Uber is a money-hemmorhaging bezzle ("the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not yet understand that he has lost it"). It's $6.8b losses in 2020 are not an aberration.
Uber will never be profitable.
Like all scams, Uber depends on fresh suckers coming in and buying out the last round of suckers. To do this, the company has to keep running, even as it loses money.
In fact,the longer Uber stays in business while losing money the more suckers flock to it. The thinking goes, "All these investors who piled into a money-losing company must know something I don't about how it will become profitable someday."
This is also known as the "a pile of shit this big must have a pony under it somewhere."
Key to the pile-of-shit illusion is the ongoing ability to misclassify its workers as independent contractors and so deny them a living wage and minimum benefits.
That's why Uber heavily underwrote the $200b cash-flood that resulted in the passage of California's Prop 22, which legalizes worker misclassification, and why it's agitating for comparable rules in the EU:
But the thing is, Uber drivers are obviously employees. Uber decides how much they'll be paid. It doesn't let them choose which passengers they'll pick up. It closely monitors, disciplines and fires drivers at will. Uber is a driver's boss, not their client.
The UK Supreme Court just agreed, ruling in favor of two drivers. The ruling entitles Uber drivers to normal workplace protections and wages. Of course, Uber says it only applies to a handful of workers and says it won't comply with the ruling.
But even if Uber is forced to end the charade of worker misclassification, it has other ways to slow down the rate at which it bleeds money until the current suckers can unload their stock on bigger suckers.
Chief among these is wage-theft.
Long before Amazon started stealing its drivers' tips, Uber was raking 40% of the "tips" that passengers registered through their apps.
Uber formally ended its tip-theft, and then invented other ways to steal from drivers. Primary among these is miscalculating mileage for fares: though the process is opaque and shrouded in mystery, it appears that they are using straight-line, crow-flies measurements.
That resulting in drivers getting paid for a 6-minute drive that takes 50 minutes. That's why Armin Samii, an Ubereats deliverator, created Ubercheats, an app that helped drivers detect and document wage-theft.
Uber used a false trademark claim to get Ubercheats blocked from the Chrome store (trademark claims are valid when they involve "confusion" about the "origin of goods and services" - not "nominative uses" that use a product's marks descriptively).
Samii told Motherboard that he wouldn't rename his app. He's in the right, and he won't back down. Good for him.
The free culture/free software movement has waged a decades-long, unsuccessful war on the term "IP" on the grounds that it is deceptive and incoherent - trademark, copyright, patent and other regulations have unrelated goals and mechanisms, and they're not "property".
But I think that was misguided. "IP" has a crisp meaning when used by industry: it means, "Any rule or regulation that allows me to control the conduct of my critics, customers or competitors."
Uber's trademark claim was pure IP. There's no chance someone will mistake Samii's app for a ride-hailing tool. But by (ab)using trademark law, Uber got to shut down a critic who documented its illegal conduct. Is it any wonder the corporate world fights so hard for "IP"?
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