In today’s age, more consumers are aligning with brands that have a social conscience or a higher purpose than only improving their bottom line. Large corporations focus time and energy to promote and tell stories about their contributions to society.
Uber, however, has found its name in the media for rather unbecoming reasons over the past year. In November, an Uber executive made a comment at a private dinner alluding to the company potentially hiring investigators to dig up dirt on journalists who portray Uber in a negative light.
The company has also drawn criticism for its surge pricing policies. “With surge pricing, Uber rates increase to get more cars on the road and ensure reliability during the busiest times. When enough cars are on the road, prices go back down to normal levels,” per the company’s website. In December during the Sydney hostage crisis, screenshots were taken of Uber charging at 4x the normal rate with a $100 minimum fare. With critics outcrying over the fare increase during such a traumatic time, Uber responded by offering Sydneysiders free rides away from the Martin Place area.
I use Uber on a regular basis here in Chapel Hill. I like the convenience of requesting a car by pushing a button on my phone, the quick response time, and (without the surge pricing) it’s cheaper than a taxi. Unlike a taxi, I can track my entire ride from my phone, and I’m not out of luck if I do not have any cash on me since Uber links directly to my credit card. The service has been prevalent in larger cities such as D.C. and New York for a few years but has just recently made its way into college towns where it’s a great resource. When I talk to Uber drivers, they believe they are helping keep college students safer by offering a cheaper and more convenient service than taxis — and I agree. From my experience, fewer students are inclined to get behind the wheel of a car after having a drink if they have Uber on their phone.
Uber created a disruption in the taxi industry that was very needed. I can vouch that my experience with Uber has been excellent, but I’m wondering how many times Uber can shoot itself in the foot before its negative company image outweighs that.