Most of us involve with the ‘media’ have recently read about the noise made by taxi drivers all over the world following the release of the Uber app. When you read stuff like “a battle of consumer choice and convenience versus traditional workers’ rights” you can’t help but allow all of your latent marketing instincts try to have an opinion and then come out on the side of the creative brain that developed the ‘big idea’.
But in this instance, it’s worth stepping back from all the hullabaloo and try to see through the traffic at the ‘for hire’ light on top of the black cab.
You all know what Uber is, right?
No? Well, it’s a smart phone app that claims to help people in 70 major cities around the world find a taxi quickly, legitimately and cost effectively. Their website is a wonderful place that tells you virtually nothing except that they ‘Move People’ and, if you look closely enough, you’ll also see that it has the mighty Google’s hands all over it.
So, this is no start up (forgive yet another car metaphor) but a global giant. And on further examination, this ‘new business’ is part of an $18bn California conglomerate – it isn’t a taxi firm, nor is it an over ambitious minicab firm – it’s a software firm. They will never have met the man who picks you up in a cab, or car, or MPV. No human operator will take your booking. So the reassuring, slightly creepy, weasel words that greet you on the web site – Getting More, Sharing Experiences, Owning the Moment – are no more than a chat up line, a way to get you into a vehicle, no questions asked. Some people employ equally lurid tactics to achieve that dark motive.
But lets give Uber the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are trying to turn booking a cab into a lifestyle choice – hold that thought!
All over the world, black cabs and their equivalent (which would be yellow in NYC) are offering so much more, and that’s at the heart of the worldwide outpouring of anger towards Uber last week. London cabbies train for years and boast about ‘the knowledge’. When did you last get into a Hackney cab and have to tell the driver how to get to your destination. Now, balance that view with falling out of a club at 2 or 3 in the morning and getting into the first cab that shows up, apparently in reaction to you hitting an app on your phone. That is a completely different experience.
But that’s what Uber is offering with all of the inherent risk that comes with that type of decision. And guess what? Black cabs, Yellow cabs and all the other colours that signify ‘taxi excellence’ aren’t part of the database that you are exposed to when you use the Uber app.
It’s a little like trying to call Amazon about a particular order. You just don’t do it. Imagine that you’re not inquiring after a book, but a friend who got in a car three hours ago and never arrived home.
Some will say that the big city regulated cabs are restricting trade all over the world. But city life has enough risks without putting innocent home-goers into harms way. So now seems an appropriate time to introduce you to the Uber strapline – Welcome to Anything is Possible!
All hail the Black Cab!
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