Yesterday, I got a surprise telephone call from an Uber Nigeria representative. He wanted to find out if there was a reason why I hadn’t used the service in over a year now. Yes; I stopped using Uber around end of 2015, I believe. And I stopped using the service as a protest against what I believe to be unjust action on the part of Uber. Here is the story.
Sometime in 2014, I was introduced to Uber. I don’t get around much, as I hate Lagos traffic. So, my movement is pretty limited to certain locations and hours. Lagos roads are mad places. I would rather drive from Lagos to Zaria than drive from Ikeja to Victoria Island. Anyway, I digress. I tried out Uber and found it a service that could be useful every blue moon. I actually found it fun.
Blogging About Uber
So I blogged about my experiences. And in line with Uber’s referral programme in which users are encouraged to share their personal code to earn bonus rides, I included my code at the end of my blog posts. Here is one of them: Moverick went riding with Uber in Lagos (promo code inside). Of course, readers who loved my review of the service signed up. From October 2014 to September 2015, I earned Uber 64 successful referrals from my posts.
Again, because I do have a car and I don’t go to a lot of places, I really didn’t have regular use for Uber. I often had a hefty bonus balance for weeks at a stretch.
One day in November 2015, I logged into my Uber account to discover that my credit balance of N16,000 had disappeared. Gone. Wiped out. On the 20th of November 2015, I wrote Uber support about this and we exchanged over 7 emails in the conversation. The summary of the exchange was that Uber accused me as follows (unedited):
I have reviewed your trip and I can confirm that your invite code is no longer valid as it may have been publicly distributed in a way that violated oru terms. This also means that you have forfeited all credit or promotions that you might have had on your account.
In the same email, Uber said (unedited):
Personal invite codes are only approved for personal use. You are permitted and encouraged to share it via email, text, or on social media to invite your friends and contacts, however distribution via search engines, coupon sites, paid advertising or any other outlets where you are not the primary content owner is not allowed.
Note that my personal code was shared on my blog in posts that I wrote sharing my Uber ride experiences. At no time did I distribute my code via a search engine, paid advertising or any outlet where I am not the primary content owner. I shared the code on MY blogs. As far as I can see, it is pretty much the same as sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. It is social media.
I argued this but the Uber guys wouldn’t budge. The summary of Uber’s position was this (unedited):
I hope you can understand that these security features need to be built in to prevent misuse of our services and to prevent users from creating accounts for the sole purpose of taking free rides. You might not have had that intention, however, the system cannot differentiate between the two situations and frankly, there really is no way for anyone else to distinguish the two either.
I am afraid I really cannot be of any more help with this than I already have, which is to say, that I have ensured you continue to have uninterrupted access to our services.
I definitely wasn’t using Uber for the sole purpose of taking free rides, as I had taken a number of rides that I paid for.
The even more frustrating thing was that the Uber reps could not point out exactly what I did wrong. If they did, at least, I would know what to avoid doing. It was a blanket rebuff. The implication was that I could end up in a similar situation again. No; I wouldn’t put myself in that position again. When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.
So, I stopped using Uber
I had helped Uber acquire scores of new users and I got thrown under the bus. That is how I see it. My response: I stopped using Uber. Am I angry? Not at all. Perhaps Uber even has a valid point that I am not seeing. Perhaps not. It doesn’t matter much.
I hadn’t bothered with the story till now (it has been over a year now since this incident happened). Members of the Mobility Arena team use ride services, and it is Uber that they use the most. I have also personally introduced the service to other people since this fallout happened. If it works fine for them, great! There is nothing personal about it. I am just not using the service anymore. Like I told the representative who spoke with me yesterday, if I could be thrown under the bus that way, what else were they capable of doing should I resume using it?
Why am I telling this story now? Let’s see… Perhaps I am writing this to soothe that insatiable need to tell stories. Telling stories is what I do. Yesterday’s telephone call from the Uber representative triggered the itch to tell the story. I have done just that. Go use the service if you need it. I still think it is a good service, though stories abound all over social media about how the quality of rides in Nigeria keep deteriorating. If Uber works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, walk away. It isn’t personal.
I hope you enjoyed this story. I have tons of exciting stories to tell. Do stay around. Use the comments box to share your stories too. Cheers.
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.