions for themselves than the average child? Uber drivers cannot consent? I reckon they must also be prevented from buying cigarettes and having sex? This is absurd. An adult entering into a voluntary contract is profoundly different than a child being forced into work, in fact it's the main thing that it means to be an adult. What sort of weird infantilization does this line of logic even come from?


> An adult entering into a voluntary contract is profoundly different than a child being forced into work, in fact it's the main thing that it means to be an adult

Ah, okay, let's deal with adults: can you volunterilly sell your organs, sell yourself into indentured servitude, or into prostitution? Can you buy heroin or uranium? Can you at least open a coalmine without health and safety and let other people agree to work in it when they know they will get blacklung? No, you can't even buy some financial products without proving you are a sophisticated investor.

You are not allowed to do shit like that because when we allow business to profit out of misery and misfortune of others, business will purposefully trap unfortunate and vulnerable. It isn't an adult vs another adult -> it's one man vs multi billion dollars of lobbying, marketing and legal department.


You're seriously comparing driving for Uber to working in a coal mine, selling your organs, and selling yourself into slavery or prostitution?

When I was in college I drove pizzas and Chinese delivery for $2 an hour plus tips. It was fine, and I was happy for the work, which was the best I could find part-time. I'd have been much happier if I could have driven for Uber, and I'd have missed rent payments far less often. Miss me with the "this should be illegal" stuff, it's a completely different thing than any of the other stuff you mentioned.


I know people for whom prostitution worked out great, some of them made serious money. Why shouldn't I compare one form of expoitation to another form of exploitation?

In fact I would rather have prostitution than people working at $2/hour.

Why do you think successfull business happens in UK/US/{Insert first world country} and not in Somalia?

It's the fact that we have law & order, educated population and infrastructure. These things cost more than $2 an hour to maintain. Now if you started your own business and end up making $2 an hour, thats one thing.

But when an international corporation systematically exploits our people by underpaying them, it's destroying local businesses who can't compete and routing taxes through panama, it's stealing from all of us.


If you focus on a single aspect and ignore all the other issues, sure, there's no problems whatsoever. But when gig economy jobs are the only jobs available for a certain person, it's hard to argue that they're entering those fully voluntarily. The only alternative to them is starving or getting assistance. In the case of Uber, they can cause long-term issues for workers who gamble on buying a car for the job. Additionally, they cause the higher paying versions of the job to disappear, cause taxes to go away, and force employees into not being able to plan for the future. As much as I enjoy having a single mini-cucumber delivered to my door in 10 minutes for a few euros (thanks, Gorillas), there are some extremely negative things that come with those jobs having replaced other better paying jobs.


>> the "idea" they can break the law too.

There may be a disconnect here for those who are not Swiss. That very "idea" is arguably detrimental to the social health of a country like Switzerland (whose citizens appear to practice a sort of honor system when it comes to social norms and laws), while it may well be a non-issue in most other countries.

I think a global company like Uber will have a social impact, whether positive or negative, that very much reflects specific regions or nations, so white knighting Uber as a general proposition is not very sound.


This is the case for many other european countries aswell.

In the netherlands for instance, uber and many others got slapped down hard for circumventing the law according to the literal implementation of the law, instead of taking into account the spirit of the law aswell.


> Taxi Drivers in Switzerland typically earn around 40,700 CHF per year and Uber drivers make roughly the same if working full-time, more if they are working more than 40-hours a week.

You’re forgetting that one of these two person needs to pay for a car, car taxes, fuel and insurance by themself.


I don't see how it's slavery to work for uber. If uber wasn't there, the drivers would be either unemployed, working another minimum wage job, or taking 30 years loans to get Taxi licenses(which most of them wouldn't be able to get).

It's just the same as any other precarious job


I think the problem is exporting us labor practices to the civilized world


This is a really simplistic view of labor dynamics and almost certainly too simplistic.

Jobs don’t exist in a vacuum. When a job is created sometimes it spurs other jobs, but sometimes it removes them. It is a really dynamic system full of feedbacks and feed forwards.

I think I read somewhere where someone actually modeled the dynamics behind uber eats, and found out that it resulted in net-negative jobs... That is every worker for uber-eats meant that more then one other worker didn’t get a job, not to mention the worse condition of that one worker that actually had the job.


I read the article you are referring to and it actually came to the opposite conclusion from what you’re saying: net-positive jobs, more spent and more earned.

(If you’re wondering how I am rebutting runarberg when neither he nor I cited a source, that’s a darn good question. But let the record show I offer just as much evidence as he.)


I can draw out a plausible model right now that results in net-negative jobs. Driving factors include:

* Food vendors that previously had delivery downsizing their own delivery staff and offloading it to uber eats.

* Restaurants not wanting to pay the service fees to uber eats gets fewer customers from the lowered exposures (as customers start ordering mostly through the delivery app), and eventually shut down.

* Restaurants that previously didn’t do delivery getting less money per customer as the delivery services take their share. And is forced to cut down on their opening hours and some of their staff to make up for the loss.

I never read that article you are referring to—if it even exits. The point was that labor dynamics are more complicated then: If a job is created, someone will work that job.

If we transfer over to the taxi market. There are examples of city government using Uber as an excuse to cut bus lines. Some bus drivers hence lost their jobs, and some companies probably lost their workers as the commute became to hard.


Now you’re just making things up? Why not either link to the source of your claim? I’m willing to believe what you’re saying is true but you’ve got to link to something, not just make up “models” (using the term very loosely here) out of whole cloth.

Also: how is “restaurant has no customers and has to close” Ubers fault? I guess restaurants never closed before Uber eats existed, or is Uber to blame for those business failures as well?

There’s plenty to criticize Uber for but blaming them for the closure of a restaurant that can’t attract customers is simply ridiculous and makes clear some people simply in this thread will blame anything on Uber regardless of whether the accusation even makes sense.


I am just making things up. My point was never to claim that uber eats has a net negative effects on available jobs, just to hint that it might be the case as an argument against GGGP claim that without uber the workers would either be unemployed or possess an equally sucky job.

> I think I read somewhere where someone actually modeled the dynamics

I know I’m being a little dishonest here. The fact is that I merely think I remember someone else talking about someone else doing such a thing. I never actually had the source, and I think I once saw a secondary source. But I didn’t think I actually needed—nor did I feel like wasting my time—to search for it. I figured it would be sufficient to demonstrate that such dynamics can theoretically exist.


> No, in Switzerland. Instead it managed to steal almost a billion USD from drivers in Switzerland alone and give others the "idea" they can break the law too.

It seems that this ~billion USD is an hypothetical amount Uber would have had to pay if its contractors had been employees? If so, I'm not quite sure "steal" is the appropriate word here. It also ignores the many things Uber might have done differently if its drivers had been employees: increase fare rates, decrease driver payouts, hire less drivers, possibly get out of Switzerland entirely, etc.


Well, and this is exactly the problem. They disrupted the market of ordinary taxis by undercuting the prices. Now that they are compelled to pay social contribitions their business is suddenly unprofitable.

As it was discussed in the other threads - Uber is not prohibited in Switzerland, they just need to adhere to the law same as everyone else. Somehow this seems to be a problem for them.


Wage theft is still theft. In the US it is the largest form of theft there is.


Doesn't wage theft imply they aren't paying the amount that they agreed to pay?


wage theft comes in many forms. Most would use it to describe the deprivation of any pay or benefits as agreed upon or required by law. So not paying benefits required, reclassifying legal status of workers to avoid paying things, not paying overtime correctly, etc.


they weren't paying the benefits required by law


I know a bunch of people who are happy Uber drivers as they couldn’t afford becoming regular taxi drivers. Do you often point out to your Uber divers that they’re lower class and being preyed on? How do they take it?


My brother in law is a mechanic. He sees a lot of drivers who have a 3 year old car with 200k miles on them and basically a new car worth of repairs needed.

I also get a lot of happy drivers saying "this is my first day / week".

I see a lot of crazy driving too. All in all, it seems like there is a learning curve to being a profitable Uber driver. It is not necessarily easy to accomplish.

The ones who seem to anecdotally do best by it are the folks supplementing income by opportunistically taking fares here and there.


> The ones who seem to anecdotally do best by it are the folks supplementing income by opportunistically taking fares here and there.

That's a large part of Uber's success: they are able to leverage the many people who have a car and occasionally have nothing better to do. There are even people who will drive for fun or as a way to kill boredom. Of course, those people will happily take a fraction of the pay that a professional taxi driver would. And those rides will be cheaper for consumers compared to taxi rides.

It's of course a problem when regulators disallow them to leverage this large class of drivers. When they are forced to operate like a taxi operator, a big part of their value proposition is gone. This is bad for consumers and Uber, but good for taxi operators.


> It's of course a problem when regulators disallow them to leverage this large class of drivers. When they are forced to operate like a taxi operator, a big part of their value proposition is gone. This is bad for consumers and Uber, but good for taxi operators.

It's only good for customers when they need to get a ride for certain times and only for some time. One of the reasons why taxis get regulated is because taxi companies need to guarantee service throughout the day. Drivers who only drive on the side will not provide that service, moreover if the regular taxi drivers are driven into bankruptcy because of uber drivers taking all the profitable times prices on average actually go up and especially for off peak times.


> This is bad for consumers and Uber, but good for taxi operators.

Uber's biggest lie is that these are the only stakeholders in the equation.


I love people who somehow think that taxi industry is filled with clean, perfectly maintained cars, fairly paid workers with great benefits and just the epitome of great citizens without any corruption.


It's insane. Thank God for tech companies for disrupting one of the worst industries on the planet. Uber and Lyft are, IMO, some of the best examples of the virtuous nature of "move fast & break things" as a business philosophy.


Uber are worse where I live. They cancel on you, they accept the fare and then just screw around for 20 minutes until you cancel, then if you try to rebook the price has magically gone up. At most times of day they are more expensive than the normal cab firms.

This all seems to come down to the rates of pay available to drivers getting worse, presumably as the VC money runs out. Thankfully the old cab firms have managed to cling on in the face of years of massive market distortion, and are still there to pick up the slack.


That's fine. They don't have to be better everywhere for me to be happy they exist. People attack Uber without dealing with the very obvious problem that in many, many markets, for both drivers and riders, they're an enormous improvement over the status quo.


And in many markets they were a market-distorting entity that drove already competitive firms to the wall by dumping VC money, meanwhile also circumventing rules which were in place for passenger and public safety.

I'm really not fine with that.


In what markets did Uber decrease passenger safety relative to existing cab companies? I have literally never been in a locality where the cabs were safer than Uber.


So early on in London there were problems with drivers not having proper insurance to carry passengers, for one, so if anything went wrong there would be no cover (and the driver was technically driving illegally as insurance is required). In some places (again like London) there were also requirements for background checks and registration before someone could be a driver, which uber worked around or just ignored when they entered the market.

These are just two examples from one market.


Okay. Not having taken London cabs, I cannot disagree with you. What I can tell you is that Ubers in NYC are much safer than cabs in NYC, and Ubers across Africa are much safer than their cab equivalents. To the degree that Uber's technology actually achieves something that cab companies cannot, it's punishing bad driver and rider behavior via the rating system.


I see lots of people here from different countries describing very different experiences and wondering why they don't align.


Do you think I am one of those?

If so, why?


> [Mechanic brother] sees a lot of drivers who have a 3 year old car with 200k miles on them and basically a new car worth of repairs needed.

At the median rate for my city (Boston), those drivers were paid $1.07/mile* or $214K. They probably paid under $50K in gas, oil, tires, and repairs to that point, so they’re quite a bit ahead even if they have to throw the car away. Even at $0.66/mile for some of the worse cities, that’s still $132K in gross income.

* https://www.stilt.com/blog/2020/02/how-much-does-uber-pay/


Not that I doubt an article on a predatory loan website but…

You make the assumption that they are driving ~3800 miles a week and I can tell you, as a truck driver who is mostly out on the highways, there’s no way in hell they are doing those kinds of miles city driving. That’s like 550 miles a day seven days a week.

When I drove a cab the lowest rate was $1.45/mile (for medical vouchers) and some days it cost me money to haul people around and my expenses were only like $140/day (gas + lease). Though, once in a while I’d have a really good day with some big cash calls and take home a few hundred bucks but mostly I averaged ~$100/day take home (before taxes which I didn’t actually pay). Mostly, depending on the season and what was happening in town.


you can tell yourself that all day long if it makes you feel better.

In Europe, uber is exploiting the most vulnerable in our societies, and profiting of the harm they do to people and communities.

Not to mention, breaking laws, endangering passengers, using outright evil methods to keep their workers money.


These are not fair comments because everything you say the taxi industry it replaced is guilt of and closing the market. Uber puts new cars on the road and opens the industry to those who are locked out.


Suppose taxi industry is guilty of murder, does that mean I can now commit murder too?


If it gets replaced by a strictly less murderous alternative, this alternative is preferable.


In this metaphor, "murder" stands for "operating a taxi service without the approval of the existing taxi services."


No, but if a taxi industry is murdering people, and also helped create laws that prevent competitors from entering the market, I think it is OK to get around the laws that prevent competitors from competing with the taxi murder mafia.


Some of the most vulnerable are the homeless and mentally disabled. How is Uber exploiting them?


The phrase 'most vulnerable' is terribly overused, but your comment is still disingenuous.


A lot of people eat peanuts, but a handful of people die from them. Should all people be made to eat peanut butter?

Uber is only a good company if it improves, yet somehow there is a never ending online narrative that "It's treating me well, so it's great for the world!".

That's not normal, it's deception.


They swapped masters from evil medallion rent seekers to software engineers. I’d pick the engineers any day and I’m glad they broke corrupt laws to make changes.


Wait... what? I think you need to follow the capital and who is exploiting the means of production here.

In formerly-medallion markets, surplus value collection shifted from medallion rent seekers to VC and private equity rent seekers. In non-medallion markets, existing normally run companies had VCs price-dump an unbeatable competitor into their market. Software engineers (and what inherent "good" is there to "software engineers," anyway??) are also in the middle, albeit with more of an ownership stake thanks to RSUs.


Taxi medallions ain't a thing in many countries. Many countries had proper regulated taxes with good drivers and clean cars (or vice versa). Now it's a shitshow with beaten Prius and a shithead behind the wheel.


I agree we should probably say "licenses" and not "medallions" when talking about policies all over the world, it's just that medallions are known as the worst example of corruption and regulatory capture, protecting incumbents while incredibly claiming this helped stranded people who need to get home when no taxis can be found.

At the peak these licenses were going for a million dollars each.

I think Uber, Lyft, and others are serving a great good in substituting for taxis in filling the need for road travelers. Taxi drivers may argue that the drivers are being abused, but we can't all have (nor do we all want) jobs with lots of protections.

Being a driver should be a job anyone could take while on the road to reaching their dreams in life, and not restricted to a lucky few who demanded the government give them a monopoly on the gig.


No, licenses-for-million-money did not exist outside of some markets.

Previously you'd get into taxi and then tell address. And refusing not-profitable-enough service was illegal. Now drivers see the route beforehand and can skip it.

A job should allow people to make a good wage and make a living out of it. It shouldn't be race-to-the-bottom for the profit of few by sacrificing quality of service.


Too bad those countries with proper regulated taxis and good drivers couldn't compete. Sounds like they weren't so good at least to the consumer.


Of course they could not compete: if your competitor flaunts the law, avoids the regulator, does not pay local taxes and externalizes a whole pile of things then there is no level playing field. It would be extremely surprising if they could compete.


>if your competitor flaunts the law

The law in question being simply that they cannot compete at all.

>does not pay local taxes

They pay all sorts of taxes in my jurisdiction from day one, and still kicked the taxi industry's ass.


Good for you. That's not the case here. Taxi companies employ people, pay wage taxes, sales tax, have their vehicles inspected once per year and in general are marginal business, except for the few in the biggest cities where it is a good business. Uber only went for the easy wins, siphoned off a large chunk of the profits in return for people working without a safety net and who do not pay into the social system, which works fine until it doesn't and then society has to pick up the tab.


The regulator is the taxi industry. More local taxes are paid because more drivers exist. The rules around the playing field are in favor of existing monopolies and they haven't changed.

The existing cartel wasn't fair. Having Uber open the door has allowed smaller players into a closed market. The taxi industry is still healthy and slightly more modern because of this.


Can't compete against a service that "sells" $2 worth of labor for $1. Now that the VC-funded subsidies are running out, we'll see how competitive Uber really is.


It doesn't have to be competitive on price. I'd use it at twice, or even three times the price of a cab, simply because the service delivers on what it promises, without unnecessary fluff.

I remember having to plan around the expected number of cabs that wouldn't bother to show up after quoting "10 mins" to get to SFO. Or having a London cabbie decide that my being sat in his cab was a license to spout pro-Brexit nonsense for 15 minutes and then claim that he didn't take credit cards. Or NYC cab drivers blatantly flouting the law by purposely ignoring you if you had a suitcase, because they didn't feel like taking a fixed fare in traffic to JFK.

No.


> I'd use it at twice, or even three times the price of a cab, simply because the service delivers on what it promises, without unnecessary fluff.

I think you're in the minority. And remember that the subsidies went both ways - one reason Uber was able to attract so many drivers initially (and thus provide great service) is that they paid them more than driving a cab would.


I've had ride hailing drivers cancel fairs or mark the trip completed on me before showing up. I suppose I've had worse taxi experiences overall, though.


> It doesn't have to be competitive on price. I'd use it at twice, or even three times the price of a cab, simply because the service delivers on what it promises, without unnecessary fluff.

That is indeed how much Uber cost when it first came out. Particularly because they sent out nicer luxury cars and had to hire limo drivers. Uber used to be called UberCab, but the medallion cartel didn't let new entries in so easily and forced the change from UberCab -> Uber, and also made it so they had to use luxury limo drivers. Still, users chose and taxis died, rightly so.

The unit economics are there that whatever Taxis charged Uber should be able to charge the same or less. If anything Uber et al are removing overheads not adding to them. The only way taxis would be cheaper would be if they were dodging taxes with their "no credit cards" policies.


> That is indeed how much Uber cost when it first came out.

I remember when Uber first came to my city and it was free for passengers.


> if they were dodging taxes with their "no credit cards" policies.

Bingo.


Ah, but we'll make it up on volume!

Selling a good at a loss in order to jack up the price later (the desired Uber play, though it seems like it's backfiring) used to be called "dumping", but...eh.


Jesus f with the "slave" overdramatization, that is just ridiculous. Most of the people driving for Uber would not have been driving cabs and living wonderful lives otherwise, they'd be slinging burgers at McDonald's or just unemployed. They wouldn't be making the choice to drive if it didn't make sense for them, which makes it "work", not "slavery".

I'm sorry that the world doesn't offer magical fairyland jobs that are super easy, require zero skill, and pay super well, I really am - as a society we should be aiming for an abundance economy fueled by automation, where everyone shares in the spoils. But running a business that gives people work that they are generally happy to have the option to take is not infringement on anyone's independence or freedom. Just don't drive for them, and you'd be in the exact same position you were in without them existing (unless you were profiting from the heavily cartel-ized taxi system which abused all the customers, in which case I can't give a bigger shrug).


> Uber is the worst kind of business preying on the lower class claiming independence and freedom

Sounds like Uber was the original web3 business


The technology definitely made life easier for passengers, especially in big cities. Prices were cheaper for some time, but only because they were subsidised by investors, so hardly a net gain. Arguably, they made the environment worse by pushing middle income off public transport and into taxis

For drivers, things seem to have got worse. I’ve spoken to various taxi drivers, including current and former Uber drivers, and none of them liked working for Uber. They merely felt trapped.

But there is an argument to say that the local taxi cartels needed breaking up, and only a company prepared to engage in these kind of tactics could have done it. I don’t know what I think about all this.


A key point here is that Uber didn't just disrupt taxi cartels, it also undermined public transport services. In places like Miami it even became a sanctioned alternative to bus routes that were cut. To me this is the true long term damage of their VC-funded predatory pricing model.


USA centric answer here: In flyover country, in most cities ride share has been life changing for people that would be stuck using overpriced local taxis (in smaller 80K-150K person cities taxi rates are confiscatory and service is often VERY limited) or terrible public transportation. Terrible meaning, a $2 bus ride that takes three and a half hours (of which 2 hours is sitting in the elemets) out of their day vs. ride share taking 10 minutes and $15.

Honestly, I'm not sure where the idea came from that outside some of the largest cities, public transport or taxis even were viable options. Now there's uber/lyft everywhere, because there's always someone with a car who would like to make some money.


> USA centric answer here: In flyover country, in most cities ride share has been life changing for people that would be stuck using overpriced local taxis (in smaller 80K-150K person cities taxi rates are confiscatory and service is often VERY limited) or terrible public transportation.

And if Uber/Lyft had confined themselves to delivering reliable transport at a reasonable price in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, etc. people would be singing their praises.

But they didn't. Because those places weren't just unprofitable but were wildly unprofitable.

Which is stupid because I suspect being a reliable broker between driver and client could still be profitable. Having someone put in "I need to go from A to B at time X." and having a pool of drivers who can go "I'm going to B anyway, so why don't I adjust my time and make some money for doing so." would be a good thing in "flyover" country.

However, it won't be venture capital profitable. And that's really the crux of the problem here.


> But they didn't. Because those places weren't just unprofitable but were wildly unprofitable.

Uber as a company is "wildly unprofitable" across the board. I cracked open Uber's 2021 annual report, and I'm not sure they are profitable anywhere. Their revenue model really appears to support the notion they are simply displacing taxi operators, "23% of mobility bookings came from 5 cities..." and listed only NYC and Chicago in the US.It went on to say that 11% of mobility bookings came from airports (and that revenue stream was under attack from the taxi industry).

> However, it won't be venture capital profitable.

I've never had a VC ask for profits. Only growth where revenue and expenses would show we could trim the sails and break even in a pinch. Since Uber is publicly traded, I suspect they are going to have to do better than an annual report that basically projects profitability like I do winning the lottery.


The idea comes from many other countries where 80k-150k cities have public transport services that don't require people to spend 2 hours sitting in the elements waiting for a bus.


That's great, but how does that justify Uber's poor behavior in places like Miami?


Not even trying to justify it.


> In places like Miami it even became a sanctioned alternative to bus routes that were cut.

As in... government justified cutting bus services by saying Uber was a viable alternative?


Technically, yes. For a while they provided vouchers to reimburse riders for using Uber instead of the public bus system.[0] Now those particular night bus routes have returned to service, but others have been reduced or canceled. This has been happening for the past 10 years or so all over the US.[1] It's not clear if Uber is the primary culprit, but it certainly doesn't help.[2]

[0] https://www.miamiherald.com/news/coronavirus/article24182271...

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/13/upshot/myster...

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096585642...


> I’ve spoken to various taxi drivers, including current and former Uber drivers, and none of them liked working for Uber. They merely felt trapped.

I live in the U.S. I speak to almost all of my rideshare drivers about how they feel about their work. Literally none of them have expressed the feeling that they're trapped. (And not one has said that he would prefer driving a taxi.) They do make criticisms, more of Uber than of Lyft. But the main sentiments that they express are appreciation of scheduling flexibility and of not having a boss.


The people who are currently working for Uber think working for Uber is a good deal. You might get similarly positive reviews from the buyers of scratcher lottery tickets.

There are a lot of articles from random websites saying that it is a good deal, and given the ease of placing such content I think we should be skeptical. Every time I see an article from a driver, who is not a pro blogger in the space, and who’s done the math, it is usually pretty negative to neutral.

https://www.quora.com/Is-driving-for-Uber-worth-the-wear-and...

It’s actually really hard to know if you’re making money when you take things like capital depreciation and opportunity cost into account, and sophisticated businesspeople make this mistake all the time. The average driver could easily be fooled until it’s too late.

It would be nice if capitalism did correct price discovery here but we’re dealing with a market which has been highly distorted, both from questionable government regulation and taxi monopolies AND from insane startup valuations and investment. The only accountability moment has been the public markets and even then it’s pretty mixed.

Uber has overwhelming power over their drivers and if it was actually a good deal for them it would be the first time in the history of labor relations that a company left money on the table out of the goodness of their heart. Does Uber strike you as that company?

Yes I use ridesharing when I’m in the SFBA because there’s few other plausible ways to get around. I’m crossing my fingers the whole time that I’m not helping someone dig themselves deeper into a financial hole.


I love it. So you’re comparing the experiences of real drivers who don’t hate it to bloggers who are making mathematical calculations and you take the word of the bloggers. That’s just about par for the course.

“The poor dumb blue collar workers don’t know any better and need to be protected by the smarter elites who did the calculations!”


They didn't state the bloggers were making the calculations. The bloggers noted are pro Uber.

If you're going to just dismiss someone's point through an appeal to sentiment, you might as well get it right. Or maybe getting what was said right doesn't matter, and just recasting it as elitist as a tactic is the point.


I don't see you presenting any contrary evidence of the opinions of "real drivers".


As far as I know, such evidence has never been released by Uber. I’m sure that Uber knows, or could, but I don’t think they’ve shared that info. They have an API called Movement which publishes anonymized data about trips, but I think cost isn’t available.

There was a study by MIT in 2018 that concluded it was a bad deal for drivers. https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/02/mit-study-shows-how-much-d...

I don’t know if the 2018 data is still relevant, as there are complex incentives that vary in each market.

But, Uber (and similar companies) could probably end the questions tomorrow by releasing data or allowing researchers to have access to their drivers. The fact that they don’t, and that they instead spend $200M lobbying the governments to make an exception for worker protections for rideshare drivers (and tried to make that irrevocable without a 7/8ths majority!!) seems telling to me.

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/08/20/politics/california-propo...


So youve compared experiences of real drug addicts who don't have it to scientists doing the calculations and you take word of the scientist?


I genuinely don't know any drug addict who thinks taking drugs is a good thing, beneficial to them or in anyway a positive aspect of their life.

Please don't make up phony exaggerations just to win an Internet argument.


I bet you know a lot of compulsive drinkers that view alcohol as a positive in their life.

I’m addicted to marijuana, but I still think it’s a good thing because it helps my PTSD. I don’t like being addicted to it, but I’m better off consuming it than not, although my addiction makes it difficult to regulate.


> I live in the U.S. I speak to almost all of my rideshare drivers about how they feel about their work. Literally none of them have expressed the feeling that they're trapped

Just think about the subjective bias here. They're working, you're the customer - do you talk shit about your employer on company time? Everyone knows that has serious risks.


I was thinking the same thing. You need to actually be close friends to actual drivers, when not interacting with them as passengers, to hear how they actually feel about uber


If they can be de-platformed, they have a boss. They just have flexible work hours.


Being able to work for many platforms means you choose your boss.


Being able to take several drugs means you choose your drug


This is the second time I see you mentioning drugs in this thread [1], I genuinely don't understand the correlation or the argument you're trying to make?

Comment by ClumsyPilot - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32048240


> I live in the U.S. I speak to almost all of my rideshare drivers about how they feel about their work. Literally none of them have expressed the feeling that they're trapped.

if you ask a smoking addinct if they could quit, 80% say yes and 80% will fail if they try.

Now if you show they've done the math on depreciation of their car, worked for 10 years, etc. then maybe yoi have an argument


I always put more weight on negative comments about owns work condition because cognitive dissonance is a known human bias.

If you are working at a dead end job, where your pays and benefits are sub-optimal, and you are even putting more work hours then in other possible jobs, then why are you working there? Because of cognitive dissonance it is much easier to tell your self that you actually like the job over accepting the reality that you probably shouldn’t work there.

https://dilbert.com/strip/1992-08-09


Would you be happy if your child was an Uber driver?


I would be happier for them to driver for Uber or Lyft than for a taxi company.

I don’t think it’s a career. Just a job. If my kid drove for a ride share while going to school or something that seems fine.


There are quite a few qualifications to that answer.


Because you asked a very loaded question.

If you were to ask me that question, I'd say: I'd be as happy that my child drives for Uber, as much as I'd be happy they're driving for a taxi, limousine, or a bus.


It's a question I ask myself often when I see the disrespect Americans have for people in jobs they also consider essential. I have other questions for myself like, "how would I truthfully explain this to my mother?". If the answers make you feel shame, then that probably tells you something.


1. I don't see anyone in the comments disrespecting Uber drivers

2. I never stated I'd feel shameful

3. I'm not sure I understand what argument you're trying to make


I wasn't aware I was making an argument. I asked a question (which was apparently loaded) and gave my thoughts. It's my experience that American society in general disrespects working class people - it's pretty clear from the stagnant wages and multi-generational political movement to suppress unions, so I understand why parents would not want their children to join that class.


Uber and others should really have been punished harshly for dumping. Banned from operating without extra taxes to bring them in line with other operators and fined for billions.


Slightly better circumstances don't exonerate corruption.

Laws and regulation are supposed to reign in bad industry.

Brigading and PR spin is rampant with Uber online for some strange reason, when in truth, they could provide a far better service by relaxing their tendency to spin bad PR by paying and insuring drivers better, and by operating more like a legit Taxi business.

It is NOT Uber that swept in and fixed the corrupt transport for hire system... It was passengers choosing a less expensive (subsidized by company investment) service, which is now dramatically increasing in cost to users now that they have stable market dominance.

The online PR spins only hold up for people who don't properly recall the past and for those who are unaware of the deception involved in use of "folksy" individual personal tropes used to over-simplify complex issues.


> now that they have stable market dominance

Do they? I'm trying to find some data on how much market share Uber has vs Lyft vs taxis.


That's not a key issue to the discussion, the discussion is about corruption.


You were the one that brought it up.


Maybe some places have shitty taxis, in my European corner I haven't seen anything good about Uber other than bringing the US gig economy of employee exploitation.


Not sure where you're located but I'm from Ireland living in the UK. In Edinburgh, all Ubers are private hire cars (it's not just anyone in 4 wheels). Uber has forced all of the major taxi firms to accept card payments, have apps with tracking, etc. Uber itself funnily is actually less reliable than the other operators. My experience in Dublin is the same. It's also completely removed the "take someone the scenic route and charge them 3x" (which happened to me in a taxi in Dublin from the airport in 2014!)

Meanwhile, visiting my parents in a smaller part of Ireland, getting a taxi involves phoning, waiting to see if they decide to pick up (if it's busy they don't), then having them tell you it'll be 10 minutes only to arrive after an hour, not accepting card, etc.


Irish taxis are unusual compared to taxis in other countries. They’re virtually all self-employed owner-operators like Uber drivers. They are individually licensed and usually own their own vehicles. They can take app or radio dispatches or pick up street hails. If taxis in other markets had taken the same regulatory approach, something like Uber may never have had such widespread success.


In Germany nowadays, card payments and phone apps to call taxis were already a thing before Uber came here.

In Scandinavian countries it was even better.


I don't know if this really qualifies as the same sort of thing, but I do recall hearing a story about cabbies somewhere in Asia:

A sociology professor I had assigned us a project to do something that would be "considered abnormal to the general public", and then document the results. He had mentioned over and over again to try and implement "as many safety measures as possible during planning". The professor went on to explain that the reason for harping on safety was such a big deal because a student of a previous class (decades before ridesharing) decided that their project would be to bring their personnel vehicle to where cabbies would line up. The student would instead offer rides to customers completely for free. I believe they even had a little sign they put on their window.

After this occurred two or three times, all of the cabbies completely boxed the students car in and called for the police to come. If I recall correctly, they were yelling, screaming, and honking at the student about how they were taking money out of their pockets. Some were accusing the student of taking customers to an undisclosed location and robbing them in order to get paid, while others were saying that doing this for free was essentially stealing from the cabbies, since the student didn't have a taxi permit.

I'm not sure if this was a matter of corruption as much as it was messing with/hurting people trying to make a living, but, I did think it was interesting that all of these different cabbies, from all of these rival taxi companies were all willing to work together spur of the moment, to stop someone who they couldn't possibly compete with. As I understand it, the depths of the rivalry between some of these companies ran pretty deep; it was shocking how willingly they all were to join up to crush this outside threat.


What is your point? Is it that we can’t have nice things and we should just settle with whichever company is able to make the most money from whatever corruption they can get away with?

You are posting an anecdote and non-substantiated accusations against an industry based on your area. And you are doing this under a news where they have evidence that their competitors are as corrupt as it gets, a company which has been accused in the past of violating labor rights, disregarding local laws, bribing officials, exploiting workers, etc. And your point is that their competitors in Australia are worse “because you say so”.

Nah, I’m not buying it. The fact that the Australian taxi industry is bad, does not excuse Uber’s conduct. In fact I don’t care what the state is in this industry regarding this conduct and I wish Uber all the worst.


I worry that stories like the above article will be used to justify outlawing ride share in favor of the cartels. This is actually the case in many jurisdictions where ride-share apps are still not allowed and the taxi industry still operates in a cartel fashion. I don't care about Uber or Lyft fwiw. No stake in either in any way shape or form.

My post is a very relevant warning (in my view) about allowing politicians to use the above stories as an excuse to close down an industry. They are looking for such an excuse. Be warned and call it out.


I think you might be focusing on the wrong thing here. There is no reason to outlaw ride shares, only ride shares that engage in illegal lobbying, labor violations, and disregarding of the law. In fact this is not specific for ride share companies, but companies in general (including traditional taxi cab companies).

People have been complaining about Uber not because it is a ride share company that undercuts the traditional taxi cab companies, but because they exploit their workers, bribe their elected officials, brake their local laws, and use VC funding to undercut their competitions. For this they should be outlawed.


> It required dirty dealing to get past this corruption.

Why do you think the current state is "/past/ this corruption." It sounds like Uber spent a bunch of money to just "own the corruption for itself." On the whole, I don't believe it's an actual improvement.

You may like the state of the cars more, but the continued overt monopolization and the worse outcomes for labor are massively negative outcomes, even if you aren't in a position to be personally impacted by them.


> Still a million times better than what it replaced.

Uber didn't replace taxi. taxi was dying on it's own. Uber actually kept the bad designs of taxi going but they monopolized the Medallions.

"what it replaced" was the ongoing outcry to minimally decent public transit. Some of the international offshoots of the Occupy movement actually had this as their central theme.


People even use Uber in Europe despite having world-class public transit. That should tell you something about the utility it provides people: they could have used top-tier public transit but they chose to use Uber instead.


This is fantastical. Paying someone to drive you somewhere is not going anywhere anytime soon.


End does not justify means.

Disruption can (and does) happen without resorting to breaking the law.


I wonder if there are any examples of a company that disrupted a bad industry with malpractice and then magically stopped it ones they succeeded.

For some reason I would think the opposite was more common, i.e. if a company gets away with bad behavior, they will continue to do so until stopped by their government authorities.


It is a known and unfortunate phenomenon that regulation winds up creating moats even if in service of good ends and intentions. Pulling up the ladder effectively happens to the benefit any incumbent who can afford something far more than upstart competitors. If say, a scrubber stack on factories doubles the equipment costs it favors the existing factory owners even if retrofitting is a hefty expense, it would buy them a moat.

Stopping on their own has to do with cost benefit analysis and is thus circumstantial. For a sort of in progress Amazon openly admits that they need to reduce turn over because they are running out of hiring pool. Their work conditions are still infamous but they set standards. That could ironically potentially mean a more competitive environment could have had worse wages. Not an arguement against it being a problem but an amusing irony.

Similarly deeper pockets mean a need to be less reckless as big payout judgements become collectable. If a fly by night roofing company has a worker fall and break their back from lack of safety equipment it may only have a few hundred thousand in assets total. If it is a state wide one they could be on the hook for millions.


This is a good point. Which is why I’m a big fan of general workers’ solidarity, including via unionization.

Solidarity among workers offers us a tool to combat these companies, and force them to make changes that benefit us at the cost of their shareholders. The union should be able to lobby the government to enact and enforce sufficient safety laws such that a worker will never be changing the roof over night unless adequate safety standards are met. And if a company fails, a worker has the means to refuse the work, regardless of the size of the company.

With solidarity we simply don’t have to wait for these companies to stop on their own, because we can collectively force them to stop, bottom up.


How does that follow at all. Uber breaking the laws was not the only possible way to break up a cartel!


> Still a million times better than what it replaced.

Not really. It is not easy to paint existing systems with a wide brush. The situation in Germany is not the same as in Croatia which is not the same in India. I will always trust taxis in Mumbai and Berlin over Uber, whereas in a foreign location I will look for local options like Ola, Grab, FreeNow.

Uber did act as a catalyst for the incumbents to get off their butts, but it created another set of problems which are equally bad.


Uber is only “better” because it is unprofitable.

The minute it starts turning the screws to be profitable, the service quality will go back to what it replaced.

Here in India, its already less reliable and often more expensive than old school taxis.


Not true. In SF when Uber started, it only had black cars and was meaningfully more expensive than a cab. The difference was that if you called a cab, depending on where you were in the city, there was a pretty decent chance you'd be told it'd take 15 minutes, but no one would ever show up. The Uber would be there 100% of the time.

Uber held drivers accountable. The taxi lobby did the exact opposite - they brutally abused an advantage gifted to them by the government because taxis are supposed to be a valuable public service.

In India it may be different, but in the US it continues to be extremely reliable.


> In India it may be different, but in the US it continues to be extremely reliable.

This is a hint at the main thing we need to remember: Uber replaced a terrible taxi situation in San Francisco. Every city is not like San Francisco. Every country is not like the US. Based on various comments here from people outside the US, some places already had functioning taxi systems, with reasonable prices, clean cars, and good drivers. Why is it ok that Uber got to flaunt regulations in those places as well?


I don't think it was ok anywhere. Even in SF I think it was beneficial but not "ok" in a general sense of fairness. The ends justify the means, I suppose. I'm not saying that Uber overall is a particular ethical company - I don't think they're great on that dimension.



Operating profit, not net.


Look closer


That's just wrong.

Ok, Uber in particular may be very badly run and incapable of turning a profit. But on most places they have competitors that are profitable and usually, cheaper.


If they slash their operating developers from dropping out of the self driving cars race that would make them much more profitable. Whether doing so would be a good idea is another topic.


Btw I'm being a bit coy about naming names but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabcharge#Findings_of_the_Taxi... has all the details of what i spoke about above in case any doubts how corrupt the taxi industry is (although absolutely no one has doubted that to be fair).


It’s hilarious how everyone acts like the pre-Uber taxi world was one of generous wages, honest hard working companies, and politicians working hand in hand with stakeholders.

The taxi industry was (is?) insanely corrupt. There are literally state-sanctioned limits on taxis and artificial markets for medallions that made early purchasers absurdly rich.


Forget the reason for the change a minute, and focus on the outcomes. You've replaced a terrible set of local players with a handful of international mega players who I'd argue are just as crap as the ones you've displaced. There is still corruption in the sense that these platforms make the rules, and the drivers have basically no freedom to push back (baring some form of unionization).

All of this medallion nonsense can just as easily come back with Uber whenever they feel that competition has driven down prices too low. With a wink and a nudge, all the large players will play ball because they can.

As for what it is today, these companies still aren't profitable which means you're still living in a halo of speculative investment supporting you're current quality of service. The only viable remedy is to raise rates, which puts the service as a more expensive solution that could actually cost more than taxied ever did in the long run.


> You’ve replaced a terrible set of local players with a handful of international mega players who I'd argue are just as crap as the ones you've displaced.

You’ve clearly not used both a taxi pre-Uber or an Uber. I’d wager my annual salary that a poll of users would rank the user experience of app based ride hailing as superior to that of the previous options. Uber didn’t even start out cheaper than taxis. They just slowly won out by being better. Cheaper just helped them grow faster later on.


> You’ve clearly not used both a taxi pre-Uber or an Uber.

You know this is extremely unlikely, so it's not good to base any argument on it.


Plenty of people outside of cities, especially in suburban America, never use taxis, and many who have cars don't use Ubers/Lyfts. Coming from your perspective it may seem implausible but consider another perspective.


A good user experience doesn’t pardon Uber’s excessive corruption.

> Uber didn’t even start out cheaper than taxis.

When Uber came to my city about a decade ago all rides were free to the passenger. So much cheaper than a taxi.


> still corruption in the sense that these platforms make the rules, and the drivers have basically no freedom to push back

I sort of agree with your broader points. But this statement mangles the definition of corruption beyond recognition.


You don’t understand Uber’s business model. They want prices so low because that’s how they make money. Lower prices equals more rides. They know that the higher the prices the less overall rides they will get. You thinking that the goal is to raise prices is literally 100% wrong.

In Brazil during their worst recession in decades, they had something like 300k drivers. This dropped the prices to the point where so many more rides occurred that everyone made more money and the customers were happy because the prices were low. That’s what they are going for, not some sort of moat based on raising prices.


You can't lower prices to below costs and make money. If they're not profitable now, to become profitable they need to either cut costs or raise prices.

The only reason to have prices below costs is to gain market share so you can do one or both of those later.

What costs do you think Uber has left to cut that they haven't at this point? Maybe workforce.

This is all a common well known business tactic, which many businesses have used in the past to establish market position. It's what they'll do with that market position people are worried about.


I confess I know nothing of Uber's running costs but in my layman's understanding I think GP point is still valid. Driver buys the fuel and services the car. How does having more rides cost Uber more?


If they pay the driver more than they charge the rider which they have specifically done at points in the past, then every ride costs them, even if their other overhead is zero.

In the past they did this to achieve market dominance over taxis and lyft because they were drowning in billions of dollars of VC money, and the whole point of getting all that money is to become a market leader as soon as possible, even with loss-leading strategies.


You can do the math and find an approximation of the price–demand relation ship ( assuming you adapt prices to keep your business profitable, and users react by adapting demand).

This system has two fix points, one at the normal taxi price and much much lower. Point is , the second fix point needs the majority of the population to stop using a privat car…


> You don’t understand Uber’s business model. They want prices so low because that’s how they make money

this sounds like you don't understand the concept of a business model.


Replacing a corrupt system with a different corrupt system isn't progress.


It is though. There's now 2 corrupt systems lobbying in different directions. We can now have them play against each other.

When corruption is enshrined by the law itself what other way do you have to fight it except to have the corrupt play off against each other.

The taxi industry existed for centuries (perhaps longer) in the cartel form. It's amazing progress to see that their power is no longer absolute.


At least one of which has the explicit aim of displacing the actual solution to the problem: effective public transport.


More lobbying isn’t good for the public, even if it’s done in “different directions “


Isn’t it strictly better if no groups from the old system got worse, but some groups that transferred got better.


Sounds though like an orthogonal problem that could have been solved independent of destroying the entire industry?


Much of the general public genuinely believed that.

The picturesque London Taxi driver lives on even today.

Many of the 21st Century's worst attributes aren't due to society falling apart in the digital age.

Online life is exposing the seediness of society, which wasn't reported in old world media.

Lying on the internet is... difficult.


>Lying on the internet is... difficult.

And yet it is done many many times a day


> Still a million times better than what it replaced.

Not in my experience at all. I can't count how many taxis I've taken, with hardly any problems ever.

> corrupt

They lacked anywhere near the resources to be as corrupt as Uber!


Uneasy co-incidence, that recently an Indian Uber competitor (named Ola) also had a report of lobbying efforts...

https://twitter.com/shrutisonal26/status/1544540603932758016

Edit: Apart from the tweets, the actual article is behind a paywall.


So instead of virtual domination by one very large local incumbent with 200 subsidiaries, you have two foreign cab companies. That's an improvement?


whataboutism isn't useful for highlighting corruption - is why you are being downvoted.


I worry that stories like the above article will be used to justify outlawing ride share in favor of the cartels. This is actually the case in many jurisdictions where ride-share apps are still not allowed and the taxi industry still operates in a cartel fashion. I don't care about Uber or Lyft fwiw. No stake in either in any way shape or form.

My post is a very relevant warning (in my view) about allowing politicians to use the above stories as an excuse to close down an industry. They are looking for such an excuse. Be warned and call it out.


This is such a stupid simplistic view - read the BBC article on this leak of Uber files. The corruption they (Uber) instituted was just as bad as this anecdote you are alleging.

How does replacing one set of elite corruption with another set of elite corruption get to " i am thankful to Uber Lyft and all the other incumbents for managing to get their foot in"?? You are thankful to them? What are you on about?


Please don't post in the flamewar style to HN, regardless of how wrong others are or you feel they are. It's not what this site is for, and it destroys what it is for.

If you wouldn't mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and taking the intended spirit of the site more to heart, we'd be grateful.


Uber isn't the most ethical company for sure but here in Brussels the taxi industry is pretty shady as well.

Getting a taxi license costs an exorbitant amount of money and it's done through all kinds of dodgy deals.

There's 1-2 companies that have a monopoly on the whole industry.

There's weird rules about which types of taxis can "serve" the airport, akin to what mobsters are responsible for collecting trash in what areas.

You'll often get "sorry the payment terminal is out of order, cash only" BS.

A study a few years ago showed the main taxi company, according to their tax documents, earned a ridiculously low amount of money per day (= obvious dodging of taxes).

They clearly refused to innovate for years. When you called their number you'd get some unintelligible voice on the other end that would give you about 10 sec to state your details before they'd clearly run out of patience.

You could only request pickups at specific addresses that would then be connected to your phone number / profile. So "pick me up on this street corner" was impossible.

The last time we called one for a ride to the airport they didn't show up at the agreed time so we got an Uber. Taxi company called us many times screaming insults down the phone, followed by an offensive email with an invitation to pay and threats of small claims courts.

In light of all that, I have zero problems with someone else moving in fast to break things.


I remember this being true in my home place (Kerala, India) till ~2016. Local autos/taxis were unreliable in some parts or would charge you exorbitant fees depending on your situation (Eg: if you were a woman traveling home at night). Uber really changed things in terms of reliability. Local taxi drivers would often resort to violence against Uber drivers for encroaching on their turf. Example video: (The driver eventually steps out of the car and gets beaten up).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okqxNEVYu7E


I don't use Uber. Several friends do, and, as a third party watching I'd suggest the experience is no better but now with a shiny phone app and exploitative would-be unicorn tech corporation at the helm.

Most recent experience, we were in the docks, the docks are restricted access for terrorism prevention, on entry you need a specific purpose. Our purpose was to inspect a possible party venue (an actual steamship, it's awesome, for a few grand we could have them steam it out into the sea while we celebrated - but, on viewing it seemed like if weather was bad on the day it'd suck as a venue because there's only very limited indoor capacity). So after we've looked around we need to get back out of the docks. Friend summons an Uber. No problem initially, "This is why I use Uber" she says. Her ride gets to the edge of the docks and cancels, presumably because the driver sees scary warning saying "Restricted Area. State your business at checkpoint" and hit cancel because he has managed to live in a port city for years without knowing about this. She summons another one. It too gets to the edge of the docks and then cancels. "Uber says if this keeps happening they're forbidden from cancelling" she claims. Sure enough now her requests are just denied automatically.

So once she gives up I called a regular taxi. That driver couldn't find us, because apparently a massive sign with the name of the ship is too hard to notice ("I had no idea that was here"), but once we walked a few minutes to somewhere this driver could recognise we were driven out of the docks to go for cocktails with another friend.


You couldn’t be bothered to walk outside a “restricted access” area with what you call “scary warning signs” at the entrances, and you blame the Uber drivers for not wanting to take their chances driving past that sign to pick up you and your companion? Oh and the taxi driver also failed to pick you up there, and you finally move your butts to go meet the taxi.

The Uber drivers probably thought the pickup location was a mistake- they get there and say “I can’t pickup here, this is a wrong location” and cancel the job.

So three drivers can’t find you, including a taxi, and this is Ubers fault somehow, not yours for making unreasonable demands of drivers. I suppose it was Ubers fault that the cab couldn’t find you either? It amazes me how people rationalize blaming others in situations like this.


The entire docks, of a port city, ie that's the only reason people built a city there, is restricted.

The University has a department with its buildings inside the restricted zone (Oceanography, it would be stupid to not put it next to the docks).

Do I expect the average driver to be in and out every five minutes? No. Do I expect taxi drivers to have seen the docks before and know that, duh, "I have a fare to pick up" is a perfectly acceptable reason? Yes. That'll be what the guy who did pick us up thought too. How do you think we got in to visit a ship in the docks in the first place? Taxi.

The docks are big. They're docks! We didn't walk out of the docks to meet that taxi, that would take ages, we just went from the car park next to the ship to a road that the taxi driver could find on his map. Unlike Uber, when he couldn't find us I just talked to him on my phone.

Know what else is in the docks? Cruise liners. Need a taxi to the airport after your cruise? Those taxis are coming into the restricted access area. Know what else is restricted? The airport! I wonder if any taxi drivers ever visit the airport...


> Know what else is in the docks?

No, I can’t name a single thing in “the docks” because I don’t live in your city and you haven’t said where it is, so there’s no way for me to find out.

In fact airports do not have “scary signs” at the entrance, they have signs directing you to departures and arrivals by airline or terminal.

In the end, not a single drive could navigate to you successfully, taxi or Uber, I don’t see how your takeaway here is “Uber is bad”


This is my experience too. The ride is only as good or as bad as the driver makes it and I have more trust in a system where a number of local taxi companies compete for my business than one massive far-away corporation that somehow can't geofence.

In Copenhagen Uber made a splash until they decided they didn't get all they wanted when the taxi legislation was liberalised and they left. My reading of it is that they didn't want to give other European countries ideas and they were losing money anyways, so it wasn't really worth it to subject themselves to the same kind of regulation that exists in London or New York.

And what did we get instead? 5-10 different taxi apps offering taxis at much the same speed it takes to get an Uber, but regulated locally and paying taxes. It's literally a question of installing a different (or multiple different) app and then the flow is the same.

The kicker: Uber came to Denmark late enough that the taxi companies already had apps (or at least some of them which was then the ones I used). Ultimately it was just a big fight over nothing and Uber left with red numbers and a bad image.


So Uber much like Tesla forced incumbent companies to innovate and you as a consumer have benefited, yes?


Uber came in late 2014. We had had app-hailing for a year or two at that point. They certainly shook things up but it's hard to see what Uber got out of it


I actually joined a political party in my country, because they had the intention of protecting Uber.

Some people wonder, but why? Why protect such scummy company?

Well, it was literally to save lives, as much illegal Uber behaviour is, what they were trying to replace was worse, MUCH worse.

Where I live "Taxi Mafia" was a thing, not just in the usual sense people imagine, like blocking competitors using regulations, but people were murdering others, there were beatings, assassinations, theft, high level government corruption, the Taxi Mafia was evil and destructive as any other "<drugs/guns/slavery> Mafia" you can imagine.

A lot of people claim Uber is evil because they say their workers are contractors and not employees. Well, before Uber if you wanted to be a driver, you had to purchase your own car, open your own company, and then give 50k USD to the local mafia boss, and promise to join combat whenever called. Combat? Yes, combat, gathering up drivers to kill a competitor was a thing, one infamous case for example: out of town driver parked near airport to deliver someone, a client in a hurry got on his cab as the other client was leaving, the local mafia didn't like this happened, so they surrounded the car and invited the driver for a "walk", took him under a nearby bridge, and they all kicked him until he was a mangled mess, and then they kicked him some more to make sure he was dead.


This is true in lots of cities in the US too. In Portland, our police were working with the taxi union, and kept creating phony Uber accounts, requesting rides, and then fining the drivers. Obviously those riders were getting horrendously negative reviews, so they got added to the "greyball" list where the phony users would log onto the app, and it would look like there were no cars available. They had the gall to complain that they were being targeted unfairly.

https://www.cnet.com/tech/tech-industry/uber-portland-greyba...

Fuck the taxi unions and especially the PPB for so many reasons.

In Las Vegas, where the corruption is much, much deeper, police, at behest of the taxi union, were just driving around and towing any car with an Uber or Lyft sticker. When the ride sharing companies finally broke through, they were still forced to only pick up at the farthest point in the parking lot of their airport, and at the back end of any casino, which could mean 10-15 minutes of walking in the 100F weather to get to the rideshare pickup spot. Vegas is the only place in the US where I'll still take a taxi, which I hate, but ride share there is so horrible that there isn't really much of an option.

I also got robbed in various ways about 50% of the time when taking a taxi in Miami, with taxi drivers driving circles, or threatening to drive off with my luggage if I didn't leave a tip that was several times the actual fare of the ride, etc. People who complain about ride sharing companies are obviously people who have had the privilege of never needing to ride in a taxi. Maybe they're okay in some places, but they've been terrible pretty much everywhere I've been. The reciprocal rating systems that ride share apps use is a godsend.


> This is true in lots of cities in the US too.

What speeder is describing is not even close to true in any US city.


Maybe, but from stories I've heard from some locals, Vegas is pretty close. It's very much a mob run city, and I've heard stories (completely unsubstantiated) of assassinations related to taxi turf battles etc, and the tourism board directing police officers to not record any murders unless there were a lot of public witnesses so they can still be a top travel destination for tourists.

These are like, ramblings from random drunk dude on the street kind of stories, so maybe it's all BS, but it sounds like there is a lot of violent crime happening there in collaboration with the local police.


Sounds like there's a lot of violent crime happening there in collaboration with the local police, according to the ramblings of some random drunk dude on the street. Right...


I'm wary of adding a me too comment, because we may be talking about the same mafia. But yes, it looks like most large cities in Brazil had an organized mafia that lived on extorting small amounts from the people unlucky enough to need a taxi ride. It helps that the government was the one organizing them, mandating meetings and price fixing, but the rampant extortion was not called for.

And yes, there were about 3 years of very public beatings and assassinations from the taxi mafia on my city before they finally went bankrupt and disappeared. And now, suddenly the taxi service has a similar quality to Uber.


I don't understand why breaking up the mafia wasn't a more pressing issue? What makes Uber drivers different that they won't be dragged from their cars and kicked to death?


They were definitely threatened and beat in Brazil several times at the beginning (I don’t recall anyone dying on the news, but I maybe it happened). The difference is that anyone could become a Uber driver, where not everyone could become a tax driver (due to governmental regulations and tight control by the mafia)


the politicians from the parent commenter's city/state aren't in uber's bed


They don't have to be? They would only need to intimidate/recruit the Uber drivers (which they did) and use their gov connections to cover up the crime.

A local mafia problem is a local mafia problem, no matter the transportation system being hijacked.

This whole thread kinda turned into Taxi whataboutism to deflect from Uber.


> but people murdering others

What is stopping them murdering Uber drivers? Your story seems a caricature and makes little sense. "Uber saved my country from assassins"

Which country it was? Wich political party?


Brazil (I am assuming). Here, mainstream media (use Google translate to read it):

https://g1.globo.com/rio-de-janeiro/noticia/2010/07/imagens-...

The police officer quote mentions a series of similar attacks. There used to be a video of the act, but probably link rotted.


> While taxi drivers must pass through a battery of paperwork, courses, exams and fees to offer what is known as public individual transportation in Brazil, private individual transportation services don’t have specific regulations on the books.

So, Uber steals the jobs of people that prepared to drive a taxi and paid their taxes. And Uber still says that taxis are evil like if Uber had not ignored rapes happening in their services around the world.

Uber propaganda is to vilify taxi drivers at any cost, to make them look sub-human. Uber is pure evil.


I'm enjoying how unhinged some of these comments are sounding. Should make for a good case study later on.


Why do you think Uber would not have participated in the same corruption (or worse) once it was sufficiently entrenched? Remember, this is the company that in the US threatened journalists, and in India stole medical records of critics. It's not hard to believe they'd cross any line someone else was already crossing relative to local mores.


What made Uber special was that it ignored medallion/license laws. Those were central to taxi mafia. For example in São Paulo there was a period of time where some 30.000 or so drivers had passed all requisites, paid all fees, but whenever they applied for a license the government would only say they needed to wait. But if you paid 100k USD to certain guys, they would drop a cab, license and everything you needed at an agreed drop point, without any of the exams, testing, courses, etc...


Not poster you asked but:

With Uber you don't pay the driver directly. The price is set by a third party and so is the recommended route. Tricky to swindle the rate, route or tips. In areas where drivers have to be licensed, that is enforced so passenger and driver identity has some verification


Taxi bad. Uber not as bad. Uber is ok? I don't see the mental gymnastics to give one a pass because another is bad.


Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.


We don't let robbers go because there are murderers out on the streets.


If letting the robbers go made the murderers vanish then we probably would, actually.


Ok I'll bite, where do we draw the line on acceptable crimes? What is the threshold for a crime we should punish versus not? Isn't that anti to the premise that we have varying degrees of punitive consequences for convicted crimes?


It happens today quite a lot actually. You only have so many police, courts, prisons and so on, so you have to focus your law enforcement resources on what matters more. If you dug into how the practice of policing actually works, especially in higher crime areas, you'd probably be fairly surprised. A lot of crimes do not have a consequence, because the police and prosecutors do triage.

Same thing happens with medical triage and prioritization.

The essential argument is: don't block a potential improvement because it doesn't perfectly fix the problem, and instead just stay in a worse situation. Because often, the practical reality is you only have imperfect solutions, and hypothetical perfect ones often do not happen. And you can still execute your perfect solution later after the imperfect one is complete.


Regardless of what you think about the company or their products, letting them get away with this sets a dangerous precedent in my opinion. Whether you agree with the specific laws they’ve broken, the precedent would allow companies to break other laws you might agree with more (and do more damage as a result).


Their "legal" business model should already be illegal. They are just testing the system to see how far they can get away with stuff.

And even this I highly doubt anything will come out of it.


Companies break laws every minute. Basically every US company operating in the EU is breaking GDPR post-Privacy Shield right now: it's illegal to transfer data of EU residents to US data centers.

Oil and gas companies have been blatantly breaking laws for decades.

Volkswagen, along with a majority of car manufacturers have been cheating emissions testing for ages.

Big banks literally rigged LIBOR through intentionally lying about numbers and laughing and not a single executive is in jail.


And they all set dangerous precedents, and now uber is setting yet another. And we all got dumber by taking the discussion to this direction. Enough defeatism.


To add to that, it could also be inferred that the Ubers of the world are able to get to where they are from the numbing affect of all the previous evilCorps that came before creating the death from a thousand paper cuts scenario.

They're just standing on the shoulders of evilCorpGiants?!


IMO there's a big difference between breaking the law to optimize some otherwise-legitimate activity and starting an entire business on something that (at least at the time) was illegal in most countries.


I find what Volkswagen did worse. They polluted our air beyond the acceptable limit. On the other hand, Uber broke taxi laws that were anti-consumer anyway.


Ohhh, they did a lot more then just braking taxi laws. According to this leak they engaged in illegal lobbying (which I would simply call bribery), and evidence tampering.


Volkswagen was the only one that was caught, you mean.


Just like SMU wasn't doing anything the other schools were not doing. They just got caught. It is an example of how using the extreme punishment had a much larger collateral damage blast radius than intended.


They weren't the only one that was caught.


Maybe it's time for mandatory penalty minimum set somewhere in the 3-100x profits made due to breaking the law. I'm tired of reading about how e.g. an investment fund settled for 100M with no admission of guilt after making a billion breaking the law.


Think about the collateral damage caused by killing companies that break the law: lots of people lose their jobs, and most of them had nothing to do with the illegal act. That's not justice.


Sounds like “too big to fail” and a 2-tier justice system. Employ enough people, get immunity.


So what’s the alternative?Corporations can’t keep getting away with this.


As bad as China’s politics is, their businesses bend the knee to the government.


The people who write the laws and control who's in government are corrupt as hell.


They may agreed on settlement because case and outcome was not that obvious.


Or that the plaintiffs couldn't afford not to settle, more likely than not.


Plaintiff lives on budget money, and even he loses the case, he doesn't get any damage back. It is strong incentive to go to court.


I'm not sure what your point is.

IIRC, Volkswagen were fined several billion, and a number of senior executives were charged.


My point is that the precedent has already been set, and a company that essentially allowed people to transact freely (away from the taxi cartel and regulatory capture) isn't the straw that's going to break the camels back.


What is the point of this? That new companies should be even smarter than the stablished ones and therefore try to game the system even more? Or that we should learn from them and try to improve the situation and make all of them follow the rules?


His point was going after newer and smaller companies is a joke when larger companies are basically getting away with murder, or more accurately doing nearly the same thing you're punishing smaller companies for doing (at a larger scale)


I still don’t understand the reasoning.

The way to follow the rules is looking who is doing worst and take that as an upper bound?


> don’t understand the reasoning

Prioritising limited enforcement resources based on harm minimisation.


As a citizen of a democratic country I still prefer the laws dictating what is harmful rather than a CEO and a member of the government unilaterally.

And if something goes wrong use the tools from a democratic regime to change it. Even with its drawbacks democracies are the best system known to rule countries.


More like it's pointless to say you can't do X behavior but someone else can

You mostly need to outlaw all of it or someone will keep doing it. Going after smaller companies won't change anything


Agreed! And they should be held accountable too!


Yes, but why are you saying this? Because you think we should allow more of it? Or because you think we have fundamental problems we need to fix? Or some other reason?


> Basically every US company operating in the EU is breaking GDPR post-Privacy Shield right now: it's illegal to transfer data of EU residents to US data centers.

This is not true and the devil is in the details. It's illegal to transfer "personal data" of EU residents. The definition of personal data under the GDPR is what US companies would consider PII or personally identifiable information and not all companies collect PII. In fact, I would argue most companies go out of there way to not store PII.


> In fact, I would argue most companies go out of there way to not store PII.

email address and ip is pii. So basically everything uses pii even if it is only for bot and ddos protection


Not all companies store IP addresses. Or email addresses for that matter. And whether or not an email is PII depends on a lot of factors for your company but alone an email address is not legally PII.

>So basically everything uses pii even if it is only for bot and ddos protection

If I use Cloudflare for example, as DDoS mitigation, I am not storing PII, Cloudflare is and thus Cloudflare has to deal with the legalities of that.


Even just transferring is not allowed without consent. And if you are the "controller" (ie. you are using Cloudflare to serve your customers) you would take the fine, not Cloudflare. And IP and email are PII.


> Basically every US company operating in the EU is breaking GDPR post-Privacy Shield right now

No expert but in New Relic you can select in which data center your data should be. In fact many websites of US newspapers are not accessible from the EU. Just recently I had to order a gadget through reship.com because I couldn't buy it directly...


This will codify that breaking the law is a cost of doing business. Uber already killed a person by disabling the brakes on their self driving car.

But this isn't about Uber, this is about power and corporate personhood.


I despise how they operated from start through 2017. But do I wish Uber had never happened? Nope. Also, when you say "letting them get away with .." are you including Macron, Biden etc in "them'?


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