Everyone is getting ready for the prom


Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.


Back when he was chief executive of Uber, Travis Kalanick liked to talk about how the company wasn’t ready to “go to the prom.”

“We’re like eighth graders and someone’s telling us we need to go to the prom,” he said in October 2015, responding to comments from then Uber-board member Bill Gurley criticizing startups that refused to go public.

A year later, Kalanick repeated the metaphor. “I feel like we maybe just entered high school,” he said at a conference in October 2016. “It’s the ninth grade. It’s not time to go to prom yet.”

Ninth grade turned out to be pretty rough for Uber, and rougher still for Kalanick, but the company scraped through to junior year. And, right on schedule, everyone started talking about going to the prom.

Lyft filed confidentially for an initial public offering, and then announced it in a Dec. 6 press release. Uber filed confidentially for an IPO the same day that Lyft announced its confidential filing. Both companies are reportedly worried about the uneasy stock market and a potential economic downturn next year.

Palantir and Instacart and Postmates (Postmates!) may also go public in 2019. Meanwhile, Airbnb and Slack, two other hotly anticipated prom-goers, might pursue direct listings, Recode reported. In a direct listing, a company sells shares directly to the public without the hired underwriters that typically orchestrate an IPO. Spotify went public in an unusually large direct listing in April.

If an initial public offering is going to the prom in a fancy dress and a limo (or an UberBlack, in this case), with all its ritualistic pomp, then a direct offering is the hipster kid who skipped out on prom to make a statement but kind of secretly wanted to go the whole time, and slipped in at the end in jeans and a faded blazer. It is “more democratic and decentralized,” says Investopedia, a good fit for Airbnb’s carefully cultivated ethos of being a company of the people, for the people, unless those people are local regulators, in which case, screw them, they aren’t welcome at the prom or the house party.

Stifling competition.

But you don’t need to wait for the prom for the drama to start! Defunct ride-hail service Sidecar sued Uber this morning in San Francisco, alleging Uber used predatory pricing and fake ride requests to capture the market, as it “became hell-bent on stifling competition from competing ride-hailing apps.”

Here is more from Reuters:

Sidecar alleged in the lawsuit that “Uber’s senior officers and executives directed clandestine campaigns” to place fraudulent ride requests on the Sidecar app. Drivers were inundated with ride requests sent by Uber that were canceled before they arrived at the pick-up destinations.

“That triggered a vicious cycle that undermined the ability of Sidecar’s app to challenge Uber,” the lawsuit says.

TechCrunch posted the full complaint, which states that Uber “intentionally interfered with the performance and quality of competing ride-hailing apps” and that senior Uber employees “directed clandestine campaign to submit fraudulent ride requests through its competitors’ ride-hailing apps.” This is old hat by now for Uber, which has been accused by at least two other competitors of the same tactic, and basically got away with it through sheer brazenness.

“Sidecar’s lawsuit has it backwards: new competitors, along with low prices, benefit consumers and reflect the exact type of competition that the antitrust laws are meant to protect,” Uber told everyone in a statement. “We believe the timing of this complaint, filed three years after Sidecar went out of business, is not a coincidence.”


The public health and transportation departments of Austin, Texas, are calling in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the SCOOTER PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT:

The study will examine the health risks associated with the scooters in Austin, TX between Sept. 5 and Nov. 4 this year, centering on 37 emergency responder calls and 68 scooter injury reports from area hospitals. 

The goal of the study is to inform Austin’s rule-making around dockless electric scooters, for example, where the vehicles can be ridden and at what speeds. The city authorized six scooter providers to operate a collective 11,000 devices. Austin established preliminary scooter rules in November and plans to review them in February 2019.

The health study is the CDC’s first epidemiological study on dockless scooters. I am all for deploying scooters safely and preferably not on sidewalks, but sometimes you have to ask: why this? If the CDC wants to get involved in tech/startups, why not study the public health risk of social media or double-down on flavored-nicotine seller Juul, both of which are surely more dangerous than dockless electric scooters? Sometimes I worry the Silicon Valley speak is getting to me, but there is also something to the oft-repeated point that tens of thousands of people (37,000 in 2017) die a year in motor vehicle crashes and we as a society have just come to accept it, and would prefer to wring our hands over scooters, or to all but ban romaine lettuce after a couple dozen people fell ill from eating it. Ah, America.

Waymo One.

Waymo finally launched a limited version of the commercial driverless ride-hail service it had promised by the end of the year. Waymo One is available to a small pool of riders in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, who participated in the free “early rider” program the driverless car company had been testing there.

Waymo One is in every way a competitor to Uber. Customers request rides and confirm their location through an app. Waymo decides the best route and drop-off spot, which may require the passenger to walk a few minutes to their final destination, similar to a discount service Uber offers. Waymo even provides a price quote at the time of booking, employing the “upfront pricing” method that Uber introduced in 2016 as an alternative to the traditional taxi meter.

Waymo’s progress stands in contrast to Uber, which grounded its self-driving fleets after one of its vehicles struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in March. Uber is only now preparing to resume autonomous testing in Pittsburgh, the New York Times reported Dec. 5, and with significantly lower expectations. Cars that drove up to 55 miles per hour before the Tempe accident will now be capped at 25 mph. They also won’t operate at night or in wet conditions.

Waymo’s service is far from perfect. Over the summer, one of the company’s safety drivers fell asleep on a highway outside of Mountain View, California, and inadvertently disabled the car’s self-driving software, causing it to crash into the highway median (paywall). More recently, a Waymo driver manually swerved to avoid a car in Mountain View and hit a motorcyclist, sending that person to the hospital. Waymo has reportedly started installing “fatigue” cameras (paywall) aimed at its safety drivers’ faces to monitor them for drowsiness.

Waymo also remains cagey with the press. The company has only let a handful of its supposed 400-plus early riders speak to the press, and often declines to clarify when a car is in driverless mode vs. manual mode. The Arizona Republic was confronted by Waymo multiple times when it spent three days following the company’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans for more than 170 miles to see how they drove:

After following a Waymo with two people inside for 31 minutes and 10.9 miles in late November, the Waymo pulled up to the Chandler Police Department Desert Breeze Substation. 

Two police officers rushed toward our vehicle, shouting for us to stop. An unmarked, silver police truck pulled out of the substation and stopped in front of us.

The officers explained that Waymo had called out of concern their driver was being harassed, and that multiple Waymo drivers have experienced harassment and aggressive driving.

The line between abundant precaution and paranoia is a fine one, especially for tech companies that have mapped so much of the world and collected so much data on so many people that it must be truly unnerving not to know who is driving behind you for 30 minutes, and with what intentions.

This time last year.

Former Uber employees have gone into debt to hang onto shares they still can't sell

Other stuff.

How an Uber Whistleblower Tried to Stop Self-Driving Car Disaster. Could Uber go the way of Pan Am? London rejects claim it is working specifically with Uber. Taiwan’s AsiaYo raises $7 million for lodging platform. Vroom raises $146 million for used car market. Lyft-Motivate bike-share deal raising eyebrows in New York City. Startups Aren’t Cool Anymore. The case for electric scooter efficiency. Investors cool off on scooters. Lyft launches grocery access program with cheap rides to the grocery store. Instacart shoppers complain about pay cuts. Why Are We Still Waiting for Electric Buses? Formerly homeless man in SF now earning $22 an hour as scooter mechanic for Skip. Driverless snow plows. How the Cashless Economy Shuts Out the Poor. I Don’t Date Men Who Yell at Alexa.

Thanks again for subscribing to Oversharing! If you, in the spirit of the sharing economy, would like to share this newsletter with a friend, you can forward it or suggest they sign up here.

Send tips, comments, and prom invites to @alisongriswold on Twitter, or oversharingstuff@gmail.com.

Uber drivers will get minimum wage protection for the very first time


Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.

A living wage.

New York City voted this morning to enact a first-of-its-kind pay floor for ride-hail drivers, who as independent contractors aren’t protected by state or federal minimum wage laws. The pay standard approved by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission aims to raise drivers’ take-home pay to $17.22 an hour, and gross hourly earnings to $26.51, an increase of 44%. The new pay floor could raise annual wages for 70,000 professional drivers in the city by as much as $9,600. The rules take effect in 30 days.

The taxi commission’s actions came amid a devastating string of suicides by professional drivers in New York City. Eight drivers have died by suicide since late 2017: Roy Kim, a yellow cab owner and driver; Fausto Luna, an Uber driver; Abdul Saleh, a yellow cab lease driver; Yu Mein Kenny Chow, a yellow cab owner and driver; Nicanor Ochisor, a yellow taxi owner and driver; Danilo Corporan Castillo, a Bronx livery driver; Alfredo Perez, a Bronx livery driver; and Douglas Schifter, a black car driver. A common theme in each case was economic despair and a sense of betrayal by politicians and regulators who had allowed the yellow cab industry to be steamrolled by companies like Uber and Lyft. Castillo wrote his suicide note on the back of a taxi commission summons. Schifter shot himself in front of City Hall.

The pay standard approved by the taxi commission makes use of a clever formula devised by economists James Parrott and Michael Reich in a July report on driver earnings commissioned by the city. The key to the formula is a “utilization rate” that adjusts the amount drivers are paid per mile and per minute to account for how much work they are getting each hour. The simple brilliance of the formula is that it puts the burden on ride-hail companies to ensure their drivers are getting enough work. If too many cars are on the road, causing a driver’s utilization rate to fall below the number set by the taxi commission, then companies pay more to make up the difference. (For more on the pay formula, see my explainer in Quartz from July.)

The expected pay raise for drivers is even more dramatic than the one Parrott and Reich initially calculated after the Independent Drivers Guild and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance successfully lobbied the taxi commission to adjust its expense estimates for drivers, which they said were much higher than initially assumed. The pay formula includes “out of town rates” that pay drivers extra for miles they drive outside city limits. The taxi commission this morning also voted to reduce credit card processing fees for yellow and green cabs to $7 per shift from $11.

It is notable that New York City and its driver advocacy groups have succeeded in ushering in what promises to be a material improvement to driver livelihood while other efforts to do that—a driver union in Seattle, employment classifications lawsuits in the UK and around the US—remain mired in litigation. We talked a couple weeks ago about a research paper on gig work from the Center for Global Development that argued that “the focus should be on improving the working conditions of independent workers… rather than continuing to pretend that regular, formal, contracted employment is the way that people—particularly youth—want (or even should want) to earn a living.”

The driver pay floor passed by New York City is a version of this thinking. Half a decade of arguing over whether Uber drivers should be contractors or employees has done little to improve their lot. These pay rules don’t pretend to answer that question. Instead they ask a more fundamental one—are drivers able to earn a living?—and, having answered it with a resounding no, set about changing the circumstances. Every city in the US should be watching, and thinking about whether to follow.

“Leave it anywhere.”

Bird is being sued for trespass in a class action complaint filed Nov. 30 by John Lautemann, a property owner in Santa Monica. Lautemann is suing Bird for trespass and nuisance, alleging the dockless electric scooter company is harming property owners, “as e-scooters are flagrantly left on their property or in an unsafe manner on the sidewalks adjacent to their property.”

The crux of Lautemann’s allegations is that Bird is “prioritizes users’ convenience over property owners’ rights,” with a policy that encourages Bird users to pick up and drop off their scooter “anywhere.” The complaint includes a screenshot of the Bird app in Apple’s app store that advertises this policy, which I’ve circled in red below:

The complaint argues that Bird’s $2 billion valuation is premised on this leave-it-anywhere business model. This is (1) because the dockless model makes the service more convenient for consumers, who can end a ride at their destination rather than a parking hub several blocks away, and (2) because the costs of running a docked scooter service would be significantly higher, between the price of installing docking stations (tens of thousands of dollars a piece) and cost of redistributing scooters from empty ports to busy ones throughout the day.

While Bird is getting rich—or at least a rich valuation—off this setup, Lautemann’s attorneys argue that its haphazardly parked scooters are cluttering up roads and walkways. The lawyers allege these actions are “exposing property owners to potential legal liabilities and burdening property owners with removing Bird’s e-scooters from their property or adjacent sidewalks.” Bird wasn’t available to comment.

Lautemann claims Bird scooters have repeatedly been left on his property since this past summer, “in the area reserved for parking cars, near the entrance to the building, in the courtyard, and in the corridor.” The company “did not seek consent from Plaintiff before operating in the area.” It’s unclear whether Lautemann asked Bird to remove the scooters, and his lawyers didn’t reply to a request for comment. But, the complaint asserts, “Bird e-scooters are GPS-enabled, so Bird knows or should know that e-scooters have been placed on private property without obtaining consent.”

This is an interesting argument, with implications much broader than scooters on sidewalks. There are arguably lots of things that a technology startup or any company that collects data on its product and users “knows or should know,” where “should know” seems to mean “should know by virtue of having the data.” Bird knows or should know where scooters are left; Airbnb knows or should know when properties are rented illegally; Amazon knows or should know when banned products are sold on its site; Facebook knows or should know when fake news is distributed. The Bird complaint is, in that sense, a microcosm of the debate over what responsibilities technology companies have as custodians of our data. Electric scooters just make it a little more tangible, relatable, and easier to follow.

Cruise control.

Imagine you are a police officer patrolling a highway at around 3:30 in the morning. You notice a Tesla Model S cruising at 70 miles per hour and, upon pulling alongside it, are shocked to discover its driver is deeply and totally asleep. Do you:

(a) Take the next exit—this isn’t your problem

(b) Turn on your lights and siren, roll down all your windows, and blast Ariana Grande at full volume in hopes of rousing him

(c) Pull in front of the Tesla and force it to a stop

(d) Hang out of the windshield and bang on the Tesla driver’s window while steering the car with your foot, like Angelina Jolie in Wanted

The correct answer, according to state highway patrol officers who found themselves in this exact situation on Highway 101 in Redwood City, California, last month, is (c):

Uber hit the brakes on Uber-for-rental cars


Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Quartz’s tech team let Alexa cook the turkey, and it came out great.

Brake lights.

Uber shut down its rental-car service for riders on Nov. 20, after a little more than six months of operation in San Francisco, I reported this morning.

The program was a partnership with Getaround, a startup that offers short-term rentals of privately owned vehicles. Uber announced it with a good bit of media fanfare in April, at an event focused on how the company was broadening beyond its core on-demand rides.

Uber announced the Uber Rent shut down in an email to San Francisco users on Nov. 19. “We know you’ve relied on Uber Rent powered by Getaround, and apologize for the inconvenience this may cause you,” it said in the email. Uber said it would honor outstanding rental arrangements, and offered a coupon for $30 off a rental booked through the Getaround app before the end of the year.

It’s unclear why Uber Rent hit the brakes, and both Uber and Getaround declined to get into specifics of the decision. “We want to think through the best way to offer Uber customers access to rentals in the Uber app,” Kaitlin Durkosh, an Uber spokeswoman, offered in an email.

Uber only provided a booking portal and Getaround handled the actual rental, so it’s hard to imagine the program sucking a lot of time and resources away from Uber. I suppose one possibility is that Uber Rent wasn’t being used much, and Uber didn’t want it cluttering up the app. Another is that Uber thought Uber Rent was distracting from other more promising products, like scooters and e-bikes.

Whatever the reason, the decision to shutter Uber Rent came shortly after scooter company Lime said it would test a car-rental service in Seattle (paywall) in the coming months.

Uber and Getaround will continue to operate a separate program that lets Uber drivers rent Getaround cars for $5 an hour in four California cities, with an expansion to two East Coast cities, one of which is likely Washington DC, planned for this month.

Tree trouble.

Uber’s self-driving cars had some trouble with trees, according to Business Insider:

For weeks on end, during a regular "triage" meeting where issues were prioritized by vice president of software Jon Thomason, tree branches kept coming up, one former engineer told us. Tree branches create shadows in the road that the car sometimes thought were physical obstacles, multiple people told us.

Uber's software "would classify them as objects that are actually moving, and the cars would do something stupid, like stop or call for remote assistance," one engineer explained. "Or the software might crash and get out of autonomy mode. This was a common issue that we were trying to fix."

Per BI, Thomason declared at one meeting, “This is unacceptable! We are above this! We shouldn't be getting stuck on tree branches, so go figure it out.”

An Uber spokesperson denied to BI that the company’s driverless cars stop for tree-branch shadows. But the arboreal problems didn’t end there:

another employee also said that piles of leaves could confuse the car. A third employee told us of other efforts to teach the car to recognize foliage.

There is a certain poetic elegance in a driverless car being foiled by tree shadows and leaf piles. Surely Emerson would have had something to say about that.

Physical tolls.

If you ordered something from Amazon on Cyber Monday, consider spending some time with this Oct. 31 interview with a US Postal worker, who feels like she works more for Amazon than for the actual US Postal Service:

I feel like I work for Amazon because the physical toll that the job takes on my body is mostly related to packages, and my lack of time off is mostly due to Amazon because of the Amazon Sundays. This is not really answering the question, but I feel like my life depends on Amazon. I imagine that the Postal Service treats us like this because they’re answering the demands of Amazon. Like, “If we upset Amazon, they’ll pull out, and we need their help.” I’ve heard that from my supervisors.

For more on the human cost of online delivery, check out yesterday’s The Daily podcast.

Hindsight is 20/20.

Remember Hubble, the contact lens startup with questionable prescription verification processes? I wrote about them last December, after Hubble filled an order for contact lenses I placed with a fake prescription from a made-up doctor.

A year later, Hubble is very much still in business, and its praises being sung by none other than Harvard Business School. Here is a case study on Hubble by Jill Avery and Ayelet Israeli, lecturer and assistant professor of business administration at HBS.

The case study, which is available for purchase for $8.95, was “reviewed and approved before publication by a company designate.” That might explain the roundly flattering tone of the case, which opens with a scene of Hubble’s co-founders negotiating their series A funding, and celebrating their success to date (“three standard deviations above my expectations,” according to Hubble co-founder Ben Cogan).

The case study notes that some optometrists raised concerns about Hubble’s lens quality, and that the American Optometrist Association called for an investigation after “reports emerged in the press of customers ordering Hubble lenses without a valid prescription and from fabricated physicians.”

According to Harvard’s synopsis, “Cogan and [co-founder Jesse] Horwitz did not take these allegations lightly. They worked to improve their already robust prescription verification processes and retrained optometrist-facing representatives in their dedicated call center.”

For reference, those “already robust” verification processes involved placing a garbled robocall to the prescribing eye doctor—you can hear audio of one in my story for Quartz. In my case, Hubble found the closest match for the fake doctor I inputted and called that person instead of flagging the transaction for possible issues. Robust indeed.

There are plenty of problems with Harvard case studies, but I am interested in the role these cases play in favorably rewriting founder and startup mythology. “So far, everything has gone smoothly, but I’m sure there are pitfalls waiting for us,” Horwitz is quoted as saying on the very first page.

This is obviously untrue. By August 2018, the date the case was published, Hubble had been reported to the Federal Trade Commission by the American Optometrist Association and had its shoddy prescription verification processes detailed in my article. The FTC doesn’t comment on specific companies it may or may not be investigating, but Hubble was certainly on its radar.

These would seem like important details, and yet Harvard Business School glossed over them in favor of Hubble’s “aggressive digital marketing-fueled customer acquisition strategy.” What does this teach the students of HBS, some of whom will certainly start companies of their own while at school or shortly after? That the rules of regulation can be bent if your digital marketing campaign is slick enough? That company missteps can be erased and a rosier narrative written if a nice Harvard professor comes along to bail you out?

This time last year.

Uber paid off hackers, WeWork buys Meetup, Expensify's SmartScan "garbage"

Other stuff.

Airbnb hires Amazon’s Dave Stephenson as chief financial officer. Waymo adds chief safety officer. Dara Khosrowshahi “really happy” at Uber. Uber growth slowed and losses widened in latest quarter. Uber fined $1.2 million by British and Dutch regulators for 2016 data breach. Uber and Lyft add bikes in Seattle. Asheville to ban electric scooters. Uber cracked classic ’80s video games using AI. Airbnb arrives in rural China. Airbnb sued for delisting settlements in the West Bank. France revolts against Google. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg tainted by crisis. Amazon workers protest in Europe on Black Friday. Westport Man Goes to Court Over Hash Brown Dispute. The BLS Strikes Back. “Today’s myth of the omnipotent consumer-entrepreneur is dead.” What happens to electric scooters in the snow?

Thanks again for subscribing to Oversharing! If you, in the spirit of the sharing economy, would like to share this newsletter with a friend, you can forward it or suggest they sign up here.

Send tips, comments, and arboreal thoughts to @alisongriswold on Twitter, or oversharingstuff@gmail.com.

Oversharing is off for Thanksgiving!

Hoping your holiday is better than Martha Stewart’s first Uber ride. See you next week.

The techpocalypse is coming to New York City


Hello and welcome to Oversharing, a newsletter about the proverbial sharing economy. If you're returning from last week, thanks! If you're new, nice to have you! (Over)share the love and tell your friends to sign up here.

Oversharing has a new landing page, thanks to the folks at Substack. It’s fun, check it out.

Empire state of mind.

Everyone is coming to New York. Amazon picked Long Island City as one of its two sites for its new headquarters (the other is Crystal City in Northern Virginia), a commitment that comes with about 25,000 new jobs. Google plans to buy or lease a 1.3 million-square-foot office building near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, creating space for 12,000 new workers. The techpocalypse is here, time to take cover.

Gothamist has a good roundup of key questions for Amazon’s LIC invasion, such as, Where are all those Amazon workers going to live? (The unsurprising answer: “it’s likely they’d end up pricing existing residents out of LIC and neighborhoods easily accessible from there, which could mean jump-starting gentrification in places like Jackson Heights, Corona, or even Maspeth and Middle Village.) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other local politicians are against it, while New York Mag’s Josh Barro has bar recommendations for reporters heading to LIC.

Here is the full 32-page memorandum of understanding (pdf) with New York City, and a 25-page one with Virginia (also pdf), in case you want to check those out.

More on HQ2:

Meanwhile, Travis Kalanick is also joining the New York party. The Uber co-founder and former CEO bought a glitzy penthouse in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, the Wall Street Journal reported. The property was on the market for $40.5 million, but Kalanick got it for a steal at $36.4 million. (Paper fortune notwithstanding, Kalanick sold about 30% of his Uber stake to SoftBank earlier this year for around $1.4 billion.) The building was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano. It remains under construction and is supposed to be finished by the end of this year.

The four-bedroom apartment is 6,655 square feet, or roughly the size of 1.4 NBA basketball courts. It will have a private elevator, floor-to-ceiling windows, a library, a wet bar, three terraces, and a private rooftop with a 20-foot heated outdoor pool. The rooftop also includes an outdoor kitchen “ideal for alfresco dining while admiring the views,” according to the property listing. The building includes a garage with a private covered porte cochere and automated parking system, but I assume Travis won’t need to use that, because obviously he will take Uber everywhere.

Recurring revenue.

A good thing to do ahead of an initial public offering is to gin up customer loyalty. One way to do this is with a subscription offering, as both Lyft and Uber recently introduced. We talked last week about Ride Pass, a $14.99-a-month membership program from Uber that eliminates surge pricing (unless you live in Los Angeles, in which case it costs $24.99 a month). A couple weeks earlier we reviewed All Access, the $299-a-month (!!!) plan from Lyft that includes 30 rides of up to $15 each.

Of course, another way to garner loyal consumers is with an actual loyalty program, which is what Lyft announced Nov. 12, and which seems like a no-brainer for any rides company that hopes users will frequent the service enough to give up their personal vehicle. Lyft Rewards will begin rolling out in December 2018 to “select riders in various cities,” Lyft said in a release. The announcement was otherwise impressively short on details, though Lyft assures us that “getting rewarded will be easy.” Riders will earn points for every dollar spent, the company said, and “enough points” will be good for rewards like “an upgrade to Lyft Lux or savings on future rides.”

Lyft is beating Uber to the punch on establishing some sort of loyalty program. If all goes according to schedule, Lyft Rewards will also debut before the rewards program Airbnb hinted at in January and formally announced in February ever becomes a reality. The so-called Superguest membership program was supposed to launch sometime this year—again, ahead of a rumored 2019 Airbnb IPO—but never came to fruition. In late September, Airbnb exec Greg Greeley told Skift the company had researched a rewards program, but was “back to the drawing board” after deciding the initial concept “wasn’t differentiated enough.”

On-demand startups love dishing out promotions (“50% off weekday Lyft rides!” “$100 delivery credit on Postmates”), but they’ve done little to establish true loyalty programs, in which customers earn rewards for using the service. Uber and Lyft have come close with rewards-generating partnerships—Uber with Visa and Lyft with JetBlue—and Uber experimented with something approximating a rewards program in 2016, but until Lyft’s recent announcement, that was sort of it.

Why wouldn’t Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash, and the rest of them have loyalty programs? One possibility is that the unit economics of the services weren’t good enough to justify an evergreen setup that allowed customers to earn freebies anytime, anywhere by using the service more. Another is that the companies simply didn’t think they needed them. It’s not hard to imagine Travis Kalanick thinking a loyalty program unnecessary if Uber were offering the best service at the lowest prices. It’s a bit more surprising that his successor, a hospitality veteran, has yet to introduce one.


On the one hand, an Uber might seem like a good place to have a private conversation with a friend. On the other, never forget your driver might be filming you:

Seven Senators players were riding in an Uber in Phoenix when they began panning the team’s penalty kill and Raymond’s coaching techniques. The Uber was equipped with a dashboard camera that recorded the Oct. 29 conversation, which was later published online. The original video was removed, but it has been copied and reposted.

The players — Chris Wideman, Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Alex Formenton, Chris Tierney and Colin White — are seen and heard in the video complaining about the team’s penalty kill, which Raymond oversees, when the driver asks what team they play for.

You know what they say, hello out there, we’re on the air—and this time they really were, because the video of the conversation was published online. The original was later taken down, but by that time it had been copied and reposted. Ottawa’s players issued a public apology to Raymond and called the incident “an important learning experience.”

Dash-cams have been popular among ride-hailing drivers for some time now. In addition to providing valuable footage in the event of an accident, they provide drivers with a degree of insurance against passengers who might misbehave, damage their vehicle, or even assault them, and then later try to claim otherwise. But drivers have also used their dash-cams to mock passengers online and in public forums, largely without the knowledge or consent of those riders.

Loading more posts…