On Tuesday, Uber told the Wall Street Journal that the company has been underpaying its New York City drivers for two years. Oops!
Uber intends to issue back pay of roughly $900 per driver, which the Journal estimates will come to $45 million in total. Uber has plenty of capital available to pay the sum, but it's another public relations blow in a rough year for the company. Rachel Holt, Uber's regional manager for North America, said, "We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end."
Wall Street Journal reporter Eliot Brown noted pointedly on Twitter, "Uber, who employs legions of top mathematicians and economists, made a 'mistake' calculating its commission that benefited Uber. For 2.5 yrs," implying either that the company shortchanged drivers on purpose, or that the error was particularly egregious given Uber's resources.
This news comes on the heels of a New York Times report that Uber's driverless car program in Pittsburgh has disappointed local officials and residents:
Nine months [after the pilot began], Pittsburgh residents and officials say Uber has not lived up to its end of the bargain. Among Uber's perceived transgressions: The company began charging for driverless rides that were initially pitched as free. It also withdrew support from Pittsburgh's application for a $50 million federal grant to revamp transportation. And it has not created the jobs it proposed in a struggling neighborhood that houses its autonomous car testing track.
In driver forums, users are frustrated by the gap between numbers touted by the company and what they can actually achieve. This January, Uber was fined $20 million by the FTC for deceiving drivers with lofty numbers. In an UberPeople.net thread titled "Who here makes 25 bucks + an hour?" one person commented, "I can make $25/hr and more if and only if I limit my driving to certain times and places, which would amount to fewer than 10 hours per week in my market." Others reported similar restrictions on when they were able to achieve that rate.
Another person said ruefully, "This job is like playing slots at the casino. Quit when you're looking good or hang around for nothing. A gamble."