Editorial: The Decacorn, its Ethics and the bodies of the eviscerated. ‘The ride “share” meltdown

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By, Craig Tresise 10th of May 2019

Good morning world. Today is the day for perhaps the biggest and most morally bankrupt IPO in the history of the universe. For those early investors in Uber hearing the bell ring on the NYSE later today will make the annual Silicon Valley Teddy Bears picnic look awfully dull. The Californian born decacorn Uber, that has spent 10 years mastering the art of losing money hand over fist, is finally going public. Paper Millionaires and Billionaires will wake tomorrow like little kids on Christmas day. Eager to open their presents or in this case look longingly as the autosum function populates their personal share spreadsheets.

So, if like Rip Van Winkle you have just woken from a 20 year slumber, let me briefly present the facts as we know them.

  • Yes decacorn is actually a real word in 2019.
  • Uber is the most valuable Silicon Valley tech startup in history.
  • Uber has never ever made one cent of profit and has been involved in more scandals than the Catholic Church.
  • US Uber drivers (partners in Uberspeak) have been responsible for more sexual assaults in the last 10 years than the combined total offences of every Taxi, Chauffeur Car, Bus or other public transit system, the world over, since the invention of the motor car.
  • Uber’s app and its platform for cheap rides facilitates pollution, traffic congestion, slave wages, insurance fraud, resale vehicle fraud and at least half a dozen other fraudulent financial, social and ethical crimes.
  • And the allegorical cherry on top of the cake is that Uber seemingly lacks any moral compass in relation to how it conducts its business. At this very minute financial markets around the world are clamouring for a piece of the Uber pie. The blind eye has well and truly been turned and Wall Street continues to be profoundly apathetic to Uber’s errant ways.

Anywho enough background. I’d like to focus on just one aspect of Uber, the grubby underbelly and more specifically the ethical black hole that it seems to operate in. A voracious chasm in the Uber backlot that stubbornly refuses to relinquish the keys to its eternal life. A life that continues even after the leveraged departure of its “Frat Boy” co-founder and black hole gatekeeper Travis Kalanick.

As a background for this article I fired up the Google machine with the phrase “Ethical Business Principles”. The first thing that came up on Google (therefore it must be factual and awesome right ?) was the 12 Ethical Principles for Business Executives by the Josephson Institute. This page immediately piqued my interest given one of the most recently and widely covered deaths attributable to a real or fake Uber driver was a South Carolina University student by the name of Samantha Josephson.

The Josephson Institute has compiled quite an erudite and impressive list of Business Ethics. After a quick browse down the list I ran through each point of ethics in my head and like the proverbial bee began cross pollinating them with Uber’s well chartered historical behaviour. The results of this ethical or metaphorical checklist, if you will, were somewhat of a shock …. well more a zap to be honest. It was patently obvious that Uber had scored a zero. I couldn’t justify aligning even one basic company ethic to Uber’s principles in any way, shape or form.

Under each point I have made a few quick notes just in case any of you may not be up to speed with Uber’s standard operating procedures.

1. HONESTY. Ethical companies are honest and truthful in all their dealings and they do not deliberately mislead or deceive others by misrepresentations, overstatements, partial truths, selective omissions, or any other means.

Uber has at all times been dishonest, has mislead, misrepresented, overstated and omitted by partial truths and outright lies. The lawsuits alone against Uber are staggering. Uber’s bait and switch deals and free puppy and kitten marketing stunts are now synonymous with their brand.

2. INTEGRITY. Ethical companies demonstrate integrity and the courage of their convictions by doing what they think is right even when there is great pressure to do otherwise; they are principled, honourable and upright; they will fight for their beliefs. They will not sacrifice principle for expediency, be hypocritical, or unscrupulous.

Uber’s mission from the beginning has been laced with failures to operate with even a modicum of integrity. Obtaining the medical records of a passenger raped by an Uber driver, stealing trade secrets from Waymo for the mythical self-driving car and knowingly operating illegally in more countries than I can name. Bribing Government officials in any jurisdiction that was open to accepting money for favours or votes. If you doubt this try Googling “How many Lobbyists does Uber have ?” In addition Uber has spied on its competition and actively attempted to undermine other businesses and regulatory bodies through software and subversion. Hypocritical and unscrupulous are as good as trademarked behaviours at Uber.

3. PROMISE-KEEPING & TRUSTWORTHINESS. Ethical executives are worthy of trust. They are candid and forthcoming in supplying relevant information and correcting misapprehensions of fact, and they make every reasonable effort to fulfil the letter and spirit of their promises and commitments. They do not interpret agreements in an unreasonably technical or legalistic manner in order to rationalize non-compliance or create justifications for escaping their commitments.

Worthy of trust, candidly supplying relevant information, correcting errors of fact and fulfilling their promises and commitments – All that you need for a jaw-dropping moment here is to read their Rider and Driver contracts. They have constantly fought efforts to bring their illegal activities to account around the world. Reference the 3 employment tribunal verdicts in the UK that Uber have lost and are still fighting years later.

4. LOYALTY. Ethical companies are worthy of trust, demonstrate fidelity and loyalty to persons and institutions by friendship in adversity, support and devotion to duty; they do not use or disclose information learned in confidence for financial or other advantage. They safeguard the ability to make independent professional judgments by scrupulously avoiding undue influences and conflicts of interest. They are loyal to their companies and colleagues and if they decide to accept other employment, they provide reasonable notice, respect the proprietary information of their former employer, and refuse to engage in any activities that take undue advantage of their previous positions.

Ask their riders and drivers about loyalty ? That is without doubt their most epic fail …. unless you count loyalty to the mighty greenback of course.

5. FAIRNESS. Ethical companies are fair and just in all their dealings; they do not exercise power arbitrarily, and do not use overreaching nor indecent means to gain or maintain any advantage nor take undue advantage of another’s mistakes or difficulties. Fair persons manifest a commitment to justice, the equal treatment of individuals, tolerance for and acceptance of diversity, the they are open-minded; they are willing to admit they are wrong and, where appropriate, change their positions and beliefs.

They DO not exercise power arbitrarily – just take that sentence in for one moment. Uber’s entire business model is unfair. They spied on competition, have unconscionable rider and driver contracts and a pathological commitment to injustice are the hallmarks of everything Uber. They rip-off their drivers and riders alike at the drop of a hat. Dynamic pricing, the driver vomit scam and a lack of transparency with charging and driver remuneration. The list is longer than Bernie Madoff’s victims.

6. CONCERN FOR OTHERS. Ethical companies are caring, compassionate, benevolent and kind; they like the Golden Rule, help those in need, and seek to accomplish their business objectives in a manner that causes the least harm and the greatest positive good.

Caring, compassionate, benevolent and always ready to help those in need ? Accomplish business objectives in a manner that causes the least harm and the greatest positive good. Ah no ….. Uber’s lack of concern for the environment, its staff, its drivers and riders is the stuff of Silicon Valley folk law. Almost daily now the news is littered with examples where Uber has thrown someone else under the bus.

7. RESPECT FOR OTHERS. Ethical companies demonstrate respect for the human dignity, autonomy, privacy, rights, and interests of all those who have a stake in their decisions; they are courteous and treat all people with equal respect and dignity regardless of sex, race or national origin.

The “frat boy” ethos at Uber is legendary. Strip clubs, sexual harassment (ref. Susan Fowler) and the bully boy nature of the executive ranks within Uber are regular frontpage news items.

8. LAW ABIDING. Ethical companies abide by laws, rules and regulations relating to their business activities.

Uber was founded on the exact the opposite of this. They began breaking the rule of law within a few years of their first ride and rode roughshod over all in their path. Ridesharing is nothing but smoke and mirrors for an illegal taxi operation.

9. COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. Ethical companies pursue excellence in performing their duties, are well informed and prepared, and constantly endeavour to increase their proficiency in all areas of responsibility.

Words just fail me right about now.

10. LEADERSHIP. Ethical companies are conscious of the responsibilities and opportunities of their position of leadership and seek to be positive ethical role models by their own conduct and by helping to create an environment in which principled reasoning and ethical decision making are highly prized.

The leadership at Uber is still as vacuous as it is corrupt ….. end of story.

11. REPUTATION AND MORALE. Ethical companies seek to protect and build the company’s good reputation and the morale of its employees by engaging in no conduct that might undermine respect and by taking whatever actions are necessary to correct or prevent inappropriate conduct of others.

It would be beyond easy to find victims of Uber externally, amongst its rider base and internally amongst its staff. Happy and willing to speak to the contrary about Uber’s reputation and its morale. A moral compass at Uber H/O would spin wildly like a Vegas roulette wheel.

12. ACCOUNTABILITY. Ethical companies acknowledge and accept accountability for the ethical quality of their decisions and omissions to themselves, their colleagues, their companies, and their communities.

I just wish there was some way, anyway to hold Uber accountable. Their driver agreement forces arbitration, their rider agreement places all responsibility back on the rider and Law Courts, Governments and Regulatory bodies are routinely just ignored or placated with ridiculous excuses. Just last month the old “lost in the mailroom” chestnut was used in response to a lawsuit filed against Uber in the US.

The last word on accountability is easily the most damning indictment on Uber and appears as plain as day in the Uber rider agreement. These two conditions are a direct cut and paste;

Point One:

YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS PROVIDING TRANSPORTATION SERVICES REQUESTED THROUGH SOME REQUEST PRODUCTS MAY OFFER RIDESHARING OR PEER-TO-PEER TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND MAY NOT BE PROFESSIONALLY LICENSED OR PERMITTED.

Riders accept that the authorised driver (Uber approved don’t forget) may not be professionally licensed or permitted to provide those services.

Point two:

UBER DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE QUALITY, SUITABILITY, SAFETY OR ABILITY OF THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS. YOU AGREE THAT THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES, AND ANY SERVICE OR GOOD REQUESTED IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, REMAINS SOLELY WITH YOU.

Riders accept that Uber is not responsible for quality, suitability and get this last word very clearly SAFETY. If a driver physically or sexually assaults a rider then the signed agreement specifically has a clause that negates Uber’s responsibility. All risk lies with the rider.

The bodies of the dead and dying are patently obvious to me now. It’s incredibly hard to fathom in the “righteous indignation, PC and #metoo” world we now live in that a company with the moral integrity of Ubers, not only exists but thrives. Uber has systematically grown to a position of untold power. The decacorn has been fueled by an insatiable public desire for unsustainably cheap rides, has a litany of fatal accidents, murders and rapes by its drivers, plus numerous suicides by Taxi and Uber drivers. Suicides directly attributable to the destruction of an entire industry or alternately the ball and chain of economic slavery that most drivers experience working for Uber. When did a corporate culture of adapt or die before help and prosper see the light of day ? How and why did this whole Gig Economy thing happen ? Why do we need it in the first place ? Surely it serves no purpose towards a greater human good. How many more people will be devastated to the point of financial ruin ? How many more people will die as a direct result of Uber’s negligence and corporate greed ? When will this gig economy/rideshare nightmare be sent packing on the first stage out of Dodge ? Personally it can’t come soon enough. I’d be more than happy to ride shotgun on that stagecoach.

This article is dedicated to the memory of those who no longer have a voice. They include the victims in Kalamazoo, Rebecca Dykes, Sofia Liu, Elaine Herzberg, Ryan Thornton, Abdul Saleh, Doug Schifter, and Samantha Josephson et. al.

Reference; Josephson Institute Website

Craig Tresise is a 55 year old former Chauffeur Car service operator in Melbourne Australia with 20 years experience.

Business finished by deepest deregulation of Taxi and Hire Cars in any jurisdiction in the world.

Now freelancer writer, photographer and anti-rideshare evangelist.

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