When It’s Time To Flee, Uber Raises Its Rates

by C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle

uber exec toys with car and cash


The hip compliment for a startup company is to call it “disruptive.” If that’s the case, the San Francisco ride service Uber has nailed it.

Uber is definitely disruptive. Also infuriating, polarizing and confusing. On Monday, a gunman took hostages in downtown Sydney, and people were frantic to get out of danger. But when they tapped their Uber phone app, they were told that because of high demand, the fare had been increased to four times the usual rate.

Uber handled the ensuing outrage in what has become its usual high-handed fashion. First, it claimed that the price surge was actually helping potential riders. “Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area,” read a tweet from the Sydney account.

Yeah, people didn’t buy that. There were howls of price gouging and also astonishment that Uber didn’t understand that a legitimate crisis is no time to stick it to passengers.

Uber got the message. Within hours it reversed itself completely, announcing via Twitter that it was offering free rides out of the hostage area and refunds to those who had paid the exorbitant fee. They even added a few words to show that they cared.

“We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney,” the tweet read. “Our thoughts are with those affected and the NSW Police Force.”

But c’mon. Was this controversy really necessary? Where was the thoughtful person who took a look at this situation and said: You know what, we’re going to look really stupid and greedy if we do this?

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