Untraceable prepaid phones, covert workers and deceptive tactics seem like the makings of a spy movie, but it’s just some of the tactics Uber is using to lure drivers and riders away from its ridesharing competitor Lyft, according to an article in The Verge.
The article references a leaked memo, which states Uber hired workers to recruit Lyft’s drivers. Uber’s team of contractors, deemed “brand ambassadors,” made fake ride requests to contact Lyft’s drivers and would then make their best pitch. The tactic, which Uber calls “SLOG,” also kept Lyft’s cars occupied, preventing them from accepting other potential riders. The “brand ambassadors” were given company credits cards to order the rides and used prepaid phones to reach their competitor’s drivers, so the calls couldn’t be traced back to Uber.
“They’re both in midst of a national, or even international, expansion and they’re trying to grow as quickly as they can,” said Casey Newton, the author of the piece in The Verge. “And there’s a limited supply of drivers, although the number is growing, both Uber and Lyft feel if they get more and more drivers to their platform quicker, then they’ll have a better chance of being the first thing you think of when you need to get a taxi across town.”
Uber has raised $1.5 billion in venture capital and is currently the leader in the ridesharing industry, but Lyft is becoming a worthy competitor, Newton said. Due to Uber’s financial superiority, they are able to offer drivers thousands of dollars in bonuses — an incentive that is part of the “brand ambassadors’” pitch to lure Lyft’s drivers.
The leaked memo reveals that although “SLOG” has been happening in New York City, an email obtained by The Verge discovered it appears to be expanding to 10 cities, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston Miami and Washington, D.C.