Uber CEO apologizes over fare argument with driver

Travis Kalanick, current CEO of Uber [File photo / Xinhua]
Travis Kalanick, current CEO of Uber [File photo / Xinhua]

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apologized to all Uber employees in a note Tuesday evening after he was caught on a dashboard camera in a heated argument with a Uber driver.

“By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement,” said Kalanick in the note shortly after Bloomberg published the six-minute video obtained from Fawzi Kamel, driver of the company’s high-end service Uber Black.

The video caught the verbal altercation in San Francisco between Kalanick and Kamel, who was angry like many other Uber drivers about plunging fares and lower pay.

The quarrel started when Kamel argued with Kalanick for “raising the standards” while “dropping the prices.”

“I lost 97,000 (U.S.) dollars because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you,” Kamel complained, “You changed the whole business. You dropped the prices.”

Kalanick answered back, “You know what? Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their owns. They blame everything in their life on somebody else.”

Kalanick climbed out of the car, spitting “good luck” behind him.

The video quickly sparked social media outrage and revived the campaign of #DeleteUber on Twitter.

Softened from his pugnacious mood in the video, Kalanick wrote in the note that the incident “cannot be explained away.”

“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me — and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” he wrote.

“This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it,” he continued. “I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.”

Changes in Uber’s business model have hurt the income of many Uber drivers, as the company lowered fares to remain competitive against other ride-sharing companies.

As Bloomberg noted, an Uber Black ride cost 4.90 dollars per mile in 2012, while it now costs 3.75 per mile.

“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,” Kalanick said in the video.

ROCKY START OF YEAR

This is just the latest embarrassing story for Kalanick and Uber. The ride-hailing giant has been exposed in a string of negative press coverage over the past three months that all pointed the finger at its toxic corporate culture and dysfunctional management structure.

On Monday, Uber asked its new senior vice president of engineering to resign for failing to disclose a sexual harassment allegation against him at his former post at Google.

More than a week ago, a former engineer at Uber wrote a blog post alleging that the company’s human resources personnel repeatedly ignored her sexual harassment claims as the company was reluctant to punish the “high performer.”

In February, Kalanick quit from Trump’s business advisory council amid intense public criticism, as his membership in the council was being read as support for the billionaire president’s agenda.

In January, the company’s decision to cut surge pricing was perceived by many, not to mention its many immigrant drivers, as undermining a strike by a New York taxi union protesting against U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban. It also triggered a wave of trend to delete Uber’s app in a way to boycott the company.

In December, Uber pulled its self-driving fleet off the road in San Francisco, California, the company’s home town, after the California Department of Motor Vehicles said they were operating illegally without an autonomous vehicle licence.

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