Hey Uber: Shut Up And Drive.

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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:

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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.

20 thoughts on “Hey Uber: Shut Up And Drive.

  1. Something’s wonky about the formatting, there seems to be much more to your article on the Home page, but when I click to read the full article, a whole back section seems missing…

  2. You said,
    Stop referring to law enforcement action, even if it’s excessive, as “gun violence.”

    I didn’t read that into the first sentence of the Uber message.

    You said,
    And stop suggesting that the shooting of two individuals in a police confrontation is equivilent to the assassination of five police officers. How despicable.

    I didn’t read that into the message either. (Unless, the Uber message was instituted prior to the killing of the five Dallas policemen. Was it?)

    • Wait: Uber encompassed the Minnessota and Louisiana cop-involved shootings of black men AND the Dallas shootings under the same umbrella. How is that not making them “equivilent”?

    • “Stop referring to law enforcement action, even if it’s excessive, as “gun violence.””

      I didn’t read that into the first sentence of the Uber message.”

      How? Seriously. How could you not read that into the message, which was: “Our hearts go out to the victims of this week’s terrible gun violence.” This was sent three weeks after pulse, before the four or five officers were slain, but directly after the two cop-on-black shootings the media orgied itself over. In what generous reading would you assume that they meant anything BUT “law enforcement action, even if it was excessive.”

      This is yet another great example of why the left just doesn’t have legitimacy here. You can’t bring yourself to admit even the painfully obvious, why the hell should I trust you on the nuance?

      • So, I’m wrong, and I’ll admit it. Uber sent this message the day after the police shootings. Which was still the same week as the other two. I had originally thought Jack jumped the gun assuming that the police deaths had anything to do with the message, now it’s abundantly clear he’s right: They either lumped them together on purpose, or inadvertently lumped them together by not distinguishing them.

      • Wrong, HT. I specifically questioned when the Uber message went live. If you’re facts are correct I hereby secede. No, I mean concede. Sorry.

        BTW, HT, I’m not a lefty. I’m way more radical than that. Ask Jack.

  3. I agree with you in general that this is disrespectful to Uber’s customers, and “presumptuous politicizing.” Then again, there is a part of me that points out, quite rationally I think, that the people most likely to embrace this philosophy — the philosophy that “gun violence” accurately reflects all killings, justified or not — lie squarely in the center of Uber’s market space.

    Uber seems to be following the lead of our pop culture, who feels free to issue proclamations about social issues which they neither understand nor appear capable of understanding — only emoting about. It is all about the “feelz” yet again, and how so many of us, particularly the young urban Uber buyer and the prole tree hugger, have been convinced to abandon reason in favor of feelings.

    From a market perspective, this will probably be a plus for Uber. They know who buys their services, and they know that they will respond positively to the message, on balance. In this way, I think they are much more savvy than Starbucks, who’s efforts were far more intrusive and who’s market is likely to be more demographically diverse than Uber’s, for the moment at least.

    Your suggestion that we all take cabs is probably preaching to the choir. The vast majority of your readers (though surely not all) doubtless already do, and probably wouldn’t bother Uber overmuch if they feel imposed upon.

  4. My advise is dump your Uber stock! It probably won’t effect their business much in NYC or the left coast. However, in Texas, Arizona, and most of the South, expect a big drop in ridership.

  5. Tired and sad after leaving a comment on your Stalien post, I’ll just say “Go, Jack!” and leave the real thought on this to others…

  6. It’s actually less worse than what my brain went to when I read the headline. I thought Uber wanted drivers to talk to their fares about it for a minute. It reminded me of the Starbucks idea and I had horrid mental images/scenes going on til I saw it was ‘just’ part of their app loading… See? It *could* have been worse.

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