Assuming the Risk of Uber for the Lower Cost

The New York Times Ethicist had another gem on ethics. A family called for an Uber and, Surprise! a driver who did not seem to be acquainted with English or the area, showed up as their means of transportation. The drive was struggling with GPS, incorrectly headed to the Holland Tunnel, and the family instructed the driver to pull over illegally. The family wanted out before they headed to New Jersey and wasted time. The police arrived, poised to issue a ticket. The police backed off, but the family wanted to know if they were obligated to pay for the ticket. The Ethicist advised that the driver made the mistake on the GPS, ergo, driver pays.Lip service to “you cowed him into it … you can afford to pay better than an Uber driver….” The main concern of the Ethicist was to make sure the driver got a bad review.

Once again, a key point goes unaddressed. With Uber. Lyft, and any other entrepreneurial ride services, there is assumption of risk. These are not experienced drivers. In too many cases, whatever driver screening occurs has proven to be flawed. The drug testing, who knows? In short, you get what you pay for. If you want a driver who knows the ropes and GPS, hail a cab. Uber is an adventure at best and, at its worst, well, you have seen the headlines. Disruptive business models often disrupt lives, including those of their customers. There are costs associated with transportation. You can reduce screening and reduce costs. You assume that risk. Oh, and a take a gander at the Bay Area and the congestion that has resulted from all those Uber cars on the roads. We are all subsidizing that with our time. And we are not as successful in talking the police out of tickets for illegal turns so that we do not have to sit in traffic.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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2 Responses to Assuming the Risk of Uber for the Lower Cost

  1. Ash says:

    How about, you’re all wrong!

    The family hired an Uber. The family did not hire *this guy* REGARDLESS of what Uber might claim in their TOS. And so the driver is an agent of Uber, so Uber should pay for all mistakes.

    Now if Uber wants to warn/train/discipline/fire the driver for pulling over illegally, that’s degrees of acceptable as well from very to well okay.

    If it was illegal for the vehicle to pull over prior to entering the tunnel, rotten as it sounds, the family has to head back to New Jersey. We can all empathize.

    The ethicist is wrong for insisting (?) the main way of fixing this is via a bad review. Uber’s drivers are uber’s problem. The call center answerer is the call center’s problems. STOP making the public give a*hole companies an out for their firings. Let them objectively measure their own employees on their own objective, quantitative, measurable skill, not the random, uncalibrated feelz of the public who may be righteously irked with the company for many reasons, taking it out on the driver or call center answerer, or who may not at all understand that less than 5 stars is a way of saying, “Uber, fire this guy, but fire him slowly.”

    Truth: there is ZERO way in practicality for a driver to improve their ratings or to object to a rating or appeal a rating, or many times even understand what a rating is about. There is no online course, no jubilee, nothing. There is only Uber vs. the driver.

    The ethical approach is not to use scummy services with scummy management and untrained drivers to drive around.

  2. mmjdiary says:

    Having a little trouble understanding how I am wrong — your conclusion is my conclusion — expect all of this stuff from using a service that does not have proper screening, training, etc. I did not discuss the legal issues of Uber responsibility. The ethical issue, in my view and as I stated, is hiring a cheaper service and then acting surprised when there are costs associated with it.

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