The world's largest taxicab trade group sent around a press release today calling out Uber Technologies for receiving an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. That's true, but what the e-mail fails to mention is that many of the largest cab companies also get Fs from the BBB.
In San Francisco, Yellow Cab Cooperative has an F, and Peninsula Yellow Cab in Silicon Valley does, too. The Yellow Cab Company in Los Angeles also has an F. Yellow Cab Company of Chicago? F.
Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick has claimed he's in a political race for cab-riding constituents, and there's been much mudslinging. In August, the company hired David Plouffe, a former top political adviser to President Barack Obama, to help manage "the Uber campaign." Kalanick seems convinced that many of the nasty controversies dogging his startup were planted by the taxi companies, and in the case of the BBB e-mail, he's right.
"We're in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber and the opponent is an a--hole named Taxi," Kalanick said at the Code Conference in May. "We have to bring out the truth about how dark and dangerous and evil the taxi side is."
The BBB is a century-old nonprofit organization that collects and publishes customer complaints about businesses in the U.S. and Canada, and gives each one a grade based on its track record. When asked about major taxi operators receiving F grades from the BBB, a spokesman for the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, which was behind the Uber press release, said cab companies answer passengers' emergencies immediately by phone.
"This most recent BBB release provides third-party validation confirming Uber is so unresponsive," Dave Sutton, the trade group spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. "The point is: Uber's unresponsiveness could easily contribute to or cause the company's next tragedy. Taxicab companies are required to have a physical base of operations that answers phone calls from passengers in distress."
In an e-mail today, Uber said complaints received through the feedback mechanism built into its app are "regularly reviewed and acted on." The San Francisco company said taxi companies are notorious for ignoring complaints.
The taxi commission in New York registered nearly 16,000 grievances from passengers last year, about 2,000 fewer than the previous year, according to the agency's annual report. Despite the improvement in total complaints, prosecuted cases increased 39 percent.