The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
At one time, I was the GM of the largest pub in Birmingham. It was my responsibility, along with every single employee, to make sure customers were not over served or ever behind the wheel intoxicated. It's all spelled out in the Dram Shop Act. This was and always will be a nearly impossible task. Believe me, we tried hard. We took all of the obvious precautions, but in the end, it came down to making sure people didn't drive. We placed Yellow Cab's number all over the walls and called the number for them, time after time. Too many times, they wouldn't wait or the cab just simply wouldn't show. If we were lucky, we could convince them to wait and take them home in our personal vehicles. It was a major inconvenience, but far better than the alternative. Now out of that industry, my new job has me traveling. While working in San Francisco a couple of years ago, a fellow employee advised me to download the Uber app. Out of the gate, I was blown away. This was Uber Black I was using. It's the fancy Uber service that you often hear about as being top notch. It is. An SUV, town car, or limo generally shows up depending on your group size and/or preference. As I began working in Charlotte, I started using Uber X. This is the "boogie man under the bed" service they offer. The one where drivers use their own vehicle. This last sentence leads to misconceptions. A lot of them. People take this to mean any average Joe can open an app, jump in their car, and find people that need rides. This is far from the truth. Uber is the boss, the driver is the employee. They use their own vehicle, while insured by Uber and only after passing a background check. Every Uber ride I've been on has been prompt and courteous, the driver has had a clean vehicle, and I've felt safe each time. If any of these things fall short, I can give the driver a negative rating on the app. If I happen to be a jerk (which I'm not), the driver can give me a negative rating. Too many negative ratings for them, they're no longer a driver. Too many for me, they won't pick me up. I like that. I like accountability. So why don't we have Uber? The public screams for it. Every other state in the south has it. There are over a million Uber rides per day, but we can't get one in our great state? M.A.D.D. has come out in support and the stats clearly show that DUI deaths drop in states that have ride sharing, but it's not for us? Why in the world would we oppose what consumers rave about? Point 1. Safety. The word "rape" was thrown around more times than I can count while the state house debated HB509. "Uber drivers are raping women," was the narrative. Rebuttal 1. This argument is bunk. The stories of Uber Drivers being arrested for assault or rape are unacceptable. There is no excuse for this. At the same time, we need to look at the numbers. In 2014, as Uber was just blossoming, there were over 140 million Uber rides. The reports of arrests are just a handful. With a quick google search, you can find page after page of Yellow Cab drivers arrested for rape, assault, and even murder. This isn't Yellow Cab's or Uber's fault. It's a societal issue. You can just as easily find staggering numbers of arrests for teachers, Sunday school teachers, and government employees. This argument is flawed and can't be held against Uber. Rebuttal 1b. This argument is really bunk. Think of the lives lost to drunk driving. Think of the lives that could be saved be people having multiple, reliable options for rides. This is the biggest point of this debate. Period. Point 2. This should be decided by municipalities. Rebuttal 2. This is too big for each municipality. Plus, you already screwed it up. There are 37 municipalities in Jefferson County alone. They are asking Uber to come up with agreements for every single municipality they would operate in. It's not feasible. The state can (hopefully) come up with one set of regulations that would apply to everyone.