As if Uber's woes couldn't get any more taxing than it currently is. The company is dealing with extremely controversial sexual harassment allegations, being sued by Google over allegedly stolen designs, and now it has to deal with another controversy altogether, this time of its CEO, Travis Kalanick, arguing — with harsh words, no less — with an Uber driver in a video caught by the car's dashcam.
Travis Kalanick And Uber Driver Duke It Out
The video was taken in February by Fawzi Kamel, a longtime driver in Uber's original high-end Uber Black service. It shows Kalanick taking an Uber ride accompanied by two women, with Maroon 5 song blasting from the car's speakers.
Kamel has been a driver since 2011 and he wants to draw attention to the plight of Uber drivers, according to Bloomberg. After a small exchange of farewells, Kalanick thinks the trip is over. But that's not the case, because Kamel has a few things he needs to get out of his mind. Having the CEO of Uber in his car is the perfect time for Kamel to air what ails him about the company.
At the end of the ride, after the two women have gotten off the car, Kamel addresses Kalanick about Uber's dipping fares, upon which the exchange quickly devolves into a somewhat awkward but palpably tense back and forth. The video, obtained by Bloomberg, shows Kalanick's short temper and pugnacious personality, as Bloomberg puts it.
"You're raising the standards, and you're dropping the prices," says Kamel.
"We're not dropping the prices on Black," says Kalanick.
"But in general the whole price is —" says Kamel.
"We have to; we have competitors; otherwise, we'd go out of business," says Kalanick.
"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," says Kamel.
Kalanick then says that Uber started high-end and entered low-end because it wanted to — for business reasons, it had to do so. Kamel asks Kalanick if he's referring to Lyft, a rival ride-hailing service — suggesting that Uber can easily beat it, to which Kalanick responds:
"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."
But Kamel says decisions like moving to low-end hurt drivers like him. He tells Kalanick that people are not trusting him anymore.
"I lost $97,000 because of you. I'm bankrupt because of you. You keep changing every day."
Kalanick asks Kamel what changes about Uber Black he's referring to, to which Kamel says that Uber changed the whole business; it dropped the prices, saying the original Black drivers started with $20.
"How much is the mile now, $2.75?" Kamel says to Kalanick.
"Bullsh*t," Kalanick says.
Kamel appears to be telling the truth, because Uber has indeed cut fares a number of times since 2012, which has reduced longtime drivers' earnings.
At this point, Kalanick delivers an ending lecture to the driver:
"Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else."
Kalanick slams the door, but not before Kamel can bid "Good luck!" to Kalanick, telling him he thinks Uber is doomed.
What Does This Leaked Video Say About Uber's CEO?
While many customers appreciate Uber for bringing competition to the broad taxi industry, Kalanick's strong personality and aggressive philosophy to win has rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way. Critics say that Kalanick fostered a sexist corporate culture and that Uber's treatment of drivers is abysmal.
The video illustrates Kalanick's apparent regard for Uber drivers' welfare as a sub-priority. Whether Uber's problems spell attraction for its competitor Lyft remains to be seen. But with many of Uber's systemic problems now out in the open, there's ample reason to look elsewhere.
Kamel's video will likely draw added scrutiny of Kalanick, whose style and leadership has been enabling his company's success — and its downturns, according to The Guardian. In a recent op-ed, Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit and cofounder of Project Include reiterated the number of common concerns about Kalanick's leadership in light of sexual harassment allegations, chief of which revealed by a former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.
"Now Travis' every move is being scrutinized, and he can't win because he waited too long to address these issues," she wrote. "What has he done to earn the chance to redeem himself?"
Kalanick recently asked top engineer Amit Singhal to leave Uber because of failing to disclose past sexual allegations during his job at Google. The company is also currently conducting an independent investigation concerning sexual harassment claims, promising to deliver a diversity report within the next few months.
Watch the exchange between Kalanick and Kamel below. Hit the 3:50 mark to get to the part about the argument. Feel free to sound off in the comments section, as always.