It hasn’t been a stellar month for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, between the sexual harassment allegations at Uber HQ, the generally precarious state of the company’s finances, and a lot more. But an in-car video, obtained by Bloomberg, is a solid black eye for the 40-year-old CEO. The six-minute clip captures Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver over falling fares.
Here’s a sample of the back-and-forth with the driver, per Bloomberg:
In Kamel’s car, for example, Kalanick is seemingly at ease as the ride ends and his friends hop out of the car.
“You have a good one,” says the driver.
Kalanick says with an air of familiarity, “Good to see you man.”
Kamel replies, “Good to see you, too.”
Kalanick thinks the ride is over. But having the CEO in his car is an opportunity Kamel has been waiting for.
“I don’t know if you remember me, but it’s fine,” Kamel says. The pair begin talking shop, and Kalanick explains that they’re going to cut down on the number of black cars, which will reduce competition and should be good for Kamel.
Not so bad. But things deteriorate from there. The driver, Fawzi Kamel, hits Kalanick with questions over the dropping fare rates—and Kalanick isn’t having it (emphasis ours)
Then Kamel says what every driver has been dying to tell Kalanick: “You’re raising the standards, and you’re dropping the prices.”
Kalanick: “We’re not dropping the prices on black.”
Kamel: “But in general the whole price is—”
Kalanick: “We have to; we have competitors; otherwise, we’d go out of business.”
Kamel: “Competitors? Man, you had the business model in your hands. You could have the prices you want, but you choose to buy everybody a ride.”
Kalanick: “No, no no. You misunderstand me. We started high-end. We didn’t go low-end because we wanted to. We went low-end because we had to because we’d be out of business.”
Kamel: “What? Lyft? It’s a piece of cake right there.”
Kalanick: “It seems like a piece of cake because I’ve beaten them. But if I didn’t do the things I did, we would have been beaten, I promise.”
As we recounted last week, when you dig into it, Uber’s business model comes off like something of an attempt to simply monopolize the taxi market. And here you have a driver more or less saying that point-blank to Uber’s founder himself.
Afterward, Kalanick lectures the driver on “responsibility,” and implies he’s blaming his problems in life on somebody else. Then he storms out of the car.
Once Kalanick went to leave and slammed the door, Bloomberg says Kamel did what probably any Uber driver does after encountering a shitty passenger: He gave him one star. Oof.
Update: Shortly after the video’s release, Kalanick sent an apology via email to Uber’s staff, saying, “To say I am ashamed is an extreme understatement.”
My job as your leader is to lead...and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away.
It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.
I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.