#DeleteUber is wrong because it misunderstands surge pricing

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

People are very quick to protest these days and with good reason for the most part, but the #DeleteUber campaign is not one of them. Uber has had a spotty past and doesn't have the best good will with customers, but the reasons behind the #DeleteUber campaign are simply wrong and fundamentally misunderstand surge pricing and what Uber did during the JFK taxi strike.

For background, the whole mess began because of the controversial immigration ban ordered by President Trump. There have been protests around the country by those who disagree with the order and one of those protests was by taxi drivers at JFK airport in New York City, many of whom are immigrants or have family members who are. The misunderstanding comes from the fact that Uber turned off surge pricing at JFK after learning of the taxi strike. People hear that and assume this was an opportunistic act by Uber and a move against the taxi strike, which would then mean Uber was in favor of the immigration ban. But, that's just not true. 

People misunderstand this because they focus on the cost of surge pricing without considering the actual function of it. Surge pricing is all about demand. When there is high demand, Uber's systems automatically kick in the surge pricing in order to incentivize drivers to go to a certain area and meet that demand. Uber is not a traditional taxi system. The company can't order its drivers to go anywhere, drivers choose the fares they want, and Uber can't force more drivers out on the road. What Uber can do is kick in surge pricing to get more drivers on the road and give them more reason (aka more money) to go to an area with high demand. 

So, let's examine what happened at JFK: there was a taxi strike which would have kicked in Uber's surge pricing because of higher demand. Surge pricing would have attracted more Uber drivers to JFK which would have undermined the taxi strike by alleviating the demand for rides with a surplus of drivers looking to cash in on the surge pricing. Instead, Uber turned off surge pricing so Uber drivers wouldn't go out of their way to pick up higher fare rides at JFK, and supporting the taxi strike in the best way Uber could. 

Admittedly, Uber might have been able to completely shut down its app for riders looking to get a car at JFK, but the problem there is that Uber would then be taking the decision away from its own drivers. Uber drivers could very well choose to avoid JFK during the taxi strikes, but because of the relationship between Uber and its drivers, Uber doesn't have the authority to demand its drivers take part in such a protest. The taxi drivers at JFK all work for companies and are part of a union, so they can join together and choose to participate. That sort of thing isn't really possible for a decentralized workforce like Uber has. 

Uber can't order its drivers to avoid an area or support a protest and can't order its drivers to go to a certain area. All Uber can do is remove the built-in incentive it has (surge pricing) that would otherwise prompt drivers to pick up demand in a certain location. Uber can't force its drivers to support a protest in that way, but Uber as a company has publicly come out in support of the protests and against the immigration ban, and is actively compensating drivers for lost wages caused by the ban.

Imagine this in just about any other scenario: say local farmers went on strike. If big agriculture producers want to undermine that strike, they would send more supply to those areas. If they support the strike, they don't send the supply to meet the demand. That's exactly what Uber tried to do: limit the supply of drivers going to JFK by turning off surge pricing because Uber supported the taxi strike. 

Unfortunately, the #DeleteUber protest and media coverage around the incident doesn't seem to understand this. The argument appears to be that turning off surge pricing makes rides cheaper for riders and therefore undermines the taxi strike. What the argument ignores is that cheaper rides don't mean anything if there aren't enough Uber drivers to meet the demand, and that's the real aim of disabling surge pricing: to reduce supply in support of the taxi protest. 

So please, think twice before you #DeleteUber. 



37. DashHax

Posts: 4; Member since: Sep 13, 2013

It's quite shocking to know that there are Americans who don't get the idea of price surge in Uber yet it's been launched quite long time there, I believe. Uber was launched just 7 months ago in my city and almost everyone here understand why sometimes there's price surge.

32. MKeditor

Posts: 97; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

I'm really happy with Uber. I'm giving them my full support. On the other hand, I deleted Lift for their highly political email and their effort to add momentum to the Uber misunderstanding.

33. kiko007

Posts: 7525; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Good for you?

18. RoBear

Posts: 12; Member since: Nov 23, 2015

Actually #deleteUber is right because they crossed a picket line. There is no misunderstanding of what surge pricing is. But thanks anyway. You're right that they can't order their drivers to avoid certain areas, but maybe if the drivers were allowed to organized in some sort of labor pool with central communications (and maybe throw other things in there too like collective bargaining), then they could have avoided crossing a picket line. If only organizations like that existed.

28. TerryTerius unregistered

Even if they were in a union, they still don't actually work for Uber. They are not employees. At least not here in the states.

13. Grenmad

Posts: 38; Member since: Jun 06, 2014

So let me try to understand the social justice warrior slowflake's logic. They are angry at Uber because they didn't support the taxi drivers who were protesting? The same Uber that is killing the taxi industry by giving riders a lower price? Of course that lower price comes as a result of not paying their drivers a living wage or at least $15 an hour, pay commercial auto insurance rates, and pay taxi permits to the local cities.

27. TerryTerius unregistered

It shouldn't be hard to see what happened here. They viewed Uber as lowering their rates and moving in where the taxis were not in order to take advantage of the situation. That isn't what happened, but that's the way it looked to many people.

35. technitude

Posts: 263; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

This is the best comment I've seen here. But I actually think it is hard for people to understand what happened. Uber might see it from their perspective (So they did not benefit "much" from the strike). But the consumer sees it as undercutting "even further" the Traditional Taxi driver. Ironically, NYC is one of the most honest Taxi markets I know. Almost every other city I go to, the Taxi drivers drive to wrong destinations and choose terrible routes to drive up prices. Especially Vegas and Austin. Anyhow, Uber should have just done nothing.

6. aikoo

Posts: 129; Member since: Feb 27, 2016

This is true but that combined with the CEO being on Trumps council and Lyft being first to donate. #DeleteUber was born.

25. TerryTerius unregistered

There are plenty of people on his economic Council, but they are *not* necessarily Trump supporters. Cook and Musk for example do not support Trump, but they've explained the logic in helping out with his monthly counsel anyway. "Personally, I've never found being on the sideline a successful place to be. The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. So whether it's in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage. And we engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree. I think it's very important to do that because you don't change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it's a debate of ideas." - T. Cook “The more voices of reason that the President hears, the better." E. Musk "Simply attacking him will achieve nothing. Are you aware of a single case where Trump bowed to protests or media attacks?" E. Musk "Better that there are open channels of communication.” - E. Musk To be honest, I agree with them. Better to engage with power than to let it make decisions that could affect your business and mission without you ever getting a say.

30. aikoo

Posts: 129; Member since: Feb 27, 2016

I completely agree and was well aware of the fact. I should have included that too, I'm just stating that the common person would see Uber CEO is on his council and they hadn't spoken out about the issue when their competitors did. It wasn't until Lyfts way of addressing the issue and Uber was hit where it hurts, their bank accounts, that they finally address the issue in a similar matter.

31. TerryTerius unregistered

Ah, fair point.

1. Creep

Posts: 193; Member since: Apr 05, 2016

Don't forget that most Americans are idiots. Most don't know what supply and demand means, and most eligible to vote voted for an idiot that already has a disapproval rating over 50%.

2. applesnapple93

Posts: 350; Member since: Jan 06, 2016

the same polls that had him losing by a landslide right? don't listen to liberal media as your only source of information. educate yourself

3. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Technically he did lose by a landslide though.

4. sissy246

Posts: 7129; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

And how is that. Who is setting in the white house and who is not.

5. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I said "technically". He won the election by having 3 million fewer votes. He's sitting in the White House despite badly losing the popular vote.

7. Acdc1a

Posts: 478; Member since: Jan 21, 2016

Kill a few counties in NY and CA and he won the popular vote, also in landslide fashion.

8. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Yes. If we discount votes he'd win the popular vote. Are we playing a game of "state the obvious"?

9. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

if you take out California from the conversation, he won both the electoral and popular vote. Which is the exact reason we have the electoral college. So one state or a few cities (which is about all Hillary actually won if you look up winner by counties) can't control the fate of the entire nation.

10. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

And yet the President is the person that fewer Americans voted for, which doesn't seem to be particularly ideal either.

14. willard12 unregistered

And yet the President was and is still in favor of getting rid of the electoral college. If you want to magically "take out" California. I say we "take out" Texas or states that at one time chose to fight against the United States. In other words, I hate to break the news to you, but citizens in California are indeed citizens of the United States.

16. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

You miss my point. We are not a democracy. We are a representative republic. Short sighted sad liberals need to realize that if we were a democracy we would not have ended slavery or have equalized women and gay rights. Not one of those things ever won a popular vote. The point of "taking out California" is that one heavily populated section of the country has an enormous weight which is counter balanced by the electoral college system. Taking out Texas and it's 38 electoral votes would not have changed the outcome of the election. Trump had an electoral landslide.306 to 232. When people say Trump won in a landslide, he did. The country is vastly more polarized these days than it used to be even 20 years ago. People don't swing vote like they used to. Other than Obama's historic victory, there hasn't been such a spread since Regan.

20. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

What do you consider a landslide? Let's go back to 1980: Reagan - 489 Reagan - 525 Bush - 426 Clinton - 370 Clinton - 379 W. Bush - 271 W. Bush - 286 Obama - 365 Obama - 332 Better than 2, worse than 7. Yeah. Landslide.

29. willard12 unregistered

"There hasn't been such spread FOR A REPUBLICAN since Reagan." There, I gave you the corrected version of Sean Spicer's talking point. Abraham Lincoln won the popular vote by 4 million with the Confederacy fully knowing his agenda. Gay rights have been accomplished mostly due to the judiciary and with referendums (aka popular vote) in some states. So, I'm not sure exactly what point you are trying to make but you definitely don't know what you're talking about. For the record, I'm not against the electoral college. However, the original posts cited that most Americans are idiots and the election was a landslide. The reality is 1-2 percentage points in several states swung the election. And, considering Trump's biggest wins came in the least educated states, Americans are in fact idiots. The national polls were actually pretty accurate in terms of the percentage for each candidate. And, the reality is, whether you like it or not, a majority of voters disagree with the President on this policy and didn't vote for him.

19. RoBear

Posts: 12; Member since: Nov 23, 2015

And if you take out Texas, he doesn't get 270 electoral votes. See how just removing one state is a silly argument? That is also not why we have the electoral college, so maybe read a book?

34. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

Long time no see remixfa, and I'm glad you've side with Trump and not that evil b**** I like how people whining about popular vote, just like you lost the chess games, you keep saying you have more pieces left than opponent. Election is about competition, never meant to be democracy in the beginning. Trump win 30 states, Clinton won 20. Checkmate!

36. WolfmanRobby

Posts: 5; Member since: Nov 24, 2015

Well, that's because we run on an electoral college system that keeps just a few major cities from from controlling our country. We are NOT a Democracy like so many Liberals cry. We are a "Constitutional Republic" - that's because our founding fathers knew that "Majority Vote" is paramount to mob rule. By having an electoral college, each state get's a percentage in the say based on their population. That's why States like New York and California have so many EC votes. But, if we ran on just popular vote, the majority of the nation's cotes would be nullified by just a few cities. Go look at an electoral map that breaks it down by counties. You'll see, even in the states Hillary won, Trump carried a good chunk (If not the majority) of the counties. It's only the big cities like New York, San Fan, Miami, Seattle... That carried Hillary. So, who cares who won the popular vote when that doesn't count?? And, it's for this very reason that the EC will not be gotten rid of. A few cities should not control the decisions of the whol country.

11. jsobotka

Posts: 54; Member since: Aug 21, 2009

Neither of you seem to know the definition of landslide. He narrowly beat Hillary in a number of states that gave him 57% of the electoral votes. The pre-election polls last showed Hillary was ahead by 3.3%. Neither of these qualify as a landslide. In fact, I don't understand why people are so blown away by the polls being wrong. I'm sure my math is a bit off, but I think she ended up winning the popular vote by 1.1%, so that's only 2.2% off from the poll, which is probably pretty close to the margin of error.

12. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

I was just reusing his word for hyperbole. Hillary won the popular vote by 2.1%.

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