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End of the road for Travis

It was a sad to hear about Travis Kalanick’s mom passing away in an accident but we thought Uber’s statement was that he was taking a leave of absence a cop out. We nevertheless gave an Emperor thumbs up when they later upgraded that to a full firing along with a few others of his cronies.

We thought Travis was a prize dickhead and wrong person to lead a company.

However, we’ve wondered if his firing was not because because of social justice pressure with him being a dick, but was it the fact that Uber was loosing a ton of money and the Venture capitalists wanting some fiscal discipline. Uber is loosing a ton of money.

However, the gossip about getting Melissa Meyer in from Yahoo is in our opinion, a mistake. Just because someone had lucked up in riding the coat tails of success with google, doesn’t mean it means you are any good as a leader. Sometimes people are just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

On the other hand, an ex-google person may help to de-escalate the lawsuits on Uber for stealing Google IP on driverless cars. [see Waymo scandal]. We don’t think Travis is crying too much either as he has a lot of controlling stock and maybe his replacement can actually take it to a successful IPO now.

Btw, we also noticed that you can finally tip inside the Uber app. This was a ridiculous shortcoming and a source of discontentment from the riders and passengers alike.

 

Uber Travis goes ballistic shouting is atrocious

Dahlings, somewhat bored with writing about high flying chief executives getting in air rage incidents, I have decided to write about something else.

My next topic is something completely different : it is one about a high flying chief executive in a road rage incident!

The attached video is the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, having an argument with one of his drivers who accused him of ‘ruining his life’ over Uber’s ever changing fare policy. In terms of ‘rage’ (Believe me I’ve seen worse in my previous gig) it was extremely tame but once Bloomberg gets hold of the video taking by the driver, it went viral.

After the bad headlines go around, Travis being the brave man that he is, defended his actions and stood by his words.

Oh wait, I’ve just been informed by my fellow emperor, Julius C, that I made a mistake in the last sentence. What I should have said is the OPPOSITE as a few hours after the video being posted on Bloomberg, Travis issued a trite email [source : npr]

My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away..It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.

What a complete and utter wuss ! Continue reading..

Uber convert

You say you want a revolution. Well, there’s an app for that.

Since I’ve talked about AirBnb in my previous post, I should amention that I’ve been a user of another ‘sharing economy’ darling in the past few months : Uber.

I used Uber to drop me home after getting rid of the MB leased car.

I used them to take me to the airport where I was going to Milwaukee for thanksgiving and to avoid the parking nightmare. By co-incidence, the driver was from Wisconsin so I got a few tips from him of what to see etc. As a side note, the officials at Hobby Airport pounced on him for documentation as soon as I got dropped off and even after I’d checked in my luggage about 10 minutes later, I could see out the window he was still being questioned. Not sure what that was about.

I used Uber in Milwaukee to get to / from downtown. The ability to send the driver a text – when the GPS address for your restaurant is nonsense – worked great. On the app map showing the driver, you could see them driving to you, then obviously overshooting and going the other way.

One feature I liked was the quote before hand to do a ‘what if’. I wanted to know the price of an Uber from Milwaukee to Midway airport  – around ~$120. I compared it to AVIS one way where the car rental gave me ( with a very good AWD#) and it was around $55. Obviously with this, I went to AVIS. When I checked the car in, I was dismayed to find out that they’d charged me per mileage charge where bill came to $108. Bloomin’ bunch of Sock cutter$. If I add in tolls, gas and CDW then Uber would have been cheaper.  Even if it had been cost neutral, I would have not had the hassle of driving for 90 minutes and getting to the MKE airport to pick up the car.

As for AVIS and the discrepancy, I later I checked out why I had not flagged this earlier as I darn well knew about the potential for one way add ons. I looked and the AVIS booking site was blank about mileage but when I looked at the confirmation email, it calls it out as $0.40 per mile. Buggers.  Today, I just looked at the same AVIS website today, and it does now call it out (@ $0.28 per mile). So Caveat Emptor (or Emperor..) and all that with my miscalculation on the 1 way rental but it still illustrates why bother with that option : Just get an freakin’ Uber assuming their prices stay where they are. I mention this as they continually monkey with fare structures.

The thought of getting a regular taxi driver when Uber is an option, does not appeal any more. I’ve had my fair share of rides with filthy cars overflowing with cigarette butts going to a destination with no idea what the final charge will be and they’ll only take cash at the end. The days of taxi’s are done in areas legally serviced by Uber, Lyft or their counterparts.

Long like the revolution !

PS: I am not ready to give a full thumbs up to Uber as I don’t trust Mr Kalanick past the future IPO.

Two Texas Cities give Uber and Lyft the finger

Prop minus one

Latest news from Texas is that two most liberal cities of Texas – Houston and Austin – have demanded that Uber / Lyft, conduct more stringent security  background checks above what the companies are currently willing to do.

  • May 7th Austin: Prop 1 was voted DOWN so that potential drivers MUST do finger print based criminal checks.
    • Both Uber and Lyft are now saying they will shut down. Temporarily of course.
    • Uber and Lyft argues that their own background checks were stringent enough and that finger-printed checks by Austin city was an overkill.
    • From the Austin Statesman: The Voting populace didn’t agree and in Austin’s case, the vote was a backlash against the Uber/Lyft campaign who had spent $8m versus anti-prop 1 spend of $0.1m

In Houston, the City push back is bigger where City Hall requires finger-printing, drug testing and a physical which is far more than what Austin requires. Lyft has already had previously balked while finger printing requirement existed. Uber is threatening to follow.

Meanwhile the Texas legislature may come up with a State wide direction. That will be interesting considering Austin’s rhetoric about Big Government over-riding local voters.

An Indian take away

Karma suit Ya?

Karma suit Ya? The company doing the dirty to Uber

Uber is in court again. This time they are not the defender where in this World War on Taxis (WW T), they are taking their rival Ola to court in India.

From Reuters:

A flurry of complaints from Uber drivers about an unusually high number of canceled bookings was the spark that ignited a bitter legal fight with Ola, Uber’s rival for dominance of India’s $12 billion taxi market, according to court documents and a source with direct knowledge of Uber’s case.  

Uber is suing Ola for $7.5 million to compensate for lost revenue and goodwill, alleging the Indian market leader created about 94,000 fake user accounts with the ride-hailing service and used them to make more than 405,000 false bookings.

The broad outlines of the lawsuit were reported when it was filed last month, but a Reuters review of court filings and interviews with sources close to both sides have uncovered new details about how Uber says it was able to trace fake bookings and calls to Ola employees, and Ola’s response to the allegations.

I am shocked—shocked—to find that there dirty tricks going on here!

Before you all jump to Uber’s defence, I’d like to remind our Roaman audience of a prior instance where Uber was accused by Lyft of doing the very same thing in the US. – see ” NOW, PLAY NICE AND SHARE : UBER DIRTY TRICKS ON IT’S COMPETITOR, LYFT“.

Oh I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

Somewhere uber the rainbow

Uber-logos-582x292

Left: Rider Uber icon. Right: Partner Uber icon

Dahlings, Back on 2nd February, those sharing revolutionaries Uber changed their  flag logo. From a “U”, it is now a square-dot-plus-squiggle that communicates the meaning of Uber.

What the heck – this looks almost like the hieroglyphics I used a few centuries before texting was invented. It is a clear as their fare policy.

From a complete puff piece by wired:

The company updated its logo, and new rider- and partner-app icons reflect the individuality of Uber’s local markets. In place of black, gray, and blue, Uber is embracing bright colors, and lots of them. Each of 65 launch countries will receive a toolbox of new brand assets that include tailored colors and patterns, new midcentury modern illustrations, and guidelines for photography. Uber hopes to develop a more flexible brand that can grow with the company as it develops new products and attracts new customers.

The story of how Kalanick and his design team came to replace the ubiquitous “U” logo is about more than a corporate re-branding effort. It’s a coming-of-age tale. It’s about Uber’s attempt to transform its purpose and cement a new reputation—to change not only how it is perceived throughout the world, but how it perceives itself.

Ok, Travis. Really- A coming of Age tale? When I think of ‘coming of Age’ tales I think more about movies like “Dazed and Confused” but that is a good way to summarize these logos. And there’s more to this story. Continue reading..

The Mistaken Ride

Can you take me to Hades?

Excuse me, can you take me to Hades?

This is a story posted on Facebook by one of my friends. August 15th

This happened last Monday.
There’s still plenty of time before the games in our Monday Dart League at Clover Leaf starts when I arrived so I parked and waited inside the car. I was busy with my phone oblivious of what’s going around the place when suddenly two Arab-looking guys, probably in their 40s approached me.

Without a word, each opened the back seat doors and slumped themselves inside. I sat still feeling cold and terrified not knowing what to do. I waited for the worst thing to happen… a gun or a knife at the back of my head, demand for something. But they just sat there calmly looking at me. I slowly turned my head back to them cleared my throat and asked them, “What do you want from me?”, trying to sound as nice as I could.

I heard an answer but I was too frantic to understand what they’re saying so I apologized and asked again politely, “I can’t understand, can you please say it clearly?” The guy on the left leaned forward and to my ear he said, “Are you Uber?”. With a big sigh of relief I answered back, “No, I’m not! I’m not an Uber driver!”. The two guys looked at each other and said, “Sorry, we thought you are.” And both got out of my car laughing… and I was laughing, too!

 

Lyft leaves Houston / Uber stays for now

The Revolutionary Che'ring economy.

The Revolutionary Che’ring economy.

It’s been a while since I looked at taxi revolution / war of backseat independence but in Houston, there have been some changes recently.

The first being that Houston council announced rules about regulating drivers that involve potential drivers presenting their vehicle for inspection and submitting a warrant check and personal information to the city and undergo drug screening. [Houston chronicle 10/29/14]

Both Lyft and Uber say they already take many of these steps, but their procedures differ. Although they use online background checks, City of Houston will require applicants to use the Texas’ fingerprint-based background check company. Lyft have balked at this and claimed “We have found a more efficient way to do these things” according to said David Mack, Lyft’s director of public affairs. Lyft further add that the procedures are onerous especially for people who wish to do this as a hobby job and the drug tests and permits would be expensive. The cost for this would be $62.

The kicker is that Lyft have threatened to exit from the Houston market unless the rules get relaxed or as they describe it, “pause operations”.

The second is that Houston is going to allow ride sharing at the airports where they will be allowed to get an airport permit. [Houston chronicle 11/12/14].  I am not sure how that will work in practice especially if Uber (sole survivor) then charged surge pricing.

So, is this the next stage ie/a counter revolution where other cities follow Houston’s lead and define higher driver and automobile standards if they wish to do business in that city? If so, it will not be the ‘laissez-faire’ environment that Lyft and Uber want.

Ah, C’est la guerre. (Look at moi: I’m showing off my french tonight ! )

The Medallion Millionaire Heist: Behind the curtain of the Big Taxi cab racket

Boston Globe's Excellent investigation into the problems with Boston's $1B Taxi industry.

Screen capture of Boston Globe‘s Excellent investigation into the problems with Boston’s $1B Taxi industry. A MUST READ.

I wanted to understand a bit more about Taxis and the medallion system. Boston Globe has one of the best pieces of investigative journalism that I have seen. Please take the time out to read it.

Driven to the Edge :

The Globe Spotlight Team spent nine months examining Boston’s $1 billion taxi industry.

My jaw dropped when I read how the Medallion system works in Boston.I have no reason to think it is different for the other large cities in the US.

The owner of Boston Cab – Edward Tutunjian- owns  20% of the 1825 medallions. Boston cab, then leases each cab out on a daily basis where it costs that driver, $120 per day. It is up to that driver to make over $120 or take a loss. The owner of the Medallion gets a steady stream of income regardless and doesn’t even drive the cab.

Continue reading..

Barack Ubera

There is something different about President Obama: A new time perhaps?

There is something different about President Obama: A new hair style?

Since it was announced the other day that President Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, has gone to work for Uber, I have wondered what he was going to do exactly.

NPR asked same question today.” Why does Uber need one of the best political strategists in the country?”

It JUST occured to me.

David Plouffe is the ideal man for the job where he has a track record of taking us on one big ride in 2008. A veteran with hands on driving experience for promising one thing but delivering something else.