Since Uber has stuck by the notion that it has no liability for the behavior of its drivers, I feel it my obligation to write this post. All of this happened in London, England.
On 12 December I ordered an Uber to transport myself and some items to a venue where I was holding an event. To be specific: I had a small hand-luggage sized suitcase, 36 rubber buckets stacked, and a small box of miscellaneous items. I had situated all the items next to the front door. When I saw that the car had arrived, I waved to the driver to pull up directly at the door. Monio, the driver, got out of his car and, immediately said “I’m not a removals van”, to which I replied “and this isn’t a removal”.
Without looking at or greeting me, he opened the trunk. I placed my suitcase and the box in the trunk. He became visibly agitated, and I asked him to lose his attitude, as I wasn’t doing anything outside of the boundaries of Uber’s service and I was also still treating him politely. That apparently set him off, because he closed the trunk which would have closed on my hands, if I had not reacted fast enough. He then climbed back into his car and took off. I yelled loudly; I banged on the back of the car and on the trunk. I even opened the backseat door which led him to speed up, so that I couldn’t get into the car.
Luckily the porter of my building witnessed everything and called the police. By the time I had walked back up the street to my building, the police were on the phone. Since it was an Uber, I had a record of the driver’s vehicle and license plate. I gave the police all of that information. They explained to me all the steps that I would need to take, who needed to be called, and what protocol was. In order to offer drivers the benefit of the doubt, the incident wouldn’t be registered as a criminal offense immediately, because sometimes taxi drivers forget that customers have something in the rear of the vehicle. Obviously that wasn’t the case, but I understood the reasoning.
Uber provides no emergency contact details on its app or website, so I filed a complaint on the app and also tweeted to support. The tweet garnered a swift response but only sending me an e-mail address to contact. My wallet which contained my passport, my bank cards, etc. was in that suitcase. What good will an e-mail do me?
Somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes later, I suppose it occurred to this driver with a 4.7-star rating, that he had f*cked up, because he returned. The porter met him at the driveway and brought all of my things back into the building. Everything was accounted for. However, in that amount of time, who knows what he could’ve done with my documents. Not to mention the fact that he now clearly knows where I live.
Several hours later someone from Uber tried calling me, but it was right before the doors opened at my event, so I wasn’t able to take the call. (If I’d have known it was Uber, I would’ve taken the time.) They wrote me an e-mail and gave me a call the following day. In that phone call an Uber employee (do those even exist?), at first, said all of the right things. But after it became clear that I had not been – in their opinion – physically harmed and the incident reported to the police was not yet listed as criminal, the senior manager seemed satisfied to offer me the scripted empty talk with aim of appeasing.
After the holidays I followed up to find out if any action had been taken. I made clear that I would not feel comfortable using the Uber platform if it were possible that I might have to confront Monio again. Here’s how they replied:
Let me translate: More than likely Monio was suspended from the platform for a hot second but has since been re-instated. And they aren’t willing to admit this openly because, and especially in consideration of the fact, that they are more than controversial in London being targeted by TfL and even the Mayor. Unfortunately there is no Lyft in London, but there are a myriad of other cab services that I am happy to use instead.