I'm a regular user of Uber, the smart-phone-enabled ride-sharing service that has upended traditional taxi service in the dozens of cities it serves.
But goddammit if the people running the show at Uber aren't just turning out to be terrible. Not only are they getting in bed with the very municipal governments that were trying to cab-block them, they did this in Australia:
After an armed gunman took patrons of a Sydney chocolate shop hostage during rush hour Monday morning, the transportation company Uber quadrupled its fares for panic-stricken customers fleeing the central business district.
It charged a minimum of $100 ($82 U.S. dollars) to escape.
As the Sydney Opera House and other buildings were evacuated and images flashed on TV screens of hostages holding a flag bearing the message "There is no God but Allah" and "Mohammed is the messenger of God," Uber tweeted it was raising prices.
The company has defended what it calls "surge-pricing" as necessary to encourage more drivers to pick up passengers when demand is high.
Within an hour, Uber backtracked after the media publicized customer complaints of price-gouging.
Take comfort in that last bit, folks. Part of the market process is customer feedback and public relations. Early on, Uber had great p.r., partly because they were (and still are) providing a service people really want at prices they're willing to pay. But given the company's mounting "asshole problems," they really need to think things through a bit more. It's one thing to enact surge pricing during rush hour and even really bad weather events (most riders are grateful for rides even as the price gets dear). But there are going to be times to take a pass too.