Uber. The cell-phone-based taxi service has stirred up a fair share of controversy this year while giving traditional cabbies a run for their money.
In one camp are the Uber haters. They dis the slick service for spiking prices during peak periods of demand, scold it for seeking revenge on journalists who criticize the company and shun it for allegations of sexual harassment and rape.
“They made an app that works very well, but the human beings behind it are not acting with integrity,” Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Jennifer Dziura told the New York Daily News. “I stopped using it when I read about (drivers) assaulting and insulting female passengers.”
The bad press got worse when Uber reportedly increased its fare to a ridiculous $82 during the hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia.
Banned in New Delhi, India, and in all of Spain and Thailand, the company’s reputation abroad has suffered, as well. That’s why the hashtag #ubershame has been trending on Twitter.
In the other camp are the Uber lovers. They love its app, convenience and efficiency and maintain it’s less expensive than hailing a cab.
“While Uber has hit a bit of a bumpy patch recently in regards to corporate operations and the public perception of its behavior, it still represents a fast-growing company upending the market for public transportation in cities around the world,” writer Jeffrey Dorfman opined in an article on Forbes.com.
In June of 2014, Uber’s revenues were estimated at $18.2 billion. Investors expect the value of the company to reach heights of $50 to possibly $100 million in the coming years.
“The company is operating in more than 150 cities, so as these cities develop, revenue should grow at a prodigious rate for years,” Henry Blodget reports in Business Insider. “Even the company’s most mature markets, like San Francisco, are only partially penetrated.”
How does Uber work, exactly? It provides private drivers in 40-plus countries through a smartphone app that promises a ride within minutes.
“On-demand service means no reservations required and no waiting in taxi lines,” states an app description Google Play.
Consumer can map their routes and pay their fares all through their phones.
“Sit back, relax, and go anywhere you want,” according Uber. “We’ll email you a receipt when you arrive at your destination.”
While Uber represents an entirely different and sleekly modern concept of those old, yellow American curbside clunkers, whether the rewards outweigh the risks is yet to be determined.
For those of us who remember, think about the gypsy cab drivers. Those unlicensed and illegal entrepreneurs, one might argue are the very heart of capitalism. The good ones generally went on unfettered in operating their gypsy taxis and the hooligans were eventually run out of business. The difference here – the app.