MONEY marketing

Uber Is Hoping Cute Puppies Will Convince Everyone It’s Not Evil

Puppy in a box
Did somebody say something about background checks? Oh never mind. Sergey Lavrentev—iStock

Puppy deliveries are the ridesharing service's latest marketing gimmick

We gotta hand it to Uber. When you’re trying to grab yourself some positive headlines, trotting out the puppies is easily the most transparent genuine way to do it.

Yes, Uber has literally played the cute animal card with its newest one-day promotion, a joint venture with Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl. On January 28, between the hours of 11 A.M. and 3 P.M., Uber users in 10 cities could order a fuzzy little dog delivered to their workplace, at the price of just $30 for 15 minutes.

If the puppies weren’t enough to make you think fluffy thoughts about the company, Uber also promised to donate all proceeds to canine-friendly organizations like the Humane Society, and every puppy delivered was available for adoption. Hooray!

Well, sort of. Everyone love puppies, after all, and it is unquestionably a Good Thing that at least some animals will benefit from this four-hour-long publicity stunt. But does anyone really think Uber is doing this because they’re all just a bunch of softy dog-lovers at heart?

No, of course not. It’s so that the next time you hear the company’s name in the press, you’ll think about cute puppies instead of the company’s repeated safety violations and history of spotty background checks. The Puppy Bowl ploy is more reminiscent of a famous National Lampoon cover than a sincere attempt to make the world a better place.

Uber is far from the first company to glom onto an important cause in order to improve its image. And to be fair, it’s promoting the Puppy Bowl angle at least as hard as the charity angle, if not more so. But it does represent the latest in what has become an Uber trend: apparently altruistic acts–from blood donation drives to clothing giveaways, to re-promoting old-partnerships–primarily meant to boost the brand. Even when the company finally decides to stop ignoring regulators, it spins the decision as an act of goodwill.

Consumers shouldn’t let this kind of manipulation actually alter their opinion of Uber, or any business that pulls similar stunts. If you love the convenience and aren’t worried about, let’s say, a lack of driver drug testing or insufficient insurance, then by all means keep using the service. But if you just love puppies? Well, then this shouldn’t change your mind about anything.

MONEY ridesharing

Uber and Lyft Cap ‘Surge Pricing’ During East Coast Storm

A pink mustache on the dashboard as Bouchaib El Hassani, 31, a Lyft driver, makes his way through midtown.
A pink mustache on the dashboard as Bouchaib El Hassani, 31, a Lyft driver, makes his way through midtown. Bryan Smith—ZUMA Wire/Alamy

Uber won't charge more than 2.8x the normal rates; Lyft will top out at 3x a normal fare.

Worried about getting around during the impending East Coast blizzard? Don’t rule out calling an Uber.

On Monday, ridesharing services Uber and Lyft announced they would be capping their “surge” prices for the coming storm. Lyft will limit prices to three times the normal fare, while Uber will cap prices at 2.8 times the normal rate.

Both companies use demand-based pricing to increase fares when there aren’t enough cars on the road to field requests in a timely fashion. While critics have at times referred to this tactic price gouging, Uber and Lyft defend the practice, saying it encourages drivers to work during the busiest hours—or, as an economist might put it, helps supply keep up with demand.

Lyft has maintained a 200% cap on fares ever since the company launched Prime Time pricing, its version of demand pricing, last year. The one exception was New Years Eve, when the company increased the cap to 400%. Prime Time adds a certain percentage to the overall fare, meaning a 200% Prime Time rate is equivalent to triple the cost of normal ride. On Monday, Lyft sent out an email to New York customers reminding them of the cap and urging both drivers and riders to be safe during the blizzard.

Uber generally does not cap its surge pricing, but after high fares during Hurricane Sandy provoked an outpouring of criticism, the company reached an agreement with New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman to limit demand pricing during “abnormal disruptions of the market” such as emergencies and natural disasters. Uber has since expanded this policy nationwide, and further promised to donate 20% of elevated fares to the Red Cross during times when surge pricing is capped.

Unlike Lyft, Uber does not have a flat cap on its demand pricing. Instead, according to Schneiderman, the cap is “limited to the normal range of prices [Uber] charged in the preceding sixty days. In addition, it will further limit the allowable range of prices by excluding from the cap the three highest prices charged on different days during that period

In an email to users on Monday afternoon, Uber clarified that “prices would not exceed 2.8x the normal fare rate” due to the State of Emergency declared in New York. The company also said all “proceeds” will be donated to the American Red Cross.

In a Monday press conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared to call into question Uber’s agreement with Attorney General Schneiderman when he urged New Yorkers to report any service that raises prices during the storm.

“If you have any evidence—if you happen to take, for example, for-hire vehicles or have any evidence of people taking advantage of this emergency to unfairly and illegally raise the prices of their rides, it is important to call 311 and report it,” said Blasio. “Price gouging in the context of emergency is illegal.” It is unclear if de Blasio was including Uber and Lyft in his definition of “for-hire vehicles.”

The utility of ridesharing services during the weather emergency may also be in doubt for New York City residents. Mayor de Blasio has said all streets will be closed to non-emergency vehicles after 11 p.m. Monday night.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the Lyft demand pricing plan. Because Prime Time pricing adds a percentage to the overall fare, a 200% cap limits rates to three times the cost of a normal ride.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Though the “No Child Left Behind” brand is thoroughly tarnished, the law sparked the revolution of data-driven educating.

By Nick Sheltrown in EdSurge

2. To help cities plan for flooding, drought, wildfires and other effects of climate change, the University of Michigan built an adaptation tool for the Great Lakes region.

By Lisa A. Pappas at University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute

3. Teachers are underpaid in America. Early childhood workers earns even less for setting the foundation of all future learning for our children. That should change.

By Laura Bornfreund at New America Foundation

4. Chicago’s ‘Crime Lab’ — which uses scientific research to understand and experiment with innovative ways to prevent crime — could be replicated in other cities.

By Tina Rosenberg in Fixes, at the New York Times

5. To reduce billions of needless miles driving, a startup is bringing the Uber model to the trucking industry.

By Liz Gannes in Re/code

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME India

Uber to Resume Operations in New Delhi, Spokesman Says

The ride-sharing app has courted controversy around the globe

App-based informal taxi company Uber will soon resume operations in India’s capital, New Delhi, over a month after being banned following an alleged rape by one of its drivers.

A spokesman for Uber said the ride-sharing service has applied for a radio taxi license, the lack of which was cited by the city’s authorities as one of the causes for the ban, Reuters reports.

The company will also implement other measures to improve passenger safety, including more stringent driver verification, a dedicated incident response team and an in-app emergency button.

[Reuters]

TIME Companies

Uber Just Answered Everything You Want to Know About Your Driver

Uber
Gamma Nine Photography/Uber

Do Uber drivers go to college? How much do Uber drivers earn? How many hours do they work?

If you’ve ever sat in the back of an Uber car and wondered what it would be like to be the driver, ruminate no further.

Uber released a trove of data Thursday that answers pretty much every question you’ve ever had about the average Joe (or Jane) Uber driver. In a joint analysis by Princeton Professor of Economics Alan Krueger and Uber Head of Policy Research Jonathan Hall, Uber revealed its drivers’ average wages, education, race, and driving patterns. The data are based on aggregated data from Uber driving histories, schedules and earnings from 2012-2014, as well as a survey of 601 active drivers.

Basically, it’s every nosy question you ever had for Uber drivers, answered. So sit back in your seat, enjoy the passing scenery, and query away — Here are all your questions as answered by a hypothetical Uber driver, per the company’s own data:

Are you a man?

Probably. Only about 13.8% of Uber drivers are female. Comparatively, women make up nearly half of the overall U.S. workforce.

How old are you?

Unsurprisingly, we Uber drivers tend to be younger than the average U.S. worker, and much younger than the average taxi driver. A plurality of us are between 30-39 years old, compared with 22.5% in the regular work force and 19.9% among regular taxi drivers and chauffeurs.

Did you go to college?

We’re better educated than the average U.S. worker. About 37% of us Uber drivers have a college degree, versus 25.1% in the general work pool.

Why did you start driving Uber?

It’s likely I started driving for Uber as a temporary gig. About one-third of us started with Uber to earn money while looking for a steady, full-time job.

Is this your only job?

Don’t think so. Uber is still a side-gig for most drivers. Over 62% of Uber drivers are working full-time or part-time on another job.

How many hours do you drive Uber a week?

Not that many, to be honest. A majority (51%) of Uber drivers work 15 hours a week or fewer. Only 19% of us are really driving full-time (35 hours per week and more) compared with 81% of regular taxi drivers and chauffeurs.

Tell me how much money you make.

Ahem. It’s complicated. On average, we make $19.04 per hour, but our earnings vary widely across the country. In New York, for instance, our average wage per hour is $30.35, while in Chicago, it’s just $16.20.

Compare that to taxi driver and chauffeur hourly wages: on average nationwide, they make $12.90 per hour. So that’s about $6.14 less per hour than us Uber drivers.

When are you going to quit?

Pretty soon. Most Uber drivers don’t keep the job very long. Just a little more than half are still taking rides a year after starting. That’s because a lot of people don’t see Uber as a long-term job — it’s a stopgap before doing something else.

Do you earn a higher hourly wage if you work more hours?

Yes. Believe it or not, Uber drivers who work more hours also make more money each hour. The earnings sweet spot for both uberX and UberBLACK drivers is 35 to 49 hours per week, when drivers make $17.56 and $21.67 per hour, respectively. Any more or any fewer hours than that, and drivers start to earn slightly less per hour.

How many drivers does Uber have?

There were more than 160,000 active Uber drivers by the end of 2014. (“Active” means that a driver gives at least four rides per month.) Some 120,000 of those drivers signed up with Uber in the last 12 months.

For comparison’s sake, Amazon had 149,500 employees in the September 2014. McDonald’s had 440,000 at the end of 2013. But it’s important to remember that only a small number of us Uber drivers (32,000 by our count) work full-time.

MONEY Uber

Uber Reveals How Much Its Drivers Really Earn…Sort Of

Uber
Gamma Nine Photography/Uber

Uber says its drivers make $6 more than traditional cab drivers, but the devil is in the details.

Uber has long said its drivers get paid more than traditional cabbies. But do they really?

New data from the ridesharing service itself gives the clearest look into the company’s business—and that of its drivers—than ever before. On Thursday, Uber released two reports: an anonymous survey of 601 Uber drivers and an analysis of the Uber labor market co-authored by Princeton economics professor Alan B. Krueger and Jonathan Hall, Uber’s head of policy research. Together, they provide information on how drivers use Uber, how much they make, and how fast Uber’s business is growing.

The real scoop on wages

The big news in this latest report is wage data. Previously, Uber stated the median driver in New York City was making $90,000 a year in “business income,” but this number was criticized by many because business income doesn’t include costs like gasoline, maintenance, car insurance, health insurance, and, you know, the car itself. Another complaint was that the company wasn’t being clear about how many hours one had to drive in order to make said $90k.

This time around, Uber still isn’t including those costs when calculating drivers’ wages, but it has broken down earnings on a per-hour basis and compared them with government data on how much conventional taxi drivers take home. The results show an Uber driver makes an average of $6 per hour more than the average taxi/chauffeur/limo driver. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps those professions together, which makes for a reasonably fair comparison to Uber’s grouping of commercially licensed Uber Black drivers—a premium service—and lower-paid UberX drivers.)

150122_EM_DriverPayChart
Uber

These numbers are impressive, but Uber acknowledges that its driver-partners “are not reimbursed for driving expenses, such as gasoline, depreciation, or insurance, while employed drivers covered by the OES [Occupational Employment Statistics] data may not have to cover those costs.” So how much do these drivers really make, including expenses? It’s still hard to say. Uber told finance writer Felix Salmon that fuel, gas, maintenance, depreciation, and insurance would add about $15,000 per year in New York City.

That works out to about $7.20 per hour (assuming a 40-hour work week), which would still leave New York Uber drivers ahead, but would seriously cut into Uber’s advantage across the board if costs in other cities are similar. It should also be noted that cab drivers likely share in many of those expenses. But cab drivers may not have to pay for their own vehicle, which drives Uber’s average net hourly wages even lower.

The takeaway from all this? We don’t know much more than before, but it would appear that an Uber driver’s salary is at least on par with that of a normal cab driver, and potentially more.

What kind of jobs is Uber providing?

The good news is that the vast majority of Uber drivers—78%—are satisfied working for the company. But the data also reveal that many drivers see the ride-sharing service as a stopgap measure until they find a better job. The survey results show 32% of drivers said the major reason for partnering with Uber was “to earn money while looking for a steady, full-time job.”

That makes sense considering nearly half of Uber’s drivers have a college degree or higher, well above the 18% of taxi drivers with similar credentials. Indeed, slightly more than half of Uber drivers became inactive one year after joining the service, suggesting they quit or found other work.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of Uber’s major selling points is that anyone can drive a car to earn a little extra money, and it has clearly succeeded in this regard. But the numbers demonstrate how Uber isn’t providing a career as much as an income supplement or temporary gig: Just 24% of Uber drivers say the company is their only source of personal income, and another 16% say Uber is their largest source of income but not the only one. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of drivers said Uber did not make up a significant source of their wages.

Stunning growth

Ultimately, it’s up to drivers to choose whether Uber makes sense for them, and the results seem to speak for themselves. In the United States, Uber says, more than 160,000 drivers had partnered with the company by the end of 2014, and almost 40,000 new U.S. drivers provided their first trips in December of last year. Thanks to Uber’s new data release, prospective drivers will have more information than ever when making their decision.

Read next: Uber CEO: We’ll Create 50,000 Jobs in Europe This Year

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME India

Indian Woman Looks to Sue Uber in the U.S. Over Alleged New Delhi Rape

The 26-year-old alleged victim has reportedly enlisted the services of high-profile American lawyer Douglas Wigdor

An Indian woman who was allegedly raped by an Uber taxi driver is considering the possibility of taking the tech firm to court in the U.S., according to British daily the Guardian.

Authorities in the Indian capital banned the taxi service in December, when the woman accused Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, 32, of attacking her. Yadav pleaded not guilty to charges of rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation.

As the criminal trial unfolds, the victim is reported to have approached Douglas Wigdor, a high-profile American lawyer who represented Nafissatou Diallo, the New York City hotel maid who accused the former International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office went on to drop all charges against Strauss-Kahn, while a civil suit was settled out of court.

“I can confirm that I have been retained by the young lady who was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi, India, last December,” Wigdor told the Guardian, which said he was looking at the possibility of the New Delhi woman suing Uber for negligence in an American court. “Having met extensively with her and her family while in Delhi, I can only compliment them for their bravery and fortitude during this very difficult time. We will use all of our resources to vindicate my client’s rights, hold those responsible for their actions and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

MONEY Autos

Uber Shares Its Ride Data With Boston

This is the first time Uber will reveal so much of its ride information to a municipality.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: January 14

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

New Charlie Hebdo Issue Sells Out

Charlie Hebdo‘s defiant new issue sold out around Paris on Wednesday, with scuffles over copies of the paper fronting the Prophet Muhammad. The issue hit newsstands just as the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda officially claimed responsibility for attack

Uber Fights Traffic Jams

Uber said it will share its transportation data with Boston officials in hopes of helping the city ease traffic congestion and improve city planning

U.S. Medical Research Stalls

Funding for medical research in the United States is in a sorry state, but other parts of the world are experiencing the opposite, according to a new study

Zooey Deschanel Is Pregnant

The New Girl star confirmed to People that she’s expecting her first child, with boyfriend Jacob Pechenik. “Jacob and I are over the moon,” the 34-year-old actress said. Deschanel has been dating Pechenik, a 42-year-old producer, since mid-2014

Where to Buy the New Charlie Hebdo

The French satirical newspaper released its first issue on Wednesday since last week’s terrorist attack left eight journalists dead at its Paris office. Only a few hundred copies of the first printing are set to reach the U.S. over the next few days

Bartender Accused in Boehner Plot

A former bartender of House Speaker John Boehner plotted to kill him by poisoning his drink or shooting him, federal authorities said. Michael Robert Hoyt worked at a country club in West Chester, Ohio, that Boehner frequented for five years

Man Finds Himself (Almost) Alone on Delta Flight

A media strategist and writer lucked out when his flight from Cleveland to New York City had only one other passenger aboard. “There were no screaming babies, no one listening to loud lyrics or reclining their seats or taking their shoes,” Chris O’Leary said

Woody Allen Will Make a TV Show for Amazon

Allen will both write and direct a series of half-hour episodes of an as-yet-untitled show for the retail giant’s streaming network, a first for the Oscar-winning filmmaker. But Amazon’s big deal could bring with it big controversy, writes TIME’s James Poniewozik

Japan Cabinet Approves Record Military Budget

Japan’s Cabinet approved the country’s largest ever defense budget on Wednesday, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets to help counter China’s rising assertiveness in the region. The budget must still be approved by parliament

Release Dates of 4 Disney Movies Announced

Disney has announced the release dates of four of its upcoming films, including the remake of Pete’s Dragon and The Jungle Book, an anime adaptation The Ghost in the Shell and disaster film The Finest Hours. Idris Elba and Bill Murray will feature in The Jungle Book

RNC Looks to Expel Committeeman for ‘Abhorrent Views’

Members of the Republican National Committee will gather this week to consider voting to expel one of their own. Dave Agema, the national committeeman from Michigan, has endorsed racist and homophobic material on social media and has refused calls to resign

Bitcoin Continues to Plummet

The price of Bitcoin dropped again this week, sliding to its lowest level since early 2013, suggesting that confidence in the contentious cryptocurrency may be shrinking. On Tuesday, its value dropped from $267 to about $224

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TIME India

Uber Driver in New Delhi Charged With Rape, Kidnapping

Company may also be charged

An Uber driver was charged with rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation in a New Delhi court Tuesday. A 25-year-old woman accused the driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, of assaulting her during a ride to her home Dec. 5. The case is set to begin Thursday as part of a new fast-track court system in India meant to expedite certain cases.

Uber, a car-on-demand app service that is growing rapidly around the world, may still be held liable for the alleged assault, police officials in New Delhi said. The company could face criminal charges for not properly disclosing safety issues with its service. Uber was banned in New Delhi shortly after the assault accusations came to light.

[The Washington Post]

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