Uber’s Secret Agents: When Poaching Becomes Unethical

by : nytimes – excerpt

If there is one overarching lesson from a new report on how Uber, the smartphone-app car service, tries to poach drivers from its competitors, it is this: Competing with Uber isn’t much fun.

The techniques described in documents obtained by The Verge have an element of spycraft about them, with methods and protocols that could appear in a John le Carré novel. Independent contractors for Uber apparently use burner phones tied to dummy accounts, with instructions to vary the locations from which they order car rides from their main competitor, Lyft. Once in the car, the contractors apparently try to suss out whether drivers can be persuaded to switch loyalties to Uber, and in some markets can apparently offer them a sign-up kit on the spot.

Fitting the spy novel atmospherics, the program even has a code name: Operation SLOG. (That would be short for Supplying Long-term Operations Growth).

And inside Uber, it would seem, is a mole…

The latest documents shed new light on practices that Lyft has been complaining about for some time, including in a CNN Money report this month in which the company claimed that 177 Uber workers had ordered and canceled more than 5,000 rides.

That and other reports have framed those canceled rides as a form of sabotage. If someone orders a ride and then cancels it, it costs the driver the time, money and aggravation of going to the pick-up location to meet a rider who isn’t there. Uber has steadfastly denied that kind of sabotage.

But the documents obtained by The Verge help square that circle, proving consistent with both Lyft’s claims of numerous canceled rides and Uber’s denials that it is sabotaging a competitor… (more)

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