The taxi-hailing service Uber is loved by some, loathed by others. They have a history of aggressive driver-recruitment techniques, and their CEO isn’t afraid to publicly squabble with (ex)-customers, but they also offer extremely convenient and sometimes the cheapest car service in town. Now screenshots shared with TechCrunch and Gawker show that the service may have crossed an ethical line when they intentionally disturbed the service of competitors in New York City.
The screenshots show Uber staff “posing as pedestrians” by ordering multiple rides via Gett and cancelling them repeatedly. This would tangle up Gett drivers in fruitless pickups and in turn make customers wait for a ride, prompting them to use Uber instead.
Gett CEO Jing Herman says in some cases the cancellations didn’t come in until the driver was nearly at the pickup, and that Uber employees ordered and cancelled more than 100 cars over three days last week. Herman likens it to a DDoS (denial-of-service attack) used by groups like Anonymous.
Gawker and TechCrunch also say that after rides were cancelled, Uber staff would text Gett drivers with attempts to recruit them (a customer gets a driver's number when they order via Gett). Uber released a statement on Thursday, saying the method was “likely too aggressive a sales tactic and we regret the team's approach to outreach of these drivers.”
Uber disputed the claim that the orders on Gett were made to disrupt drivers, however, their statement went on to say, “… to be clear there was no time spent by the providers, as the requests were canceled immediately and Uber did pay cancellation fees for these requests.”
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Uber’s aggressive recruitment techniques are known in the industry. They offer bonuses to drivers who switch over from rival services and one in one anecdotal case, an Uber employee attempted to recruit a rival driver while riding in her cab by offering her bonuses and deals.
Thirteen Uber employees were involved in the scheme, including Uber’s general manager in New York and operations, logistics and community managers. According to Gawker, Gett is still evaluating whether or not they will consider legal action.