Uber has a knack of ruffling a few feathers, but its latest move is downright dirty. Documents provided to both Valleywag and TechCrunch are said to show that Uber staffers in New York ordered phony black car rides from a competing service only to cancel them later. The ride requests were made over the last few weeks, and it seems the purpose of the shady move was twofold. First, ordering and canceling dozens of rides wastes drivers' time and it makes it harder for legitimate customers to get a car. Secondly, the reports say that an Uber employee then reached out to the drivers and offered them incentives — like cash — to defect.
The competing service on the other end of this incident is called Gett, and it started operations in New York just this past fall. Gett CEO Jing Herman tells TechCrunch that in some cases the Uber employees waited to cancel until the driver had almost reached the pickup location. And it looks as if this dirty work was not delegated to low-level employees. Reports say the staffers involved in the recruitment effort include the company's New York manager, Josh Mohrer, who reportedly ordered and canceled over 20 rides in a two-week period. At least 13 in total were in on the scheme, all of whom have relatively senior positions at the company.
Employees tried to convince competing drivers to switch sides after ordering fake rides
In a statement on its website, Uber admitted that employees in New York requested phony rides to recruit drivers, but it claims that requests were "immediately canceled seconds later." That contradicts Gett CEO Jing Herman's claims. Uber offers a half-hearted apology, saying that "it was likely too aggressive a sales tactic and we regret the team’s approach to outreach of these drivers." The company adds that it paid all necessary cancelation fees, and it says that "we have messaged city teams to curtail activities that seek lead generation by requesting transportation services."
Considering Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's relentlessly abrasive attitude towards the company's controversial "surge" pricing, such actions by other employees isn't entirely unexpected. It's unclear if these business practices are illegal, and a Gett representative tells Valleywag that "the company and our counsel are still evaluating" whether to take legal action.