Thursday, February 18, 2016

Letter To The Editor : THE LONDON RIDE-SHARING HOAX

 

"The Knowledge is irrelevant" they cry, "Black cabbies are dinosaurs that refuse to embrace new technology", yawn, yawn, yawn.

As the parties with a vested interest preach to the gullible from the Uber script of inaccuracies.

The black cabbies' factual reply that they have always been the leader in transport despatch technology and were the forerunners in phone app tech years before Uber rode into town, is met by the usual silence from our critics, as if our stereotypical native cockney tongue has been replaced by a softly spoken Chinese accent that they just can't understand.

"The Knowledge is irrelevant now that GPS is here" is their laughable yell, implying that any Uber driver could get into a black taxi, switch on the sat-nav and do an adequate job at impersonating one of London's finest.

As any cabby knows, one of the many reasons people use a London black taxi is because we don't go the 'sat-nav route' and why would we?   
Sat-nav vs black cab challenges have been tried and tested for many years and not once has the GPS come close to beating the brain of the London cabbie, so why would a cabby use something that is inferior to what he already has? 
Remember a sat-nav can do an Uber driver's job but it cannot even come close to doing a black cab driver's job.

Besides, anyone who has researched "The Knowledge" for more than 5 minutes will know, the real aim of the whole process is maintaining the highest standards in public safety. The ridiculous notion that Private Hire drivers go through the exact same background checks as black cabbies is beyond preposterous.

The vigorous scrutiny of Knowledge students throughout the 3 year examination period, in effect, means that by the time he/she has completed it, their character will have been assessed approximately 20 times. Only then are they deemed to be of fit and proper character in order to serve the public. This is just one reason the London black cab trade is unquestionably regarded as not only the world's best taxi service but also one of the safest.

Uber, however, currently need every penny of their eye watering £250,000 per month PR budget to try to portray a safe image of their company to the outside world. This is, and always will be, a never ending challenge for them. As long as they carry on with their "hire anyone" policy they are fighting a losing battle, and the constant media horror stories will continue to pile up day after day.

You only have to look at Goldman Sachs' (one of Uber's major backers) refusal to use them - favouring their main competitor (the black cab) to tell you all you need to know about the standards between London's amateurs and the professionals.

Uber's continual spin and ability to hoodwink the public into believing their rhetoric is remarkable. "We are a poor little ethical start up company facing David and Goliath sized odds in fighting the big nasty taxi monopoly" is their mantra, whilst investor subsidised free rides and unsustainably low fares kill off all competitors creating a monopoly in the true sense of the word.

And Joe Public keeps falling for it hook, line and sinker. 
How many other companies could survive such constant bad press and still come up smelling of roses?

The typical Uber user has a tolerance and acceptance of bad customer service that is astounding, as even the most serious complaints seem to be forgiven by the customer upon receipt of a generic email response that gets "personally" pinged out by the truckload.

Uber's refusal to accept any meaningful responsibility for these complaints is outrageous as is the fact that it is permitted by Transport for London. 

Is it acceptable, that when thousands of user accounts were hacked, Uber deferred all blame by implying that the affected customers had weak passwords?

Is it fair, that Uber only offer refunds in the form of a credit note whilst the customers' hard earned cash sits in $61 billion Uber's bank account accruing them interest. 

And is it genuine, when customers feel compelled to accept dubious surge pricing despite a total lack of proof that there is any real increase in demand. 

Yet what's genuine, fair and acceptable seem to be forgotten by the Uber user, and time after time appalling practices are tolerated once the cringeworthy "Yikes, sorry to hear that" email response is received by the customer.

So why does anyone use them?
Look into the backseat of any Uber car and you will find a perplexed looking passenger staring obsessively at their phone making sure they are not being driven around in circles by an even more confused driver. It's an anxious passenger experience as they try to justify the poor service because they may or may not save £3 at the end of the journey.

But this seems to be the way of the world these days as more and more  people gravitate towards cheap before quality. 

But cheap should never come at the expense of safety. We may all use Easyjet or Ryanair but we are safe in the knowledge that the pilot is a highly trained expert that did not receive their licence in an EU country with vastly inferior standards (as could be the case with any Uber driver's license).
Still the gullible Sloaney Ponies and the Hoxton Hipsters fall for this "groundbreaking" technology, like sheep in a Travis trance unable to grasp the fact that booking a cab through a phone app rather than a phone call is not exactly revolutionary.  
   
They fail to realise that Uber can make their app as slick and shiny as they like, but the bottom line is the product that they provide (the driver) is still an inadequate and inferior version of a black cab driver and the service provided is nothing new or improved from what we have had here since the 1960's.

But apparently the whole taxi industry must adapt to accommodate the weaknesses of our American friends. The ludicrous Tory proposal that it is "in the trade's best interest to simplify the Knowledge and lower standards" is like asking the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to "dumb it down a bit" so that Rizzle Kicks can compete. 
We can only question a possible  ulterior motive as to why the Government would suggest a lowering of the black cabbies sky high bar to fall more in line with Uber's knee high one.

And as funding continues to flood in from investors worldwide, Uber's valuation increases to laughably unjustifiable amounts that suggests an air of stability to an otherwise turbulent company. However, this is not free money, investors inevitably will require a return and then some. In short, here in the real world l'm pretty sure if I borrow £100 from my bank that figure does not now become my net worth, it simply means that with the added interest I am now a further £110 in debt.

It is one thing to have a sky high valuation but quite another to be able to live up to it.
But with friends in the highest places we cannot expect our Government to assess the validity of this company or even do the decent thing and force them to pay the correct amount of corporation tax in the UK. This would surely come across as hypocritical in the extreme, especially as the family business of our Chancellor and our own business secretary (two of Uber's staunchest allies) have been exposed as being tax avoiders themselves. 

Nor can we trust a Prime Minister with more personal connections to Uber than a conflict of interest inquiry would surely allow. But who knows? After mounting public pressure in the wake of the Google tax debacle and with a Government famous for doing more U turns than a Prius on Tottenham Court Road anything could happen!

Along with facing an endless barrage of court cases and pesky regulation battles worldwide, Uber's business model continually appears to be the most unstable and flimsy in existence today. Couple this with a completely disgruntled and demoralised workforce that were sold a dream of pounds and freedom, and are now living with the reality of minimum wage and endless working hours. 

These factors have resulted in many of their own drivers hoping to see the company fail. If a similar app came along charging drivers slightly less commission Uber could see the "Partners" leave in droves.

Similarly any new entrant to the market that abolished surge pricing and raised standards by the smallest percentage could even see the Shoreditch Sheep and countless other customers desert the app for the new arrival. 

This is just one small example of how  fragile Uber's entire business model is, and many financial analysts continue to reaffirm the theory that this "house of cards" could fall at any time.
But even if the smoke and mirrors facade is exposed and things do go belly up for the San Francisco charlatans, at least the backers are safe in the knowledge that the return on their investment would be guaranteed as Uber could just simply sell off all of their assets.....oh, hang on a minute!

Igot Ormed
@JLcab74