Friday, 03 March 2017 07:42

Uber over, reviewers say

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Uber, the perennial poster-child for disruption, is facing a massive backlash and downward spiral as shown by one-star reviews and social media campaigns.

The ride-sharing service was touted by many for its super convenience. This writer enjoyed Uber tremendously during a visit to Silicon Valley. It was so simple to request a pick-up, enter my destination, watch as the app told me a vehicle was approaching including make, model, registration and driver, then get my ride, and not have to deal with meters or cash.

Since its inception and meteoric rise, Uber has been hailed as the example of disruption. Passionate speakers exhort leaders to work out how to become "the Uber" of their field. Uber has become almost cliched in this regard, with similar examples of how an entire industry has been disrupted to such an extent difficult to find.

The taxi industry — with its smelly cars, abusive drivers who complain if a destination is too near, long-winding trips, demanding tips — has long been angry with Uber for taking away its business, while the riding public was only too happy to find a pleasant, convenient, and essentially very simple to order, alternative.

Uber itself is named from the German word "over", a word that entered popular English usage via Friedrich Nietzsche's 1883 description of the "ubermensch" or "over man."

Yet, all is not well for Uber. In fact, it may be over for Uber.

Allegations abound of sexism and harassment within the company, leading to mass Twitter and other social media #deleteUber campaigns, and a plummeting app rating, with one-star reviews piling up.

According to App Annie, from 1 January through 22 February, Uber received no less than 4479 one-star reviews within the US iOS App Store.

This surged on 29 and 30 January when Uber serviced airports during President Donald Trump's short-lived "Muslim ban" while the taxi industry boycotted. This event brought about the rise of #deleteUber and saw 2398 one-star reviews in those two days alone.

Yet, this event was the catalyst for a torrent of seemingly pent-up Uber hate to be unleashed.

Since this time, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler posted about her alleged sexual harassment within the company, while other reviewers complain the Uber app does not permit location tracking to be disabled when not using the app – it is either an always on or off setting.

Additional complaints relate to hidden surge pricing being far harder to measure since the company changed its fare pricing. Some reviewers complain their regular trip from the San Fransisco Bay Area to the international airport has risen from US$18 to US$20, to US$48 to US$50.

Uber, like any company, has had its share of bad press in the past. What is different this time is the sheer volume of vehemence, over a wide range of grievances, with seemingly much pent-up rage now being released.

App Annie notes Uber earned 6806 one-star ratings in 2016. Yet, only two months into 2017 it's already 66% of the way to beating that mark.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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