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Tech Industry

Don't just blame Uber. Blame yourself

Commentary: How many scandals does it take for people to stop using Uber? How high can you count?

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Perhaps CEO Travis Kalanick knew that nothing would deter enough customers from using Uber.

Money Sharma / AFP / Getty Images

Uber execs were accused of intimidating journalists, skirting the law, berating a driver, supporting President Trump's travel ban and ignoring sexual harassment.

That's just terrible, we muttered as we Ubered our way home. Oh sure, some people joined the #deleteuber trend, but for how long?

In recent weeks, an independent investigation has coincided with a massive executive shakeup at the ride-hailing service.

According to Vanity Fair, Uber's appetite for change may be driven by money types who are tilting the company's valuation downward. However, "there's still a large appetite for the stock," notes Vanity Fair.

The reason is us.

Research tells us that people are more conscious these days about the ethics of companies whose products they use. Fifty-six percent of Americans, says one survey, insist they'll stop buying from unethical companies.

Despite constant evidence that Uber's ethics resemble the emperor's new pink jumpsuit, there doesn't seem to be much evidence that revenue has been affected. In fact, the company claims that revenue tripled last year

Just last week, New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo begged people to vote their conscience. 

"To encourage a better Uber, it's time to play the only card you've got," Manjoo wrote. "If it backslides or otherwise fails to live up to the promises it's making now, stop using Uber."

The spirit is quaint. People haven't deserted Uber, not in sufficient numbers. And why would they? It's just so darned convenient. 

Uber will start to at least act nice now. Its new chief brand officer, former Apple Music exec Bozoma Saint John, is creating a positive spin of the wheels.

On Friday, Uber apparently sent an email to former riders in several markets. 

Business Insider reported that the mea culpa included this sentiment: "In expanding so quickly, we failed to prioritize the people that helped get us here. Ultimately, the measure of our success is the satisfaction of our riders, drivers, and employees -- and we realize that we have fallen short."

The email reportedly went on to talk about the "inexcusable workplace harassment" that occurred at the company. 

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who has publicly accused Uber of promoting a culture of sexual harassmenttweeted on Friday: "So...they can apologize to FORMER RIDERS for the 'inexcusable workplace harassment' but not to the employees who suffered the harassment?"

Well, Uber knows that the customers who went AWOL really didn't go very far.

Fowler seems pretty sure that Uber hasn't suddenly had a true change of heart. She tweeted: "It's all a show. It's all optics. Whatever it takes to win back the riders from the competition, right?"

Uber didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

It doesn't take much to win people over. And how many really need to be won over? People want products that make their lifestyles easier, and they're desperate for it to be in the form of an app.

They'll tell researchers they care about the ethics. But they care more about getting a ride -- right now.

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