Over the weekend, the hashtag #DeleteUber, in which people posted screenshots of themselves deleting the app in protest of Uber’s response to the refugee crisis, went viral. This happened despite the ride-hailing company’s effort to out-empathize its tech rivals by pledging to compensate drivers stranded overseas and set up a $3 million legal fund for affected drivers. In fact, Uber’s response only seemed to enrage the internet even more, as scores of customers and celebrities gleefully posted images of them banishing the app from their phones.
Much of the ire stemmed from Uber’s decision to suspend surge pricing during a taxi strike at JFK airport in protest of President Trump’s immigration ban, prompting accusations of strikebreaking. Uber later apologized, while claiming it technically didn’t break the strike because its tweet suspending surge pricing went out at 7:36PM, over 30 minutes after the strike ended.
Not that any of these people deleting Uber really needed an accurate excuse to, well, delete Uber. The strike they allegedly broke only lasted an hour. And aside from one picture of a seemingly empty Terminal 4 tweeted by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, it’s unclear how many taxi drivers actually participated in the strike. Also, since when is there so much solidarity with taxi drivers? Wasn’t Uber’s rise in popularity in part because people hated riding in yellow cabs?
What’s clear is that Uber’s reputation to a lot of people is garbage
What’s clear is that Uber’s reputation to a lot of people is garbage. No question, the service is insanely popular: millions of people use it or drive for it, and it’s fundamentally changed the way people all over the world get around. But a not-insignificant portion of the app’s userbase sees it as a necessary evil. They don’t own a car and public transit can be shitty and unreliable, so they swallow their discomfort and use Uber because it’s fast and it works.
But Trump’s immigration ban proved to be a tipping point for many people, and one that also exposed Uber’s fundamental weakness: its customers aren’t as loyal as the company thinks.