Lyft gains followers, #Deleteuber trends even after US$3M defence fund

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Uber
A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central London, Britain October 28, 2016. Reuters/Toby Melville/Illustration - RTX2QUZA

American ride-hailing service Uber’s ill-timed tweet about suspending surge pricing resulted in a disaster for the company. The hashtag #DeleteUber has trended on Twitter and customers threatened to move to Lyft, Uber's rival in US. In contrast, Lyft not only gained followers, but also some brownie points, after its pledged US$1 million (AU $ 1.32 million) to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

However, despite promising a US$3 million (AU$3.97 million) legal defence fund against Trump travel ban, users slammed Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for doing too little too late. In addition, #DeleteUber has not stopped trending.

Uber’s infamous tweet came after New York City Taxi Workers Alliance (NYCTWA) proposed a temporary strike against Trump’s travel ban. In its Facebook Post NYCTWA asked all drivers to not pick at John F Kennedy (JFK) airport between 6-7pm. However, Uber did not participate and continued to service the route.

What's worse at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, it tweeted that surge pricing has been turned off at JFK Airport. Customers did not take kindly to the tweet. Many were angry because Uber has not only failed to show its solidarity to the cause, it also sought to undercut taxi drivers who had given up lucrative fares in protest. As result, many customers deleted the app from their phones and switched to rival Lyft.

Kalanick then issued a Facebook post calling on all drivers affected by Trump’s ban. The CEO promised a US$3 million (AU$3.97 million) legal defense fund to help drivers affected by Trump’s latest executive orders.  The fund would help drivers trying to get back to the US with 24/7 legal support, immigration and translation services. However, this did not calm angry customers. Many have slammed Kalanick for being a member of Trump’s advisory business council. His promise to raise the issue with Trump in the first business advisory group meeting did not affect customers' decisions.

As a result, “DeleteUber has trended since Sunday, with celebrities joining in slamming the app. Lyft, on the other hand, stayed out of the cross fire that took place on Saturday. However, it did email users the next day, informing them that the company has pledged US$1 million (AU$1.32 million) over a four-year period to ACLU. The company also issued a statement slamming the ban as antithetical to the company’s and America’s core values. 

“We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issue that threaten the values of our community,” said CEOs John Zimmer and Logan Green in a statement. While there is no official figure from the company about the number of customers who deleted the app, Uber’s spokeswoman has now apologised for the confusion caused by the tweet. 

“We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially last night," she said, when contacted by CNBC. Going by the tweetes #DeleteUber is generating, customers are not lapping up the explanation at all. Lets hope that the company overcomes this storm.