how Uber is turning customers into unpaid, ruthless middle managers
November 4, 2015 10:20 AM   Subscribe

The rating game: How Uber and its peers turned us into horrible bosses. Josh Dzieza writes about how customer rating systems for "sharing economy" on-demand services like Uber, Airbnb and Taskrabbit has made already tenuous employment even more precarious. "We’re not just working for money," an Uber driver told me. "We’re working for ratings, but ratings have no value. Ratings serve only to prevent you from getting fired. Only bad things can happen to you. We’re scurrying like rats after these things with no value."
In March, when Judge Edward Chen denied Uber’s motion for summary judgement on the California drivers’ class action suit, he seized on the idea that ratings aren’t just a customer feedback tool — they represent a new level of monitoring, far more pervasive than any watchful boss. Customer ratings, Chen wrote, give Uber an "arguably tremendous amount of control over the ‘manner and means’ of its drivers’ performance." Quoting from Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, he wrote that a "state of conscious and permanent visibility assures the automatic functioning of power."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (124 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 


We've had a number of discussions on mefi about problems with using student ratings to evaluate faculty (one nice example here).

Student ratings are important and have a degree of value, but no one in their right mind would use student ratings as the sole criterion for making employment decisions about faculty.

Yet, this is exactly what Uber (and other similar companies) are doing.
posted by flug at 10:27 AM on November 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


I had a policy in college of never filling out an instructor review, because it wasn't my place in my opinion. And I find the way many of these companies are trying to crowdsource evaluation to be criminal, because it represents a fundamental abdication of responsibility.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:32 AM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


A reasonable system would be Acceptable/Unacceptable, not 1-5 where you have to maintain at least 4.7.

A 5 star rating is meaningless if it is given for good, but not exceptional, service. It makes the rating system completely worthless due to rating inflation. Nobody should be penalized for being only good at their job and not a fucking superstar. Yet somehow nearly everyone seems to think that is how it should be. I should be able to rate the service delivered at 4 or even 3 stars without worrying I'm going to cause the person in question to lose their damn job. 3 is higher than the numerical average, ffs.

Yet another way in which Uber sucks, but in this particular case they are in no way alone.
posted by wierdo at 10:33 AM on November 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


Yet another way in which Uber sucks, but in this particular case they are in no way alone.

They were one of the pioneers, though.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:34 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


These ride-sharing services allow drivers to review riders as well, though. Abusive customers can get voted down and banned from the system. So it's not a completely one-sided approach. This story shouldn't solely be about "technology dehumanizes workers." It should be, "management misuses technology to dehumanize workers." If surveillance can work both ways, so can ratings.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:35 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


"We’re not just working for money," an Uber driver told me. "We’re working for ratings, but ratings have no value. Ratings serve only to prevent you from getting fired. Only bad things can happen to you. We’re scurrying like rats after these things with no value."

I could totally quote the whole article - the part about emotional labor, the part about racism, the part about being dinged on your ratings for following the rules, the part about the perfect servant who is invisible and anticipates the master's needs.

God, Americans suck. I frown on you, people who like to have low-paid servants cleaning up after you and doing things for you that you should and could do for yourself. I frown, people who are super into "customer service" and groveling. I frown, people who can't handle even five minutes of waiting, discomfort or boredom and who take it out on service staff. Learn to live with average experiences, people. Don't think that only a grand cosmic injustice is depriving you of a 24/7 butler/ass-wiper/chef/sexbot at pennies an hour, or whatever dream you're chasing.
posted by Frowner at 10:35 AM on November 4, 2015 [53 favorites]


I haven't been on AirBnb very long, but was surprised that the first guest treated it like a hotel as opposed to an apartment. I'd been under the impression that AirBnb was specifically so people could share a place to sleep, which naturally means a much wider variety than hotels (which people were happy to accept since it meant paying less). An accurate description and everything nice and clean – all's good, right?

Guest left positive comments but complained in private that there were leaves on my patio. Leaves. In autumn. It had been swept a week earlier.
posted by fraula at 10:38 AM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Apocryphon, the article does talk about the ratings going both ways, and how that can cause problems for customers. However, it also points out that
two-way feedback is often an imbalanced arrangement. To start with the obvious, only one party’s livelihood depends on ratings. Workers and customers are also subject to different standards. Uber drivers are deactivated when their ratings fall below 4.6 (Uber says the exact threshold varies based on the median rating in the area), but there’s no point at which customers are banned for ratings. And while some drivers may skip low-rated passengers, they can be deactivated for skipping too many. There are also asymmetries of information. Handy and TaskRabbit workers both said that customer ratings aren’t displayed at all. Instead, TaskRabbit workers must swap information about bad customers in private Facebook groups.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Even the pick up community has moved from a 1-10 to a would of wouldn't rating system.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:41 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Student ratings are important and have a degree of value, but no one in their right mind would use student ratings as the sole criterion for making employment decisions about faculty.

You assume here that the administrators who are charged with making those decisions care whether anyone believes that they are in "their right mind" or not.
posted by blucevalo at 10:45 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


A reasonable system would be Acceptable/Unacceptable, not 1-5 where you have to maintain at least 4.7.

The joke I made last week was the options should be "my ride was perfect" and "driver should be fired."

The thing about the ratings is that the standard for quality is different for every customer. This is not a reliable measurement of anything, and puts drivers in a bad position. What do we know of parents who change their attitude all the time?

It's building an insane system that will likely start to collapse upon itself somehow, after which Uber launches an improved structure that has been waiting in the wings all this time. Then again, Yelp is still ambling along.
posted by rhizome at 10:46 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


My uber driver yesterday almost hit a bike rider (and when she yelled at him, he made a comment about how he was only looking for cars). So I left a comment after the ride and gave him a low rating.
posted by andoatnp at 10:46 AM on November 4, 2015



Guest left positive comments but complained in private that there were leaves on my patio. Leaves. In autumn. It had been swept a week earlier.


Were they hoping to....eat off of your patio? Were they allergic to leaves and their bedroom window opened onto the patio? I don't understand - fallen leaves on the patio are a time-honored part of fall. What the fuck is wrong with fallen leaves? Fallen leaves are nice, except when time passes and you ultimately have to rake them up.

See, it's this kind of petty tyranny that....oh, it really deprives you of faith in the species. Give people a teensy bit of power and they lose all empathy, proportion, human norms. I don't even understand - people are just so spoiled, at least some people are. I've lived in pretty racketty accommodation most of my adult life, and if it's clean, quiet and passably attractive, I'm doing great. I go to visit people out in the suburbs and it's like a different world - all these expectations that everything look like it's ready for a catalog shoot, everything must be brand new, everything must be instant, no waiting is acceptable, nothing old is acceptable, nothing must show wear or use, everything must be exactly as they envisioned it before they got there.
posted by Frowner at 10:48 AM on November 4, 2015 [23 favorites]


Yeah, the problem with asking everybody what they think is that they'll tell you.
posted by rhizome at 10:50 AM on November 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Guest left positive comments but complained in private that there were leaves on my patio.

You're basically opening your home to every entitled, smartphone-added crybaby with a hundred bucks or so to spend - honestly, I'm amazed Airbnb isn't actually facilitating an endless orgy of fistfights and murder.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:52 AM on November 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


"The customer is always right" has been around and critiqued as a policy for at least a century. It's the price of First World consumerism and false expectations.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:53 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got into some trouble in one job because I refused to do the one-to-five rating on my reports during annual appraisals (which, in general, I objected to. Turns out I'm a pretty objectionable manager, in all sorts of ways). I argued that I wouldn't rate a meat pie on that sort of level, let alone a human doing thousands of hours of work in an impossible-to-quantify job, that nobody ever got a five or a one star rating and precious few got a two or a four, so what was the point in generating a metric which could only be abused or ignored?

If anyone has got a good argument for this sort of thing, even in a highly structured environment such as direct employment where the ratee gets to discuss and sign off on the rating, I'd love to hear it, because I never got one from HR.

This is exactly the sort of thing where an organised workforce in a strong economy can say 'No, thank you' and help generate a better system that actually does something useful.
posted by Devonian at 10:53 AM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


> The thing about the ratings is that the standard for quality is different for every customer. This is not a reliable measurement of anything, and puts drivers in a bad position. What do we know of parents who change their attitude all the time?

We use flywheel (basically, it's a digital hailing app for regular cabs, and it is FANTASTIC). Last week, we had occasion to use it twice in a day or two: the first driver was clearly grumpy about something - he didn't really talk to us at all, but he radiated "I am over this job today" and he got us where we needed to go and it was fine but we noticed the grumpiness; the second driver was friendly and really annoying in that too-chirpy kind of way. If I'd had a way to rate them, I would've rated grouchy more highly than chirpy.
posted by rtha at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Last Uber driver I had was a guy who wrote down the address with an old pencil in a little exercise book for some reason, and had the sat nav turned up so loud that we had to shout, and then he dropped me ten minutes' walk away from where I was supposed to go. I gave him 5 stars though. Who the hell cares?
posted by colie at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: facilitating an endless orgy of fistfights and murder.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's yet another example of communication where all the involved parties define the language differently. One star means a lot of different things to different parties. The same goes for 5 Stars.

You can't have a fair system when all three of these stakeholders are independently defining the meaning of each rating value.

This leads to abuse when one party dismisses the other definitions and puts forward their own, positing it as the definitive definition.

For instance, managers think a rating of 4 stars is one thing, while a rider might think another, and the driver thinks yet another.

They are hiding behind ambiguity.
posted by OwlBoy at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are some interesting parallels to the tipping discussion: In both cases, it would be better if it didn't exist, or at least were severely curtailed. In the absence of that, however, customers who aren't interested in being petty tyrants have an obligation to work around the system: Leave 20% tips, rate at the highest level, regardless of service quality. The only way to break the system is to render it meaningless.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


There have been numerous times when I have dealt with one organization or another on the phone and the person I was talking to asked me to do a survey on their performance and basically came right out and said less than a 5 (top score) would be bad for them. Yeah, they could be trying to pump up their score but still, this rating system usage is becoming ridiculous.

Please rate my comment at least a 5 or my boss will yell at me and I may get fired.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:56 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


We'll never get rid of a bad rating system, because the purpose of the system is to allow the owners to fuck over the workers. Everyone is vulnerable to bad ratings, the bad ratings basically mean what the employer wants them to mean, and the employer "isn't the bad guy" and it's "objective".

For me personally, I loathe the way that capital intrudes into the spirit. While I don't want to be cussed at by a sales person or have my food spit in, I don't want to care about people's baseline affect. It's bad enough that people have to work shitty jobs for shitty wages and no security in a class-conscious, mean, cold, bigoted world - why should I also demand that they act fucking happy? It's a giant process of gaslighting, and it's based on the nauseating selfishness of the middle class - we want to exploit people economically, destroy their bodies, destroy their rest, steal earnings that should by right go to them....but if they look unhappy it makes us feel bad. So we forbid that, too. We not only want All The Things, we demand people's spirit and interiority. We want a world of lies.

People can grump at me all they fucking like. I'll never report them.
posted by Frowner at 11:00 AM on November 4, 2015 [66 favorites]


If I'd had a way to rate them, I would've rated grouchy more highly than chirpy.

rtha is the sensible customer I tried to tell my restaurant managers about when they fussed at me for not smiling enough as a server. One manager told me I'd better "smile [my] ass off," which doesn't even make sense, and certainly wouldn't have made a difference in getting food out quickly and accurately. As has been mentioned, this is one of the inefficiencies of a tipping economy. You get a smiley chirpy good-for-nothing, and the competent worker who keeps it real? Inadequately compensated, harassed, pressured to do the emotional labor of earning $2.13/hour and pretending to be ecstatic about it.
posted by witchen at 11:01 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is exactly the sort of thing where an organised workforce in a strong economy can say 'No, thank you' and help generate a better system that actually does something useful.

That's the key, really. Review systems should protect customers- and labor unions should protect workers. Ideally, we shouldn't have to abolish the former, but instead have management that's wise enough to use customer feedback judiciously without over-penalizing workers for it. And because management is far from perfect angels, organized labor should be able to counter their power. Sadly, we live in an America where unions are moribund. So how do we bring them back, in modernized form, for the 21st century?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:04 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I haven't been on AirBnb very long, but was surprised that the first guest treated it like a hotel as opposed to an apartment.

I know exactly zero people who treat AirBnB as an "apartment". It's a hotel, for cheaper than what a real hotel costs. And since the clientele is self-selecting to be entitled middle-class assholes, you are going to need to be prepared for more than complaining about your leaves.
posted by sideshow at 11:09 AM on November 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


These ride-sharing services allow drivers to review riders as well, though. Abusive customers can get voted down and banned from the system. So it's not a completely one-sided approach.

You'll notice however that there's a third party in this system that seems curiously exempt from ratability.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:13 AM on November 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ratings and similar systems that 1) aren't standardized, and 2) rely on wildly subjective interpretations of what constitutes "good" service, are awful in pretty much every way. I say this as a person who worked for three miserable months in a retail bank, where customers who had recently come into the bank were randomly called to rate their "experience" on a scale of 1-5. We (the workers) got zero credit or reward unless our ratings on every measure came in as a 5. EVEN on things we literally had no control over, like how the person felt about the bank in general or whatever. Of course, there are some people who would not give a 5 to Jesus himself if he happened to be the person who helped them, so that shit goes on your performance review, even if the person was perfectly happy with your service. All based on the fact that they personally believe that perfection (a "5") isn't possible (or whatever).

I also say this as a former waitress who worked in the industry in a number of other roles (bartending, hosting, etc) across a variety of establishments (fine dining, coffee place, cocktail waitress). This is one of many reasons I hate the tipping system - because it relies on Schmo Joe's personal idea of what good service is, which is 1) unknown to his server, unless they can read minds, 2) different for everyone, and 3) subconsciously applied in a racist/sexist way ALL THE TIME. Going to work every day and having your literal pay directly potentially affected by a handful (or more) of maniacs who are either power-hungry or horrible creepers is pretty demoralizing.

This also happens to be why I ALSO hate those employee 360 feedback review systems. Because as someone said above, it's totally abdicating responsibility. If we hired and trained managers better, they would likely be able to evaluate people on the things that are important, rather than based on John From Accounting's bad feelings about me because I didn't smile that one time he told me to.

The whole rating system is totally broken and need to DIAF.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:13 AM on November 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Were they hoping to....eat off of your patio? Were they allergic to leaves and their bedroom window opened onto the patio? I don't understand - fallen leaves on the patio are a time-honored part of fall.

Nope and nope, heh. Terrace is off the kitchen and living room. And yes to the time-honored part of autumn; most of the leaves are from my wisteria plant that's been trained to cover it.

Have chatted with AirBnb as the guest did also give a depressingly low star rating (I don't even want to say how many stars). AirBnb replied, edited for length, "stars are entirely opinion; some guests are more rigid than others." I responded by accentuating "this can lower income for no concrete reason" and have asked whether they'll consider updating their star guidelines so that guests are more likely to think through them objectively. They just replied this, direct quote minus an end part of compliments on my place:
Since the stars are simply an opinion I don't know if we are considering giving more structure to it. As far as if that review will turn away guests, after looking at your listing I don't see why you should have any troubles getting more guests.
They were helpful in saying my listing looks pretty good, so there is that. Shall just have to see how things work out, whether or not it's worth it. (Place is still listed for rent via traditional means too. Not putting all my eggs in one basket.)
posted by fraula at 11:14 AM on November 4, 2015


Unless you're an asshole, your allegiance should be to your fellow workers rather than management. The only way I could ever justify giving a bad rating to an Uber driver is if they committed sexual harassment or other acts of violence against passengers.

Tip 25%, always tip in cash so the bosses can't steal it, and never, ever give anything but the most glowing possible review to any fellow worker, even if you don't like them. Uber management, Taskrabbit management, and all the other parasites aren't entitled to your real opinion.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:15 AM on November 4, 2015 [39 favorites]


Tip 25%, always tip in cash so the bosses can't steal it, and never, ever give anything but the most glowing possible review to any fellow worker, even if you don't like them. Uber management, Taskrabbit management, and all the other parasites aren't entitled to your real opinion.

Yep. If they want an honest evaluation, they can do it themselves.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:18 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless you're an asshole, your allegiance should be to your fellow workers rather than management

This is how we can tell you're not an American.
posted by aramaic at 11:19 AM on November 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


the person... basically came right out and said less than a 5 (top score) would be bad for them

I've had this on several occasions from my local Toyota dealer. They said that if I didn't give them the highest rating ("Awesome!" or some other such rubbish) on the online evaluation form then they'd get a visit from head office to see what was wrong.

Apparently most Brits go for the next category down ("Very good"), which head office reads as "not good enough".

As someone else remarked, I tend to give full marks unless there was something wrong that impacted me in a material way.

And as for smiley-versus-grouchy, give me surly-but-competent any day.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 11:21 AM on November 4, 2015


Just remembered I also had an Uber that actually stank of shit, really badly to the point at which I was concerned that my clothes were also going to smell of it when I got to my meeting. He still got his 5 stars. I guess this might be easier in the UK where most of us are actually embarrassed by the concept and the enactment of 'good service'.
posted by colie at 11:22 AM on November 4, 2015


When I drove a cab, the most common complaint/question I got from passengers was why so many cab drivers were terrible and if there was anything that could be done about it. There wasn't because you'd have to get the guy's license number, then complain to the cab company (who wouldn't do anything about it) or the police hackney division (who wouldn't do anything about it). This just encouraged the race to the bottom, because there were literally no consequences for being absolutely horrible at the job. (This worked out nice for me, because I got tipped well for being merely adequate; when I was on my game I could rake in serious tip money.)

Uber's solution might not be ideal, but to dismiss it outright is to miss a big reason their business is exploding. Even I take Ubers now, because the quality is just light years better. If you can't keep your ratings up you can always go drive a cab, no one in that business will give a shit what you do.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 11:22 AM on November 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Every single thing I ever read about work in America is uniformly nauseating. I hate this place.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:23 AM on November 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


> It's a giant process of gaslighting, and it's based on the nauseating selfishness of the middle class

Well, eventually the problem will be solved by the elimination of the middle class.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:25 AM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Frowner: It's a giant process of gaslighting...

Came in to say this. The asymmetry of information described in the article -- not getting to see the yardstick that’s applied to you, working under rules that are both invisible and unpredictable -- is a defining condition of gaslighting. I’ve thought of these companies as unfair, but I’ve never considered their parallels to emotional abuse before. Just ugh.
posted by miles per flower at 11:25 AM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


The tipping discussion earlier also brings to mind how work culture is different in the U.S. with the rest of the developed world, where tips (and often tax, conveniently) are folded into a lump price that the customer pays, probably to subsidize a more comprehensive social safety net than here. The new tip-less restaurants merits its own FPP, but I've heard from both food industry workers and a recent immigrant Uber driver uphold the sanctity of tips. The food industry workers believed that it provided a way to take pride in their work and to be rewarded for their dedication, and the Uber driver brought it up as an example of American exceptionalism.

So yeah, based on these couple of completely sourceless anecdata points, the American dream still lingers on, the idea of success through hard work, meritocracy, and so forth. And it might be a dying dream, but people still hold on to it, and you need to offer people a better vision in order to get them to abandon it.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:28 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Also, Paul Ford dramatized the dystopian effects of this really well here: One Day, I Will Die on Mars)
posted by miles per flower at 11:28 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This post also reminded me of a recent New Yorker article I had saved but not read yet (I've read it now): The Push Against Performance Reviews
posted by triggerfinger at 11:32 AM on November 4, 2015


Perhaps I'm just lucky or Minneapolis is different, but I haven't had any really bad cab experiences. I'm sure they happen, and I'm not saying that people to whom they happen should just lip up and not complain, but I question whether they happen with as much regularity and awfulness as alleged. I mean, yes, I am not born to the cab door on a silk-padded litter; I am not spritzed with rare essences; the seats are not upholstered in gilded lizard skin; the driver does not discourse to me upon, like, the less-well-known work of Spinoza...I just get in the damn slightly-battered auto, the driver plays some country and western and I am eventually deposited at my destination. That's what I'm paying for, and I'm cool with that. I suspect that a lot of people want a fancy ride from a groveling out-of-work model, and that's why a cab driven by a regular dude seems so inadequate.
posted by Frowner at 11:32 AM on November 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


The problem with any sort of "star" system is that is elides thought and responsibility from the process. I can see where feedback would be useful, but not on some friggin arbitrary scale.

Would you use Uber again? Y/N
Do you have any other comments?

Because Uber already knows everything else. They know when you were picked up, they know when you called, they know the driver's route, they know what the traffic was exactly when you took your ride. The only reason to ask a customer about any of those things is to use them to screw the driver.

If you want to see how useless ratings are, just look at those for an app:

*****
App doesn't do what it says.
*
App works great, but would be better if it did [totally random crap]
*
App doesn't do something specifically listed as something it doesn't do.
***
OK, I guess.

None of that tells me a damn thing.
posted by maxwelton at 11:34 AM on November 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yesterday, I went to the worker orientation for one of the companies mentioned here. When they got to the part about the ratings (you need to maintain a 4.5 average) I got incredibly anxious. Such a small room for error means that one negative review can get you banned from the entire platform, especially if you receive it early-on. The company made it very clear that there is no recourse if you get a bad review, either. And why would there be, when the company can just boot you from the service and let in one of the thousands of other people who are desperate enough to do the job?

(This company will also ding its contractors £10 for being late or leaving early, and charge you the entire cost of a scheduled job if you cancel it too late. But they're not your bosses, no, not at all.)

(The future we've made is garbage.)
posted by aedison at 11:37 AM on November 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


When I drove a cab, the most common complaint/question I got from passengers was why so many cab drivers were terrible and if there was anything that could be done about it. There wasn't because you'd have to get the guy's license number, then complain to the cab company (who wouldn't do anything about it) or the police hackney division (who wouldn't do anything about it). This just encouraged the race to the bottom, because there were literally no consequences for being absolutely horrible at the job. (This worked out nice for me, because I got tipped well for being merely adequate; when I was on my game I could rake in serious tip money.)

Uber's solution might not be ideal, but to dismiss it outright is to miss a big reason their business is exploding. Even I take Ubers now, because the quality is just light years better. If you can't keep your ratings up you can always go drive a cab, no one in that business will give a shit what you do.


Yes, because the grind of customers treating employees in the service economy like utter crap has no part of why said employees decide that there's no point to doing a good job.

And the reason the "quality" of Ubers is "higher" is because they're more than happy to kick their employees to the curb the moment they no longer fit the image. You want to defend that, be my guest - but know what you are defending.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:45 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yet another way in which Uber sucks, but in this particular case they are in no way alone.

They were one of the pioneers, though.


We'll, no. These kinds of rating systems have been around for a while longer than uber, used by a variety of large corporations oriented toward customer service. They have, ime, been notoriously fraught with difficulties because they treat anything other than 100%/A+/10-out-of10 scores as failures with little or no accommodation for situation context.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:47 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is how we can tell you're not an American.

We have a long history of working class solidarity, self-help, and organizing, despite what you may have heard in school.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


We're moving away from a 1-7 survey scale at my company to something brilliantly simple:

*What did we do right?
*What did we do wrong?
*What could you improve upon in the process?

Each question is designed to elicit a tangible written response in that will allow us to fine tune our processes. I personally am looking forward to this as it will give me actionable items to review for my team.

However, this will present a bit of a challenge for our business development teams. ALL of our competitors use some version of a numerical ratings system (probably gamed or manipulated, knowing our competitors) that they present as part of the sales process. Imagine that, all of our competitors are "6.2 on 7 point scale" or something similar. My company will no longer have the ability to put metrics on our customer service, and considering that some RFIs and RFIs demand a number as part of the sales / procurement process, we may find ourselves artificially eliminated from some new opportunities.

Of course, our new survey model will open other doors and indeed as we've presented this idea to some of our trusted clients, including major American retailers and banks that are household names across the country, they have been uniformly in favor of this new, simpler approach.
posted by lstanley at 11:56 AM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


South Park covered this a few weeks ago, with Yelp instead of Uber.
posted by bonje at 11:58 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm just lucky or Minneapolis is different, but I haven't had any really bad cab experiences. I'm sure they happen, and I'm not saying that people to whom they happen should just lip up and not complain, but I question whether they happen with as much regularity and awfulness as alleged.

Maybe? They happen all the time in NYC. My experience has been that yellow cab drivers here are extremely likely to do one of the following:
-Refuse to take me where I want to go
-Talk on the phone while driving
-Drive dangerously
-Take an unnecessarily long or roundabout route
-Claim that their credit card reader is broken or give me a hard time for using a credit card

I am a man, and so have not experienced the sexual harassment that my female friends report - I take them at their word that it happens.

When these things happen, there's nothing much you can do, especially since most New York cab drivers have modified their door locks to allow them to lock you in the car.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:04 PM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


the reason the "quality" of Ubers is "higher"

In London at least, this was simply down to the velocity of change in capitalism that the Uber app enabled with its instant deregulation and (like all tech companies) avoidance of paying any tax, ever. So initially this windfall was shared around. Uber drivers I have spoken to were earning over 300 pounds a day quite easily a year ago, and now speak wistfully of that time. They were easily meeting payments on brand new Benzes. Passengers are still paying less than they used to for proper black cabs.
posted by colie at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have so far used Uber exclusively to get home from various places. I never give less than a five-star rating. It doesn't feel safe. They literally know where I live.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:10 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shit, who rates uber drivers less than 5 stars? Did they get me where I was supposed to be going? Were they not intoxicated or crazy? Of course they get 5 stars. Bottled water and mints is just gravy, and it's not expected and I usually turn it down. Why should they feel obligated to cut into their megre profits to give me free shit?

Rate em all 5. Never had a driver that deserved anything less.
posted by Thoth at 12:11 PM on November 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


My company started using the "Net Promoter Score" metrics for customer satisfaction surveys a little while ago. On that scale, anything lower than a 9 is basically unacceptable, which makes me wonder why you really need a 10-point scale if the results are so binary.

They've also turned the metric on themselves and asked all employees to use the same rating on how we think the company is treating us. It really bit them in the ass, though, when they discovered that by their own metric most of their employees think they suck when they love to talk about what a great place to work this is.

WRT to Uber specifically, on one of the first times I used it, I gave a driver 3 stars because he was very unsure about where he was going even with his GPS and kept asking me for directions (which was useless, as I was not from the area). I had no idea at the time that a 3 was a kiss of death score on their scale and have felt guilty ever since to think I might have cost the guy his job.
posted by briank at 12:20 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bad cab experiences have been the rule, not the exception, for me when I lived in San Francisco. And it was not just me - cabs were notorious for having to be called an hour in advance, or not showing up at all. And women often had really scary experiences - the murder of Julie Day was an extreme example, but being creeped on was common. And the credit card readers were ALWAYS broken.

So I can see why Uber and the related Lyft took off so hard in this area. I haven't tried the Flywheel app that rtha mentioned, but maybe I will. I don't expect a luxury limo, but I do expect that my taxi actually show up, and show up on time, that it not stink to high heaven, and that my driver is competent and not creepy. "Gruff" I don't care about, since I don't need to make small talk with my driver, but "not creepy or scary" would be nice.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:24 PM on November 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is how we can tell you're not an American.

American by birth, communist by inclination. I suppose if you like you could think of me not as an American, but as a temporarily embarrassed member of the People's Revolutionary Commune of Oakland — problem is, we haven't quite gotten around to founding that yet.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:32 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I haven't tried the Flywheel app that rtha mentioned, but maybe I will. I don't expect a luxury limo, but I do expect that my taxi actually show up, and show up on time, that it not stink to high heaven, and that my driver is competent and not creepy.

Flywheel is awesome. I suppose it helps that we live near a taxi depot, and not far from a hospital, so there are always cabs nearby, but I don't think we've ever waited more than three minutes. All the cars (they are registered cabs) have been clean and well maintained, and if my worst complaint is the driver is too chipper, well, that ain't bad at all.
posted by rtha at 12:51 PM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is so silly, how on earth are these drivers NOT employees of the Uber company?

There's a class action lawsuit about that exact question in the docket currently. The rating system is just one piece of evidence in it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed; capping off a comment by prophetically picking a fight with other users is not a good way to go, either participate because you feel like you've got something to add or don't.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2015


Because Uber already knows everything else. They know when you were picked up, they know when you called, they know the driver's route, they know what the traffic was exactly when you took your ride. The only reason to ask a customer about any of those things is to use them to screw the driver.

Not true. My last Uber ride stunk of cigarette smoke, and I rated the driver negatively because of that.
posted by gyc at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2015


I've done a bit of Ubering both as a driver and a passenger. Drivers have become sensitized to the rating system recently and a great many are now down rating passengers for the most trivial of things. I will not pick up a passenger with a rating lower than 4.7 since such passengers are much more likely to down-rate me. This is not uncommon for drivers to do. If you have to tell a passenger "no" for anything you will get a "4" or lower - leading to eventually being fired. Because of this, I no longer tell passengers , "No you can not bring alcohol into the vehicle" but rather simply tell them that I can not take them and drive away without starting the ride.

Since drunks and highly aggressive/entitled passengers also will tend to (i.e. inevitably) rate lower, It has become standard practice now for drivers to size up a passenger before starting the ride and if the passenger is rude then the driver cancels the ride without starting (which means the passenger can not rate) and tells the passenger to call for another Uber.

It's my opinion that the rating system is as it is in order to increase turn-over among the drivers as drivers with lower than 4.6 ratings get fired withing a few weeks if they do not bring the ratings back up. Uber wants drivers to not be considered employees and the longer that a driver works for Uber the more the courts traditionally tend to consider the "contractor" a de-facto employee.

Uber cares nothing.... nothing at all .. for it's drivers and the drivers have noticed and their attitudes have worsened. This all has caused a large crack in Uber's business model which will only get larger in the very near future.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 2:03 PM on November 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


Siskel & Ebert had this figured out decades ago: it's thumbs UP or thumbs DOWN, no goddamn equivocating "meh, it was alright" bullshit rating, no preposterous masturbatory expectations that any conceivable analysis could have any use for the so-called nuances that compel a person to award, say, a 6 over a 7, no inscrutable horseshit like "two and a half stars," it was GOOD or BAD and they can talk about it IF YOU WANT but their wholesale rejection of the idea that ANY of us have brains sufficiently unclogged with mush that we can make meaningful sense of anything other than a motherfucking binary rating system is what made them TRUE AMERICAN HEROES.

Companies that decide the fate of a worker's pay or continued employment on the garbled nonsense 99% of us retch out onto any kind of incremental ratings system that gets shoved in front of us should be removed from the economy BY INVIOLABLE FEDERAL LAW, their shareholders and executives forced to spend the rest of their productive lives as subsistence farmers. Good Christ almighty.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:07 PM on November 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I should also add that cab rides in America are as bad as they are because traditionally cab companies have cared nothing about the drivers (long, hours, low pay, exploitation) leading to employee dissatisfaction and apathy as well as fewer quality employees desiring to do the work.

Uber is exploiting it's drivers in the very same manner leading now to the very same result. Most people do not realize that it is Uber's business model to start driver wages (i.e. your rates) in a new market at a reasonable and very livable wage and then cut that wage (rates) 40% - 60% over the following 2 years. Save for a relative few lucrative markets such as New York and San Francisco most Uber drivers now make 10-12 dollars an hour or less after expenses such as gas, insurance and reasonable vehicle depreciation is taken into account.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 2:12 PM on November 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Because Uber already knows everything else. They know when you were picked up, they know when you called, they know the driver's route, they know what the traffic was exactly when you took your ride. The only reason to ask a customer about any of those things is to use them to screw the driver.

Not true. My last Uber ride stunk of cigarette smoke, and I rated the driver negatively because of that.


I think that would fit under the "Do you have any other comments" part of maxwelton's comment. I don't remember if Uber's rating system allows for comments, but if you're rating someone poorly based on [whatever thing] and there's no place to indicate why the low rating, Uber isn't going to know anyway, which I think was the point of that comment saying the star system is useless.

Even if you are allowed to put in your comments to explain the low rating, I'm pretty sure Uber isn't applying any sort of thoughtful consideration to it. You might give one star and say "it smelled like cigarettes!" another person might give someone one star and say "i made a pass at her and she said no!" and to Uber, it just looks like a negative rating. There might be edge cases where they disregard obviously ridiculous ratings, but I'm guessing the "why" usually doesn't matter (if my experience with these systems is anything to go by), especially when most of these things are very, very gray areas anyway. How is Uber going to judge if your complaint is valid when they have no idea what your idea of "it smells bad" is? My mom will walk into a house where someone smoked half a cigarette once ten years ago and think it reeks of smoke. Most other people who don't have a wonder nose aren't going to notice a thing. A star system is a quantitative measurement, which is why companies like it. But when it's wholly based on things as arbitrary as an individual's personal preferences, it's a real problem.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:24 PM on November 4, 2015


I've done a bit of Ubering both as a driver and a passenger. Drivers have become sensitized to the rating system recently and a great many are now down rating passengers for the most trivial of things. I will not pick up a passenger with a rating lower than 4.7 since such passengers are much more likely to down-rate me. This is not uncommon for drivers to do. If you have to tell a passenger "no" for anything you will get a "4" or lower - leading to eventually being fired. Because of this, I no longer tell passengers , "No you can not bring alcohol into the vehicle" but rather simply tell them that I can not take them and drive away without starting the ride.

Something I've been wondering is if it's feasible for Uber drivers to start offering rides directly rather than going through the company dispatch, by (for example) giving good customers cards with your phone number so that they can just call you for future rides instead of using the app.

yes okay I have fantasies about there being some sort of service, call it "Unter," maybe, where Uber drivers and former Uber drivers band together to set up their own dispatch services run on a co-op basis (maybe even hiring programmers to write an Uber-like app), thereby bypassing the corporate middlemen altogether.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:36 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


>it's feasible for Uber drivers to start offering rides directly rather than going through the company dispatch,

Doing do inevitably violates local ordinances which prohibit you via heavy fines from operating in the exact same manner that Uber does because you are not a 50 billion dollar company who has paid off the correct local politicians have not insured that your vehicle is operating in conformance with local laws.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 2:42 PM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


huh. Do Uber, Lyft, et al officially operate as black car services, or what? I was imagining (hi, I'm You Can't Tip a Buick, and I spend too much time imagining things) that that would be how a hypothetical Unter-type service would be registered...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:50 PM on November 4, 2015


You Can't Tip a Buick

But apparently you can give the Buick's driver a bad rating.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:56 PM on November 4, 2015


the driver cancels the ride without starting

This doesn't negatively impact you? Someone above said that if you do that too many times you ALSO get fired. Not true, or just it takes quite a few, or...?

Something I've been wondering is if it's feasible for Uber drivers to start offering rides directly rather than going through the company dispatch, by (for example) giving good customers cards with your phone number so that they can just call you for future rides instead of using the app.

I don't see how this would be a good arrangement for the passenger. The whole point is that the service is easily available whenever, and if you have to call one guy directly, it seems to me that there would be a good chance he's not available or convenient at that moment.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:58 PM on November 4, 2015


> Not true, or just it takes quite a few, or...?

It takes quite a few cancels to impact me but only one schmuck who rates me a "1" out of 9 other perfect "5s" to bring me down to a 4.6 rating. Eliminating the 10 - 15% of awful riders by working the odds and preemptive canceling is now the only way to insure longevity. Many of us will no longer work college campuses because of this.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 3:04 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The whole point is that the service is easily available whenever, and if you have to call one guy directly, it seems to me that there would be a good chance he's not available or convenient at that moment.

yeah, true. Sigh. How will we ever manage to disintermediate the disintermediators...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:11 PM on November 4, 2015


I'd rather crawl than use one of these alt-car services. The whole sharing economy thing icks me out in so many ways.

Benjamin Walker's Theory of Everything podcast had a great mini series, Instaserfs, on this topic. In parts [1] [2] [3]. Did I say it was a great mini-series? I did? Well, it was.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:26 PM on November 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm feeling inspired by You Can't Tip a Buick's comment above and these articles: Socializing Uber will never happen, but it's possible someone can carve out some other space in the "Sharing Economy" that is more share-ey.
posted by azarbayejani at 3:27 PM on November 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wow, thanks for those links! I'm both surprised and heartened to see that my half-baked idea isn't just a half-baked idea.

though I'm also saddened that no one else has thought of my awesome rideshare co-op name. come on guys: Unter! It's a perfect name! It's right there! take it!
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:42 PM on November 4, 2015


Oh also, there's an amazing looking conference at the New School next week called Platform Cooperativism.
posted by azarbayejani at 3:48 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


And here is a page with a list of the participants. Which I'm linking to largely because next to all those pictures of hip artists and super put-together professional types, Richard Stallman's picture makes him look even more... Richard Stallman... than he usually does.

I wonder if he'll come as Saint Ignucius...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:57 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that most people do not realize that this brand spanking new breakthrough disruptive paradigm that companies like Uber/Lyft/AirBnb are pushing is merely the same old piecework model of worker exploitation that was endemic in the late 1800s/ early 1900's that Unionization fought so hard to eliminate.

Relevant quote:
"There can be improper record keeping at the hands of supervisors attempting to cheat employers, and can build piece rate systems that prevent workers from earning higher wages. This is often at the cost of both the worker and the enterprise though, as the quality and sustainability of the business will be threatened by decreases in quality or productivity of workers attempting to stay afloat"

Instead of Robber Baron exploitation we have today that model being employed by multi-billion dollar Internet corporations but it is still the same old same old.

Relevant fact: In the past 2 months Uber has increased it's Safe Rider Fee in almost all markets by 80%, none of which goes to the driver and all of which gets deducted from each and every driver's minimum ride earnings.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 4:29 PM on November 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


One of my major complaints about cabs is the lack of any way to report illegal behavior, harassment, or dangerous driving. I decided I was done with DC cabs after a driver did not have functional seatbelts, drove insanely, and was a rude jerk to boot. Basically my formal complaint wen down a black hole and with no response.

I've also had several super creepy cab drivers where I felt like there was nothing I could do about it.

Anecdotally, a ton of cab drivers I've had talk on cell phones or text while driving. This is not only illegal where I live, but multi-tasking while driving is proven to be extremely dangerous. I think it's great that ratings systems help prevent this kind of behavior. Honestly, by keeping drivers focused on driving has probably prevented accidents and maybe even saved a few lives.
posted by forkisbetter at 4:32 PM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of the things that David Harvey typically says when he's teaching his class on Volume 1 of Marx's Capital is that when he first started teaching Capital, about 30 years ago, his students were confused about how Volume 1's discussion of Victorian-era methods of hyperexploitation applied to their own lives. He'd explain that in the contemporary era, capital tends to use more subtle and sophisticated methods of exploitation, methods that Marx had begun to outline in Capital's (incomplete) Volume 2.

He then adds that one way you can see the thoroughgoing success of the Reagan/Thatcher counterrevolution is by the fact that his students now no longer raise the objection that Volume 1 doesn't apply to their lives. Thanks to changed conditions, it's obvious to all of them that Volume 1 is once again relevant.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:37 PM on November 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I question whether they happen with as much regularity and awfulness as alleged.

That seriously depends on where you are. Amsterdam taxi drivers are often pretty awful and there is literally no way to complain when they do something awful: refusing short fares (once to my father who was carrying an oxygen tank! Another time to a friend suffering from ovarian torsion and trying to get a ride to the hospital!), ripping off elderly tourists (charged elderly relatives an extra 10 euros per bag and convincing them it is legal to do so), have no functioning seatbelts, talk on the cell phone while driving, pretend their card payment machine doesn't work and then scream at you for not having cash, and threaten violence to people in a cab line who wanted to go with a particular cab company (perfectly legal to take whichever cab you want in a line) instead of the guy in the front of the line.

After the thing with my Dad, I actually got a picture of the guy's license and tried to complain. Took me two hours of research to find the appropriate government website and after some calls discovered that it took 5 separate documented complaints before the government would open an investigation. The cab company was utterly uninterested.

I am not saying this to defend Uber's rating system, because that sucks. But because there has to be some kind of happy medium for riders about how to ensure they won't be ripped off or threatened during a ride. Uber succeeds because the traditional companies are not willing to do so and I have literally no idea why. Most of the heavy Uber users I know are not taking it because they love to judge the working class, but because they want to feel safe and have some measure of control about the quality of the ride. I would *love* to see a cab model which managed to protect both drivers and riders, and it surely must be possible. An app with a clear complaint mechanism, for example, rather than a rating system.

I haven't had a car for close to 15 years, so sometimes I really need a cab despite walking most places and public transportation. So I probably get more worked up about this than most.
posted by frumiousb at 4:48 PM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


(And I don't use Uber, for the record. I don't like the company or its policies. But that's a different discussion.)
posted by frumiousb at 4:55 PM on November 4, 2015


That seriously depends on where you are. Amsterdam taxi drivers are often pretty awful and there is literally no way to complain when they do something awful: refusing short fares (once to my father who was carrying an oxygen tank! Another time to a friend suffering from ovarian torsion and trying to get a ride to the hospital!), ripping off elderly tourists (charged elderly relatives an extra 10 euros per bag and convincing them it is legal to do so), have no functioning seatbelts, talk on the cell phone while driving, pretend their card payment machine doesn't work and then scream at you for not having cash, and threaten violence to people in a cab line who wanted to go with a particular cab company (perfectly legal to take whichever cab you want in a line) instead of the guy in the front of the line.

British cabbies are the same. I lived there for years and didn't have a car and taking a taxi was a genuinely unpleasant experience more often than not. From drivers berating me for the entire trip about how the place I wanted to go was too far or not far enough and they lost their place in the queue and on and on fucking ad nauseam. On more than one occasion, I got a cab from the grocery store and after loading all my bags in and telling the driver where I was going he made me unload everything and take the next cab because he didn't want to go that far. I have a ton of other stories like that. There has to be a better way.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:28 PM on November 4, 2015


For me, the difference the rating system makes is that I'm not terrified to take Uber. Pretty much every Uber experience I've had has been better than every taxi experience. It's not the driver's attitude that I care about, it's about getting me where I need to go without putting myself or others in high danger of injury or death.

The result makes it more likely that I drive less, take transit and walk more, and that others are willing to do the same. Which makes for a safer, healthier, and more sustainable city. I don't think the rating system is perfect or entirely fair, but the taxi status quo is pretty atrocious.
posted by parudox at 5:40 PM on November 4, 2015


... and now that I think about it I realize that David Harvey has now been teaching Capital for over 40 years now, not 30, and suddenly I feel very, very old.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:09 PM on November 4, 2015


I frown, people who are super into "customer service" and groveling... We not only want All The Things, we demand people's spirit and interiority. We want a world of lies.

"I'm thankful to be working, but gratitude born of desperation is no comfort..." (via)
posted by kliuless at 6:09 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not an uber driver, but my job is a lot like that. Customers rate me and the level I have to stay at is a little ridiculous. It's made me a little insane, I won't lie, or at least exaggerated my existing insanity. :-(

I could get a different job, but this one has perks I like. (Not unlike uber, I have total flexibility, among other things, which is something that draws me like a pie in a windowsill draws a cartoon hobo, no matter how unhealthy the downsides are.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 6:14 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Should we manage to build a decent world from the shitshow of a society we're living through, giving non-perfect reviews in narc-on-your-fellow-workers systems will be seen as tantamount to crossing a picket line. sure, you can do it... but if anyone finds out you've done it we'll break all your windows for you right quick.

The only situation where I could support customer rating as a practice is if somehow we could rate the company providing the service, rather than the individual workers, and if companies with overall ratings below 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 had to go out of business.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


God, Americans suck. I frown on you, people who like to have low-paid servants cleaning up after you and doing things for you that you should and could do for yourself. I frown, people who are super into "customer service" and groveling. I frown, people who can't handle even five minutes of waiting, discomfort or boredom and who take it out on service staff

You are probably already well aware of this, but this is part and parcel of the American way. What America promised in the colonial era was that each man could be his own lord. "Freedom" was not escaping a land feudal bondage as it existed in the old world but the ability to recreate it in the New World with yourself in charge. We love the ability to order people around, just as we insisted that we be allowed the freedom to own slaves.

The end of middle management has just meant that the middle class has generally fewer outlets to express their need to order people around and so have to resort to using service workers as their target.

(in fairness, I generally prefer nice hotels to merely functional ones, and I do need to find a cleaner)
posted by deanc at 7:09 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even Uber has to live by the sword. I note that their app right now has a 4-star rating.

(And while I'm on the topic of App Store ratings: What sucks is that they reset the rating after every update, so you have to beg for reviews in the app after every update. Users are leaving reviews far less than they were a few years ago, so apps that are updated often and don't have a zillion users tend to have too few reviews to show a rating.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:38 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


>Even Uber has to live by the sword. I note that their app right now has a 4-star rating.

Except that when Uber's App gets only 4 stars Uber's CEO is still going to make his tens of millions a year and the investors collectively will make their billions.

When an Uber driver gets four stars she (eventually) loses her job and can no longer feed herself or her family.
So it's not really the same thing at all.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 7:59 PM on November 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


You're right, the app store rating isn't that important for an entrenched app like Uber. The stock price is the real rating.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:34 PM on November 4, 2015


>The stock price is the real rating.

Uber has no NYSE stock price. It is not a public company. I assume that you mean it's market valuation.

Uber owns no cars. It employs none of the 140,000+ drivers that drive. It has NOTHING - zero (OK maybe a $10 background check) - invested in 95% of the people who work for it. Uber owns no new or amazing patents on technology - nothing that other platforms, such as Lyft, have easily duplicated. Uber manufactures - nothing. It does nothing that many other companies, albeit with far less funding) are doing right now

And yet it is valued at 61 Billion dollars.

So even if you meant market valuation - I would beg to disagree. Uber is a bubble waiting for enough chumps to invest before it bursts. FYI : Uber's prime investor now is Goldman Sachs. That's right the very same people who brought you the 2008 economic crash.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 8:59 PM on November 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


The rating game: How Uber and its peers turned us into horrible bosses

What's this "us" shit, kemo sabe?
posted by Spatch at 9:12 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not true. My last Uber ride stunk of cigarette smoke, and I rated the driver negatively because of that.

Does it bother you that you may have fired them?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:00 PM on November 4, 2015


I've done driving for both Lyft and Uber. It's not just the ratings, it's the arbitrariness of them. I've gotten dinged for:

-Wearing too much cologne (I don't wear cologne and am allergic to scents)
-Not having a scent in the car
-Car is too hot
-Car is too cold (on the same day, back to back)
-Dropping someone off in a dangerous neighborhood (well, that's where they requested to go)
-Taking too long to find the destination (they described it as "Uh, I dunno? It's like a green house by the lake somewhere?" so I had to drive around the lake until we found it)

Etc.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:14 PM on November 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


That said, consumer side, I'd still rather deal with Uber or Lyft than trying to find a taxi in San Francisco or LA where they are nonexistent/awful/all have mysteriously broken credit card machines.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:14 PM on November 4, 2015


China's star system - "How will policymakers develop a score chart that incorporates the social, moral and financial history of an entire population? This analysis looks at plans by Beijing to create a credit scoring system for its citizens."
posted by kliuless at 11:42 PM on November 4, 2015


Couple weeks ago I picked up a really drunk passenger who insisted on giving me directions that were financially harmful to him. He called his girlfriend and I had to listen to him being verbally abusive in more ways than I can count.

I could hear her. "We were supposed to go over to X and play chess and bridge but you would rather get drunk." He hit her with every slur in the book of slurs.

When we reached the destination, he would not get out. Still too busy telling GF that all her things were going to be out on the lawn. I asked him nicely, then I got surly and I was challenged to a fight. I had to go. Dispatch was wondering why things were taking so long. I got out lickety-split and he did too, called me a nigger and fell down. He was out.

Ten days later I pick up this nice couple at a movie theater and take them to a pizza place. They argued about whether he should get a pitcher of beer. "Come on, we've had a nice day." Then I get them again to go home and she asks me about bad fares and I tell her about drunk guy and guy asks "Was it me?" His tone was deflating. These people are always behind me and I never get a good look, but that was him.

I asked him what he remembered about that night. Nothing. He just woke up on the cold grass. The ten stages of denial went on until I started quoting what I'd heard from the other end of his phone and GF confirmed. He was ashamed and she was pissed. We shook hands. Maybe he will get some help.

There are some good car services out there. Find them. Uber sucks money out of your local economy.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:59 AM on November 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Related to this and the recent Peeple furor, I just learned about this app, The Grade - Make the Grade or Be Expelled. It's basically the Peeple concept but for dating. Horrible right?

But the thing is, I learned about it through the Bye, Felipe instagram account, which on the whole I was on board with for unveiling the sexist dregs women put up with in internet dating. I guess they think this app is a great idea because it's trying to position itself as something that protects women (ie if you treat women terribly then you'll get a 'bad grade') but it doesn't sit right with me.

I don't see how this can't be flipped around so that vengeful guys could give a bad rating to a women? So I don't know how this is any better in protecting women from abuse. Secondly, you can be pretty dang *specific* about how you grade a person - you can grade their profile (what does an A+ profile even mean?), their messaging behavior, and an overal peer review!

And I don't know how, but it's even worse than Peeple, because you can give ratings anonymously! And they give you suggestions for how to tag people #armcandy! #cleansupnice!

I want to get off this world.
posted by like_neon at 3:41 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hate this entire fucking system.

I feel a lot of guilt and pressure, for reasons mentioned above, to always rate 5 stars. But i've had genuinely shitty, clueless, or just bullshit drivers and experiences.

And really, i hate that i feel bad reporting a driver who literally almost ran over my partners mother in reverse, or the driver who picked up a couple random women to "party with" per the phone call with him that ensued and charged the ride to my account.

I end up going "Ok, that was egregious and stupid, but does it REALLY merit someone likely getting fired?". Because it merits a low rating with a comment, but the broken system means you're always weighing whatever shitting thing the driver did against whether they should lose their job. And you hold all the fucking power, unreasonably.

So i ended up in a place like the commenters above. Barring sexual harassment, violence, or some kind of thing that feels like a huge personal/driving safety violation... nah.

And it's shit, because this kind of service NEEDS the equivalent of the mefi contact form that's handled in that way and isn't just a drop box for "this driver made me unhappy" "ok fired".

But they wont. For the same reason that they don't have a fucking customer phone number(which should be SO illegal). They don't want to do any support or evaluation. And so far, that's working for them.

I'm sure they happen, and I'm not saying that people to whom they happen should just lip up and not complain, but I question whether they happen with as much regularity and awfulness as alleged.

In Seattle, every single person i know has at least one terrible cab story. Women, pretty much unilaterally, always have several. Uber might suck, but at least they track the path of the car and you're allowed to put in an address first as a destination. If the driver takes you to some random side street to proposition you, or drives you all over town being creepy, there's a record. They also can't pull off and not drop the meter then start a fight with you when you arrive about how much you should pay(i can think of at least 5 times this happened to me, seriously), or pretend their card machine is arbitrarily broken and try and drive you to an ATM with the meter on(at which point once you flip out enough its suddenly functional), or...

Friends of mine who work at bars, or strip clubs, or just run/work at businesses that close late like that and end up needing to take cabs home often could talk your ear off for hours with jaw dropping stories.

Uber might be a shit company, but even the slight veneer of accountability made a GIGANTIC difference. Not handling payment in the vehicle was a large part of it, and the tracking/predetermined destination(and ability to share progress!) was another.
posted by emptythought at 3:47 AM on November 5, 2015 [12 favorites]




Emptythought: Yeah, when there is a HUGE problem with cabs, it doesn't take much to differentiate yourself with an alternate business model.

Uber started with limos, which was great, but as they've grown and needed more drivers my experience has been that they are devolving into taxis and hiring more garbage drivers. In SF it's getting so that the city might as well just create more taxi medallions like people have been begging for over the past 20 years. The end result is probably pretty similar: more cabs and online hailing, the former a long-standing natural need and the latter the chief innovation of Uber, et al.
posted by rhizome at 9:41 AM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest issue with cabs that everyone i know brings up no matter where they live is accountability though. Who cares if they add more cabs if they're just more cabs with the same issues?

The ability to report a driver for being creepy or dangerous was the appeal of uber to a lot of people i know. The problem is that there's no nuance, and it barely seems like a real person reviews anything. I've had to email them more than once to get a response before, but if someone gets below a certain star rating that's arbitrarily it. An idea system would look something like thumbs up and down, and a comment box that showed up no matter what. And then real humans reviewing those comments which they can absolutely afford. It would also include an appeals system on both sides.

I have a seriously hard time balancing "getting a person arbitrarily fired" with "actual accountability for threats to personal safety or awful behavior". One is a problem, and the other is an unaddressed gigantic enormous huge legitimate concern.

These threads generally turn in to "uber is shit!" "taxis are shit!" until they run out of steam, and it's because they're both garbage for different reasons. And sadly, i see uber or some similar service being forced to uncrappify more likely than the cab companies or city/police getting serious about investigating or enforcing anything in basically every US city.

That also assumes that a city or state legislature would actually have the staying power to go against uber though. Look at how that turned out for portland, and a number of other places where they fought dirty as hell.
posted by emptythought at 1:50 PM on November 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


People want getting a cab to be easier and faster than ordering a pizza, Lyft, Uber, and even Flywheel provide that. Done.

The garbage-person driver problem turns out to be a harder one to solve, and I have a huge complaint with Uber expanding their business so as they have to employ them. I suspect this puts us into a corollary of Sturgeon's Law that says, "most people suck at driving, and some of them drive on-call automobiles, of which there are an increasing number."
posted by rhizome at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2015


See, maybe it's important to protect people from garbage cab drivers, but it's equally important to protect cab drivers from garbage people who act as described above:

I've done driving for both Lyft and Uber. It's not just the ratings, it's the arbitrariness of them. I've gotten dinged for:

-Wearing too much cologne (I don't wear cologne and am allergic to scents)
-Not having a scent in the car
-Car is too hot
-Car is too cold (on the same day, back to back)
-Dropping someone off in a dangerous neighborhood (well, that's where they requested to go)
-Taking too long to find the destination (they described it as "Uh, I dunno? It's like a green house by the lake somewhere?" so I had to drive around the lake until we found it)


Uber is basically saying "you should identify as a consumer and not a worker, and your take on Uber should be that of a person who has lousy cab experiences, not a person who has experiences with garbage-human employers". That's part of my problem with all these services - to some degree they're aimed at rich people with fun jobs who think they are entitled to everything in the world and that a driver who neglects to perfume the car should of course be fired, but in large part they're services which aim to shift the ideology of ordinary people, to make them forget that they also are workers and make them identify with the spoiled rich.
posted by Frowner at 2:09 PM on November 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


The ability to report a driver for being creepy or dangerous was the appeal of uber to a lot of people i know. The problem is that there's no nuance, and it barely seems like a real person reviews anything.

No, the problem is that those reports are just for show. Because when it comes to real accountability measures, Uber does everything they can to evade them - look at what happened in San Antonio.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:22 PM on November 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


> to make them forget that they also are workers and make them identify with the spoiled rich.

You are so spot-on with your take on this! Lyft tried a slightly different approach - at least initially. The emphasis was on the driver being your "driving-pal" hence all the fist bumping that they emphasized in the beginning but not anymore. As a result Lyft riders are always reported being generally far nicer than Uber riders (I do both ) and Lyft drivers are generally reported as being nicer than Uber drivers. When I drive for Lyft I do not have to worry so much about the ratings mess.

Uber won the market. Too many people want that fantasy of being something better then they actually are rather than the reality of "we're all in this together". Lyft riders and drivers are still overall nicer but Lyft no longer requires the fist bumping and front seating that it used to.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 10:28 PM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Freedom" was not escaping a land feudal bondage as it existed in the old world but the ability to recreate it in the New World with yourself in charge. We love the ability to order people around, just as we insisted that we be allowed the freedom to own slaves. The end of middle management has just meant that the middle class has generally fewer outlets to express their need to order people around and so have to resort to using service workers as their target.

bossism: "the reality is that there are certain people who control these schedules and they tend not to be those same workers. Instead, they tend to be the managers of the firm who are more likely to be of a higher class than the workers and thus may not be able to understand their difficulties as much... given the current wage labor system that is based on the notion of authority via bossism... even if workers do get more flexible scheduling, the control of said schedules rest mostly in the hands of the bosses, not the workers."
posted by kliuless at 11:19 PM on November 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Uber won the market. Too many people want that fantasy of being something better then they actually are rather than the reality of "we're all in this together". Lyft riders and drivers are still overall nicer but Lyft no longer requires the fist bumping and front seating that it used to.

Here's the thing: I like services that are essentially impersonal. I think Uber got this mostly right: their cars are not noticeable (no silly fuzzy mustache-- which lyft also abandoned), you get in the back of the car, and you get to your destination.

I've also lived in cities for almost 25 years now, so the concept of paying someone to drive you somewhere is pretty much the norm, and not some "elite service," though uber was my first experience using a black car service that I had paid for myself. And I liked it.

But I guess this is the difference between "professionalism" and "servitude." I like professionals: the person who does his job and does it well because that is his job. So I don't think it is a matter of "worker solidarity vs. bossing someone around." It's a matter of whether you consider service workers "professionals" or "servants."
posted by deanc at 7:13 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Calling someone a "professional" is a thin sheet to throw over all the labor and class issues involved.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:38 AM on November 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Professionals" generally have, oh, professional associations to advocate for them, plus a reasonable amount of job security. I would be perfectly happy with a class of cab drivers who had cab-PhDs, who were represented by the powerful American Association of Professional Drivers and who therefore had a number of entrenched rights and privileges, several high-impact-factor journals, etc.

If we're all going to be professionals rather than fellow workers because this affords us more dignity, I can live with that - as long as we're all really professionals, and not just called professionals.
posted by Frowner at 9:58 AM on November 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Professionals" generally have, oh, professional associations to advocate for them, plus a reasonable amount of job security

Which I would be fine with. (I dont have a professional association of any real power protecting my job like doctors do, but I still get treated professionally) But people I work with/I work for/who work for me are not my buddies/class-brothers/servants. They are people who have a job that they do in exchange for pay. We can have service providers without obsequiousness. You can treat someone who provides you with a service as a professional. Unless you believe that the entire service economy is illegitimate. Even Sweden has restaurants, hotels, and cab drivers.
posted by deanc at 10:18 AM on November 6, 2015


Except that yes, they very much are your class brothers, because if you think the gig economy is going to stop at the lower rung of the service economy, then I have some lovely waterfront real estate in New York to sell you. It's very much in your interest that they don't get fucked over, if only to protect yourself from a future screwing.

As a wise man put it, we either hang together, or we will most assuredly hang separately.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:23 AM on November 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


But I guess this is the difference between "professionalism" and "servitude." I like professionals: the person who does his job and does it well because that is his job.

Actually I think you're right: the only difference between a professional and a servant is that a professional takes some kind of perverse pride in his subjugation.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:55 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


A "professional" doesn't make waves. A "professional" doesn't "burn any bridges". To a "professional," it's all "just business".

In short, a "professional" is a kind of useful robot that the executive class likes to uphold as a role model for the proles.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


A "professional" doesn't make waves. A "professional" doesn't "burn any bridges". To a "professional," it's all "just business".

Isn't this pretty much the advice about the workplace in AskMe? "Your coworkers/supervisors/employees are not your friends. Don't entrust them with personal issues or get chummy." The idea of chumminess or any sort of behavior that implies that anyone in a business is doing someone a big favor is exactly how we end up with exploitative situations.

I don't want a ride from my buddy. The waitstaff's job is not to be extra friendly and take care of "all my needs." But people still need to drive cars, staff restaurants, change your oil, and run hotels, even in the most worker-friendly of countries (where their conditions are much better and their customers less entitled).

So unless you are calling into question the very existence of paying someone to do something for you, from driving you in a cab somewhere to cutting your hair, you will have to come up with an acceptable norm for how each party interacts with the other.
posted by deanc at 11:26 AM on November 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Post-Ownership Society - "How the “sharing economy” allows Millennials to cope with downward mobility, and also makes them poorer."


Calling someone a "professional" is a thin sheet to throw over all the labor and class issues involved.


Kleiner Mann, was nun?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:41 AM on November 6, 2015


Isn't this pretty much the advice about the workplace in AskMe? "Your coworkers/supervisors/employees are not your friends. Don't entrust them with personal issues or get chummy."

What this means is to not mistake personal and professional relationships. My coworkers and especially my supervisors are not my personal friends because we work together, and I should keep well aware of that.

But just because we aren't personal friends doesn't mean that I want to see them screwed over, both because I like to think that I'm a decent person, and because that also impacts me. And, as it turns out, that's applicable in a much more general sense in our society.

Do I want to be friends with all the service sector employees I deal with? No (though if our interests line up, then outside of that context why shouldn't we be friends?) But that doesn't mean that I don't want to see them treated fairly - paid a decent living wage for a fair workday, and allowed to have a life outside of their respective workplace. I hold this position because it's the right thing to do, and because I know where the actual dividing line in the class struggle is, and who's on my side.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:21 PM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


But that doesn't mean that I don't want to see them treated fairly - paid a decent living wage for a fair workday, and allowed to have a life outside of their respective workplace.

We aren't arguing on this point.

Where I think I got people's hackles up is that I like the impersonal nature of my interactions with people have commercial relationships with. Lyft's attempts to make it seem like I was getting a ride from my "friend" whose car comes with s bright purple mustache gets me much more agitated than when a black car just shows up to drive me somewhere or when I hail a cab or I bring my car to be fixed, and it gets fixed.

The alternative to obsequious service isn't "friendly favor done by a brother," but, "person does his job and I get service performed." Since having car mechanics isn't especially controversial in terms of class relations, I think it is possible that car drivers can be regarded with the same level respect, and vice versa.
posted by deanc at 12:35 PM on November 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


>Lyft's attempts to make it seem like I was getting a ride from my "friend" whose car comes with s bright purple mustache gets me much more agitated than when a black car just shows up to drive me somewhere or when I hail a cab or I bring my car to be fixed, and it gets fixed

That attempt, now abandoned, had implications. The implications, which have have propagated months beyond the abandonment of the policy, are that both the service provider and the person being provided to are overall nicer to each other. than on the service which never maintained this policy at all.

Perhaps if we all were forced to take a moment to do some sort of ritual, be it the fist bump or whatever, to those in the service industry more of us might remember that we are all still human beings worthy of the same basic respect and dignity we would give to family members or friends - rather than our temporary servants.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 6:38 PM on November 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tom Slee has a good dissection of the issues with reputation systems. As he points out, the coexistence of the Lake Woebegon and Panopticon models results in a system that is the worst of both worlds - it has little information for users (since every provider is "above average" ) while forcing providers to be overly attentive to customers (since all it takes is one customer to damage one's record.) The result is a system that benefits nobody.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:29 AM on November 9, 2015


So, Uber lost their appeal over the class certification in the lawsuit over whether their drivers are contractors or employees, meaning that this case goes to court.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:15 AM on November 19, 2015


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