Earlier this month, on Superbowl Sunday, in fact, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick hopped into an Uber Black Car with two female companions for what he thought would be just another easy trip to the destination of his choice. Unfortunately, this particular ride got a little more complicated than he had hoped when his driver, 37-year-old Fawzi Kamel, decided to confront him on Uber’s falling fares, which he alleged had cost him a total of $97,000 and forced him into bankruptcy. After the ride, Kamel rated Kalanick at 1-star and submitted his recorded conversation with the confrontational CEO to Bloomberg.
The first 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the video is nothing more than a series of awkward exchanges between Kalanick and his special lady friends along with a series of random body gyrations to the tune of Maroon 5’s “Don’t Wanna Know”.
That said, things start to heat up when one of the young ladies implies that Uber is having a rough year financially (she must be a reader). Of course, Kalanick responds by implying that burning hundreds of millions of dollars annually is all part of his master plan:
“I make sure every year is a hard year. That’s kind of how I roll. I make sure every year is a hard year. If it’s easy I’m not pushing hard enough.”
But things really get interesting when Kalanick’s driver decides to confront him on falling Uber fares:
Kamel: “You’re raising the standards, and you’re dropping the prices.”
Kalanick: “We’re not dropping the prices on black.”
Kamel: “But in general the whole price is—”
Kalanick: “We have to; we have competitors; otherwise, we’d go out of business.”
Kamel: “Competitors? Man, you had the business model in your hands. You could have the prices you want, but you choose to buy everybody a ride.”
Kalanick: “No, no no. You misunderstand me. We started high-end. We didn’t go low-end because we wanted to. We went low-end because we had to because we’d be out of business.”
Kamel: “What? Lyft? It’s a piece of cake right there.”
Kalanick: “It seems like a piece of cake because I’ve beaten them. But if I didn’t do the things I did, we would have been beaten, I promise.”
Kamel: “But people are not trusting you anymore. … I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. Yes, yes, yes. You keep changing every day. You keep changing every day.”
Kalanick: “Hold on a second, what have I changed about Black? What have I changed?”
Kamel: “You changed the whole business. You dropped the prices.”
Kalanick: “Bullshit. Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”
We must admit that we’re somewhat perplexed by Kamel’s argument as Uber fares, now and in the future, are clearly headed in precisely one direction, irrespective of who’s sitting in the CEO’s chair, and that is, well, down…but it makes for good entertainment anyway.
Fast forward to the 3:50 mark for the fireworks:
As Bloomberg points out, this incident just adds to what has already been a relatively rough couple of months for Uber which has included everything from patent infringement lawsuits to sexual harassment charges to Kalanick being forced to resign from Trump’s business advisory council.
In December, Uber pulled its self-driving cars off the road in San Francisco after the California Department of Motor Vehicles said they were operating illegally without an autonomous vehicle license. In January, more than 200,000 people uninstalled their accounts, and #DeleteUber trended on Twitter, after the company was accused of undermining a New York taxi union strike protesting President Donald Trump’s refugee ban. On Feb. 2, Kalanick reluctantly left his spot on Trump’s business advisory council to appease the company’s liberal-leaning employees and users—not to mention its many immigrant drivers. On Feb. 19, a former software engineer at Uber wrote a blog post alleging that she had been propositioned for sex by her manager and that when she’d taken the issue to human resources, an HR rep had said that he wouldn’t be punished, in part, because he was a “high performer.” On Feb. 23, Alphabet’s autonomous car company Waymo sued Uber and its self-driving car company Otto, accusing an Uber employee of stealing trade secrets by downloading 14,000 files onto an external hard drive. On Monday, Uber’s head of engineering resigned after the company said it learned that he had faced a sexual harassment complaint at Alphabet, his former employer. He denied the allegations.
So where should we set the over/under on Kalanick’s remaining tenure with Uber?
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