When Uber was accused of trying to profit off of JFK customers during protests of Trump's Muslim ban, hundreds of thousands of people deleted their accounts. The #DeleteUber movement was targeted at the company's leadership — after all, they're the ones calling the shots, not the drivers.
And while the act of deleting one of your handful of ride-hailing apps did see some net positives (Uber CEO Travis Kalanick ultimately stepped down from Trump's advisory council), it failed to factor in the forgotten party: Uber drivers.
Uber may have a stranglehold on the ride-hailing economy for now, but enough foul play — be it trying to profit from an inhumane executive order, neglecting to improve unlivable wages and labor practices or sexual harassment allegations — and passengers and drivers together will flock to new services as quick as you can say "gig economy."
After spending some time in the back seat of a number of Uber rides, I learned that most of them did see a change in business during the #DeleteUber movement — one that has since picked back up — and that for them, while a minor inconvenience, it's nearly as easy for them to switch over to another ride-hailing service as it is for you to click on another app in your phone.
Anonymous, from Venezuela
Are you familiar with the "delete Uber" campaign?
I heard about it. I did hear about it like two weeks ago, I guess.
How do you feel about users deleting the app in protest?
I don't know. It's their personal issue, I guess. It's all personal. I don't know why. I guess it has to do with all the political thing. I heard about that. I don't know if that's true ... I don't like politics. And they go by the words what says Trump, what says the CEO of this, I don't really pay attention. I just do my job and that's it.
I'm thinking actually to use Lyft. I need to find out which is better in Brooklyn, I heard Lyft is better in Brooklyn.
Luis, from the Dominican Republic
I heard a lot of people declined the application. I think after a few weeks ago, all is normal. Uber down a little bit, but not too much ... I know it was slow in the moment.
You had fewer passengers for a little bit but it's fine now?
Yeah. I don't understand, because that's business. Business is business. Any city has Uber. I know Uber is slow a little bit, but I think it's the economy. Because in other companies, my friends say, "No, it's slow here, too." I think that's not the problem. The system is the same. If you don't work, you don't make money, that's it. You have to work. Any company, you have to work. Lyft, Uber, whatever.
Muhammad, from Pakistan
It was affecting us. After like, a week, or ten days, then it picked up, when he [Kalanick] resigned or something. It picked up a little bit. It's getting better now.
So was it upsetting for you when business started to slow because of the protest?
Well, of course. That affected our life. This is how we make a living.
So you did notice when people were deleting the app? You could feel it when it was happening...
We were just actually afraid, what's going on? And then we heard the CEO was part of the president and all that and people got angry with him. And they shut down their app and all that.
Who did you hear about the protests, etc. from? Did Uber tell you?
Well no, actually. It was from CNN. Uber didn't tell me.
So business as usual this week?
It's picking up. It's picking up.
Yeah, I heard other drivers say that business was a little slow...
Very slow, not a little slow. It was very slow. We were really afraid of what the hell is going on.
If it stayed slow what would your options have been? If it never picked back up?
In my age right now, I have no other choice. I can go nowhere... I cannot work hard, I had a back surgery and all that. This is the only option I have, the only thing I can do to make my living. I can't do anything else.
Would you consider going to Lyft or another service if just Uber was struggling?
We were thinking. But the thing is, even if you go to any other company, we'll end up with Uber. Because Uber has a lot of control on the business and all that. People are doing two, three companies but they end up with Uber. I don't believe if you actually play that game ... once you work you have to work at the one place. It's just to be, mentally to satisfy yourself, I'm doing this I'm doing that. But it doesn't make any sense to be playing around.
Gurwinder, from India
Are you familiar at all with the #DeleteUber protesting?
The one happening at JFK? The Muslim ban? I heard about it but I wasn't here when that happened. I wasn't working.
Where were you working before Uber?
I was working at the gas station.
And what made you decide to switch over to Uber?
My wife came and we have a four-month baby and working at the gas station, it's not easy to get time off, with hospital appointments, doctor appointments. So it's easy driving for Uber, you can adjust your own hours you want to work and you can do all your doctor visits and give time to your family. Plus at the gas station, mostly all of the gas stations, they have a shift for 10 to 12 hours, so I wouldn't be able to give much time to my family.
Are you driving for any other car services?
Why Uber and Gett?
I started with Uber but then later found out Gett, they have less commission than Uber, because Uber takes almost 40% and Gett is only like 18%.
So do you prefer Gett?
I do prefer Gett, yes. But you know Gett these days has been so slow so I turn on both apps, so whichever I get requests I use.
Did you notice when the #DeleteUber protest was happening that there was a difference in business?
I didn't know because I wasn't working, but I have a lot of friends who worked with Uber and they said yes, there was a big difference.
But it's picking back up again?
Not really... because people, they started using the other apps like Juno or Gett. Lyft is busy, they said. It seems like Uber, whatever business they lose, is going to Lyft.
What would you do if protests happened again and Uber didn't bounce back?
Most of the time I work, I work with Gett. Only when I'm not getting any requests from Gett, for like 15 or 20 minutes, that's the only time I turn on Uber. But most of the time I'm working with Gett. I guess a lot of drivers are switching to other companies like Juno. I don't have Lyft, so if that happened, I could switch over to Lyft instead of Uber. And just work with Gett and Lyft. I know a lot of friends who just work with Gett and Lyft and Juno now so they don't work with Uber anymore, and they started off with Uber like three years ago.
Jacqueline, from Colombia
Are you familiar with the #DeleteUber campaign?
A few weeks ago people were protesting...
Ah, yes, yes. I heard about that. The clients don't want to use Uber because Uber had some business with Trump, as an adviser.
Did the company tell you about that or did you find out from friends, the news...
I found out on the news because the company didn't say anything to us.
Do you drive for any other companies?
I started in this business four months ago. I started with Uber, but I want to change with another company because Uber takes a lot of money from us.
What other companies do people work for when they don't work for Uber anymore?
A lot of people recommend Lyft and Juno.
What would you say to people who are deleting the app because they are mad at Uber?
A lot of people are unhappy with the government right now. A lot of people. Mostly people want to help ... things that the government is doing right now, they want to change.
Were you upset to hear that Uber was meeting with the president?
I was not happy, no. When that happened, that was my decision to change to another company. But my car is not black, that's the problem with other companies, they want black cars.
Do you have friends that were using Uber that were worried when people started deleting the app? That they were not going to be able to make enough money?
Yes. Yes. I have a friend, she's very worried, because things changed. She doesn't have as many clients now as before.
I have a friend, she's working more than two years, and she advised me to start driving.
Is that friend also thinking of switching to another company?
Yeah, she already did.
Where is she working now?
With Lyft and Juno.
Sohaib, from Pakistan
A lot of people deleted the app and preferred Lyft.
You were striking because you were against Uber being affiliated with Trump?
When people were deleting Uber did you notice a change in business?
Yes. Our business changed, yes. I'm driving, I have two apps. One is Uber. I have Curb, too. And I have green cab. I have no problem. But Uber drivers have a problem.
So you're fine because you have different —
Yeah, I have no problem.
Would it be hard to make money just using Uber since people started deleting the app?
Yes. Now mostly Uber drivers don't just depend on the Uber. They work with Lyft and one more is, the company Juno or Uno, something like that. Most drivers have two or three apps. Not only Uber. Lyft drivers do the same thing.
So if Uber shut down, drivers would be okay?
Yeah, drivers? No problem. You hurt the driver, but not like that. If you delete the Uber app, you still need a ride, right? So you're going to go to the Lyft or other company, right? So drivers pick up the other way. They pick up the Lyft customers. So drivers are hurt, but barely. Before, it was different. If you were telling me before, a year ago or eight months ago, most drivers only used one app.
As I was getting out of the car, he told me to download Curb.
Mukhtar, from Egpyt
Where were you working before Uber?
A yellow cab driver for eight years.
Why did you switch over to Uber?
I hear it's good. Much better than yellow cab.
What makes it better?
It's not about business, it's about ... you can work anywhere you want to work. Anytime you want to work, you work. You're free, you know.
The problem is, the price is too low for Uber. Like, last week, not exactly, on Feb. 15, I had a trip ... I was stuck in traffic for 48 minutes and they gave me $7. Forty-eight minutes for $7? I can't fill even the gas. I took this trip today, all the way in Manhattan on the east side to JFK for $32. The price is too low.
Everybody uses a credit card, nobody uses cash, even for yellow cab. But you have the choice for the tip. You cannot end the trip before you tip them, even if you put zero, you have to put zero. Uber should do that.
What would you do if for some reason people protested Uber and you weren't getting any business. Would you have the option to use another service?
Of course, if I cannot make money here, you have a life and you have a family you have to take care of. My option if I'm not making money at Uber, I go back to yellow cab.
So there's always an option.
There's always an option. But for now I feel it's okay.
I know that you started working after the protests, but how would you feel knowing that people were going to stop using Uber because he met with Trump?
I don't think about it. People are looking for better price and better service.
Arthur, from Russia
Are you familiar with the movement that was happening a few weeks ago?
I was familiar, yeah.
Did you notice if there was a change in business, or the amount of people using Uber around then?
It's hard to say because it was generally a very slow time. Regardless, that period of couple weeks, it was very dead, it was very slow, for different factors. So the fact that it was slow when the protests were happening does not necessarily mean that it was slow in New York City because of that. But I do know that people who work for Lyft, they saw the increase of business with Lyft.
How did you feel when you heard about people just deleting the app as a way to protest?
Honestly, I was very entertained because it was very hypocritical. I'm supporting the cause, but it was just the way they were doing it. It was well-known before that that Uber's business practices, hurting and manipulating their drivers, and their business policies are inhumane, and a bunch of other issues. But no one was protesting about that all those years.
And the same people are usually very compulsive and entitled in the way they treat drivers. And they were supporting the same type of authoritarian power all along because it was favoring them, paying way less than what it should be for the service. But now that someone put it out on the news that it's like, oh, it's the same as supporting Trump. Then, all of a sudden, everyone is deleting apps now that it's convenient and they have other alternatives. Because they brought the industry to the same level and actually it's Uber that brought the industry down and the prices down to unreasonable for all the sides. Do you see the hypocrisy in that?
It's interesting that you point the flaws of Uber but you also work for Uber. Is there a reason you choose Uber over other services?
Initially, I would say, mostly just the laziness. Because initially when I started it was different, the conditions, the fine print, was different. The pay was different. So from my standpoint, I didn't want to cannibalize on my own business. That was like a year and a half ago. And I was fine with Uber being the major component in the business so this way if I diversify people using different apps then I have to switch in between them. So I stick only with Uber and later on, when they slashed the prices and everything, I was thinking, because it became really a burden to work for them, so I was thinking to go apply for Lyft as well. It was just my laziness that never got me to do so.
Hypothetically, if this #DeleteUber protest shut down Uber, you would have another option to go to?
Yeah. I mean, I would totally support if that had any impact on the condition of the labor conditions of the workers. Because all the other apps had to lower down the prices just because Uber did it, just in order to compete, because no one would use them. So I heard Lyft is trying hard to approach with more humane labor practices, as well as Juno. If that protest would lead to actually any beneficial cost towards the people that work for those apps, I would be all for it.