Uber found itself fire-fighting another public image crisis after Bloomberg released a video of CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with a driver of the company’s high-end Uber Black service.
The video, a dashboard recording taken without seeking permission, is reported to have been shot in early February and was sent to the news agency by Fawzi Kamel, a long-time Uber Black driver.
The video shows Uber’s CEO Kalanick seated between two women.
At the end of the ride (3 minutes, 57 seconds into the video) Kalanick and the driver get into a heated exchange about Uber’s falling fares for its premium cars.
The driver tells Kalanick that while Uber has been raising standards, it has lowered prices, hurting drivers like him.
Kalanick explains that he had no choice but to cut fares.
“We didn’t go low-end because we wanted to. We went low-end because we had to because we’d be out of business,” the CEO says.
The conversation quickly escalates and Kamel tells Kalanick that he has lost $97,000 because of him.
“I’m bankrupt because of you. Yes, yes, yes. You keep changing every day. You keep changing every day.”
“Hold on a second,” an angry Kalanick retorts. “What have I changed about (Uber) Black?
The driver tells Kalanick that Uber Black started with $20 a mile but was now charging customer about $2.75.
At this point, the CEO has had enough and tells Kamel, “some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit.
They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”
Kalanick apologised to Kamel according to an internal email, after the publication of the story on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported.
“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.
“This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it,” Kalanick was reported to have written in the email.
The video exacerbates Kalanick’s problems.
Uber is battling a raft of issues including allegations of harboring a sexist corporate culture after a damning blog post by a former software engineer.
In addition, Uber and its self-driving car company Otto are being sued for allegedly stealing trade secrets from Alphabet’s autonomous car company, Waymo.
Valued at $69 billion Uber has its share of admirers and critics in equal measure.
To be an ‘Uber’ of an industry is synonymous with causing disruption and dislodging incumbent players.
However, the company’s deep-pocketed investors, win-at-any-cost attitude and ‘do first, ask forgiveness later” strategy’ has not gone down well with competitors and local government authorities.
Uber has also often been accused of treating its drivers poorly.