Uber, the transportation networking company, now subjects customers seeking to book a ride to a directive calling on them to think about gun violence before they continue the process. When users open the Uber app, they see a message reading, “Our hearts go out to the victims of this week’s terrible gun violence….As we move around our cities this weekend, let’s take a moment to think about what we can do to help.” Thusly:
Okay, here’s what Uber can do to help. Stop referring to law enforcement action, even if it’s excessive, as “gun violence.” Stop referring to racially motivated hits, like the murder of the Dallas police officers, as “gun violence,” as if in some alternate universe where there are no guns, Micah Johnson would have hurled spitballs at the officers to show his contempt. In fact, Uber can shut up entirely.
And stop suggesting that the shooting of two individuals in a police confrontation is equivilent to the assassination of five police officers. How despicable.
We saw this kind of arrogant, obnoxious abuse of the customer/service relationship when Starbucks decided it was appropriate to challenge its customers to have dialogue with 20-something barristas about race. Uber knows how to get me to my destination, supposedly. It has no more expertise regarding social and law enforcement policies than my mail carrier, and if he tells me to take a minute to think about gun violence before I can get my mail, I’m telling him to go to hell.
Uber is showing disrespect for its customers and its customers’ time. The company has no right to rob me of a single moment to force-feed me its anti-gun chairman’s political views, and I would say the same if they were pro-gun sentiments. It’s unethical to make me a captive audience for ten minutes, five minutes, a minute or a second. I’m calling for a ride, not indoctrination, not presumptuous attempted enlightenment, not to be told to save the whales, reduce my carbon foot print, vote for Hillary, or think about gun violence.
When I was the artistic director of The American Century Theater, every so often the theater community would decide that it was virtuous to solicit audiences in pre-show speeches for contributions to various causes —AIDS research; support for a gravely ill actor, helping the homeless. Usually someone in the company’s hierarchy would insist that our theater participate, because it was a “good cause,” and all the other theaters were doing it. My response was always the same: “Over my dead body.” Our patrons paid to see a show, not to become unwilling targets of fundraising pitches. Eventually, my colleagues stopped trying to persuade me.
This is no different. If Uber wants to pay for public service TV ads calling for the confiscation of guns, they have a right, and I wish them luck. They can make any other political pleas they want, as long as it doesn’t cost me any time, and I can change the channel. Making me “take a moment” and pnder Uber’s anti-gun propaganda before I can book a ride, however, adds a cost to the service that I didn’t bargain for, and that I should not be forced to swallow.
Mark my words, this kind of presumptuous politicizing of commerce will become epidemic, unless Uber pays a price now.
When I get that message, I’m calling a cab. I advise you to do the same.