Uber has built a great service. Why do they feel the need to use dirty tricks to succeed?
Tim O’Reilly has said that Uber is an example of designing for how the world ought to be. Their app works well, their cars are clean, their drivers are pleasant, and they usually arrive quickly. But more goes into the experience of a company than just an app. Corporate behavior is also part of the company’s design; perhaps not as noticeable as their Android or iPhone app, but a very real part. That’s where Uber falls down. They have increasingly been a bad actor, on many counts:
- Coercing their black car (Uber) drivers into driving for the low cost UberX service, which is much less profitable.
- Being disingenuous about the economics of driving for them. Justin Singer does an excellent job of deconstructing their claims. $90,000/year for a 40-hour work week? Think $40K. For a 70-hour work week.
- Badmouthing a competitor (Lyft) that is raising capital. As Fred Wilson says, this practice may be common, but it’s unethical and unproductive.
- Predatory (“surge”) pricing during peak hours, as much as seven times normal prices.
- Playing fast and loose with drivers’ background checks.
- And now one of their senior VPs has suggested researching and exposing the private lives of reporters who criticize them. He’s apologized, and said he never meant anything of the sort. Right. It’s not what you apologize for that counts; it’s not doing stuff you need to apologize for in the first place.
Truly disruptive services don’t just digitize the familiar. They do away with it.
The Apple-Pay web page gushes: “Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. The wasted moments finding the right card. The swiping and waiting. Now payments happen with a single touch.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
It’s describing the digital facsimile of a process that is already on its way to becoming obsolete. But truly disruptive new services don’t just digitize the familiar. They do away with it.
I never search for my wallet when I take an Uber. I never search for my wallet when I walk out of a restaurant that accepts Cover. I never search for my wallet when I buy something from Amazon. I don’t even search for my wallet when buying a song from iTunes — or, for that matter, an iPhone from an Apple Store.
In each of these cases, my payment information is simply a stored credential that is already associated with my identity. And that identity is increasingly recognized by means other than an explicit payment process. Read more…