After Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s heated argument with an Uber driver over falling fares went viral in spectacular fashion, the last thing he needed was another conversation surfacing in which a driver of the disruptive ride-hailing service took him to task for his company’s policies.
But that’s exactly what has happened as recounted in Fortune scribe Adam Lashinksy’s upcoming book Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination.
In the book, which is available on May 23, the author and Kalanick take an Uber in San Francisco in July 2016.
As with the previous video, which led to Kalanick apologizing for his conduct and pledging to hire a COO at Uber, the driver engages Kalanick in conversation about his company. Lashinky writes: “The driver says he likes the flexibility, though the money could be better.
“When Kalanick tries suggesting the company has lots of ways for people like the driver “to make an extra buck”, the tide turns. “Well, your tech support really sucks,” he says. “That’s true, I’m working on it,” says Kalanick, asking for a few months to fix what’s broken.
“But realizing his captive audience, the driver has more to say. Much more. A laid-off tech-support man himself, he wants to know if Uber’s tech support is overseas. “Some of them are,” Kalanick replies. “But it’s not even about that. I mean it’s partially the story. But the bottom line is I apologize, and it will get better soon.”
The driver, who is not named but who the author states had been recently laid off after 16 years at AT&T, isn’t done: “The driver also complains that he’s not getting e-mails and text messages informing him of guaranteed hours, an incentive program that is a staple for drivers trying to make a living on Uber.
“Kalanick promises to send an email from the backseat, which pleases the driver immensely. “Cool. Because I write to them and they don’t speak English. They don’t know what I’m talking about. I almost wrote a book, because I have pages and pages.” The driver then gives the CEO a lesson on how drivers abuse Uber’s rules.
“For example, many drivers screen rides to avoid undesirable destinations, like far-out suburbs. The two have an unproductive back-and-forth with Kalanick arguing that surge pricing outside of San Francisco means drivers can make good money and the driver insisting the pay doesn’t justify the hassle.”
So far, 2017 has been a hugely difficult year for Kalanick. Uber is conducting a wide-ranging internal investigation into allegations of sexism after a damning blog on sexual harassment at the company by former employee Susan Fowler.
In addition a viral social meme #deleteuber broke out in response to the perception that the company was trying to take advantage of protests over the Trump administration’s immigration ban at New York’s JFK airport and Kalanick resigned from the President’s business advisory council following internal Uber unrest.
Kalanick admits in Wild Ride to having “little moments of arrogance where I say something provocative…Yeah, it’s not good for Uber, it’s not good for me, it’s not good for the people that I’m talking to. It’s bad for everybody.”
He then wonders: “I think there’s this question out there. Is he an a**hole?…Understanding whether it’s real or not, like do I trigger something in certain people that’s related to something that I didn’t do? Or am I an a**hole? I’d love to know…I don’t think I’m an a**hole. I’m pretty sure I’m not.”
Plenty out there would disagree…