From the Editor’s Desk 60

desk

Uber’s Fifteen Minutes are just about up

I think the much ballyhooed Uber is about twelve and a half minutes into its fifteen minutes of fame. I wouldn’t quite say it is heading toward the shipwreck of Pets.com or even MySpace. I think the better analogy is Craiglist.

Didn’t your mother tell you not to take candy from strangers? Well, what about getting in the car with strange men? No?

car (2)

That was okay so long as the internet promised they were safe. I mean 4.5 stars are good enough for Netflix. Why shouldn’t I hop in the car with this person? I mean, what could happen.

netflix

For starters, since the price of Uber rides is shrouded in secrecy and subject to nebulous multipliers, you could get bilked. I spoke to a Raleigh woman who was Ubered on Halloween. She was charged $180 for a 25 minute ride and subsequently promised a $53 refund, only for it to be changed to a credit that must be spent with Uber.

And while that hardly sounds more predatory than the average-humongous-evil-capitalist corporation, BP and Chevron laugh at the thought that those mere price changes are nefarious business practices, Uber has other blemishes, not the least of which are it’s CEO cavalier attacks on critical journalists and media members.

bp

In an interesting piece in GQ, Mickey Rapkin argues that the interest in Uber is built around the voyeuristic element. I would agree. It offers all of us a chance to be cab drivers and/or hop in strangers cars. People dig it. Read Rapkin’s piece, he loved surfing through other people’s lives.

But just like there was eventually a Craiglist killer and Craigslist Adult Services had to be removed because too many people were exploiting it for pimping and child trafficking, Uber is rife with vulnerabilities. Rapkin describes picking up a high school age kid to transfer her from one divorced parents’ house to another. This isn’t a kid flying solo on airplane in federally regulated and supervised buildings, machines, and air space the entire time. This is some kid hopping in a stranger’s car based on internet ratings. I mean a dedicated serial killer or child trafficking ring could hardly game those, right??

The irony is that I want to like and support things like hitchhiking. I want to live where strangers are presumed safe. Mahalo. Shalom. Assalaam alaykum. I want sticking your thumb out to mean a connection with humanity, a collective application of the Golden Rule.

Of course, this is not the transaction of the capitalist paradigm. Where is the exchange of goods or at least money? How can we just do something without attaching a value?

gary-hitch-hiking

Sadly in this diseased society, hitchhiking is verboten. It is considered laughable and frightfully dangerous. Uber hasn’t changed societal trajectory, it has tapped into a need. It has shown that the cab business was woefully behind the technological curve. It has demonstrably proved that many Americans want a way to get there other than their own car.* Uber is part of the DIY movement and the microbusiness trend.

No doubt, Uber is a forerunner. But it says here, they won’t be around for the finish line. There is a reason the government regulates cab drivers. There is a reason limo companies screen their drivers. Uber lives in a gray area (if not a gray market) between those two.

 

Notes

*Zip Cars offer another alternative model. So would our public transportation systems, if we updated them for the 21st century.

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

2 Comments

  • Reply November 20, 2014

    Tom Rau

    If Uber fails I think it is more of a sign that big business can kill technological innovation via lobbying than because something is wrong with Uber.

    Basically, they want to shut Uber and Lyft down because “it’s not fair” to their massive industry that a company with a low overhead and reduced regulations is taking away “their” market share. But that is exactly what the purpose of innovation is, to kill the old, the large, the fat, and the ugly, so that we the fucking people can get across town for less than $30 bucks.

    Yes, there is some bumps in the road. But isn’t there always?

    • Aaron Mandel
      Reply December 12, 2014

      Aaron Mandel

      TR- I generally agree with this premise in a capitalist paradigm, “the purpose of innovation is, to kill the old, the large, the fat, and the ugly…” But if strict dog eat dog, Social Darwinist considerations were all that mattered we would still be working children in factories eighty hours a week, and all of our food at McDonald’s could be ordered push button without a cashier. Uber passes the capitalist test, what they don’t pass is the societal test.

      There is a strong social prohibition about getting into cars with strangers. Taxis don’t beat Uber on cost. Busses don’t beat Uber on efficiency. What both do is vet their drivers. Uber’s faux wall and refusal to accept liability for its drivers actions is what is going to kill it. They couldn’t have designed a better platform to assist sociopaths, homicidal maniacs, rapists, and their ilk in cornering potential victims. Who needs a dark alley when you can simply load someone into you car??

      Not to mention, they don’t accept liability for accidents either. Something terrible happens on a taxi ride, you have someone to sue or blame, on a bus, you can sue the whole bloody municipality.

      Too snooty for a taxi? Bus out of the question? Big cities, have plenty of “black car” services, who have again, actually interviewed and hired their drivers, and can be sued if something goes wrong.

      Uber is a couple more horrifying crimes from going the way of Craigslist. Nifty idea. Worked in gentler, happier times. We called it hitchhiking (and standard rates didn’t apply, let alone exponentially more expensive rates on holidays and times of greater need.)

      -AJM

Leave a Reply