Uber’s aggressive plan to take over private transit has it defending itself both from government regulators and its own protesting drivers. Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor in Uber’s competitor, Lyft, called Uber the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley.
So when news broke that the Better Business Bureau gave the embattled startup a grade of F for company integrity, it caused some headlines. Looking at all the complaints, nearly all seem to be from customers getting outrageous bills (perhaps from surge pricing).
Granted, I’ve had my share of run-ins with Uber, where cars either dropped me off at the wrong location or I was overcharged. But, in every case, I solved the problem with Uber’s customer service team and was given compensation.
Still, getting any kind of F, even if the public isn’t fully aware of how the BBB works, looks really bad for Uber.
Unfortunately, it’s important to take the BBB’s grades with the massive grain of salt. The BBB has often been accused of unethical practices itself, shaking down companies that refused to join its membership. This pattern seems to hold true for Silicon Valley, as well.
Google gets a C+ from the BBB, while Facebook gets an A. Google is not a member; Facebook is. So we shouldn’t be surprised that Uber’s competitor, Lyft, also got an F. Neither company is a BBB member.
On one hand, Uber has a customer service problem — whether justified or not. On the other hand, the BBB grade should not be taken very seriously, especially when there doesn’t appear to be a more highly regarded alternative.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to take Uber cars, instead of taxis, to get around San Francisco. The research, along with my own experience, finds that it makes us more productive.