In the war of the car-service apps, Uber has the upper hand. The on-demand transportation company has raised more money, signed up more partners, and landed in more cities than any other competitor, including Lyft.
Now it’s hoping to dominate the market even more by recruiting drivers through questionable tactics that include hiring contractors who request Lyft rides only to try to recruit drivers to work with Uber instead, The Verge reported on Tuesday.
It’s no secret that the companies aren’t fond of each other. Lyft has accused Uber of sabotaging drivers by requesting then canceling over 5,000 rides. (Uber responded by saying that Lyft used the same tactic on its drivers.)
In an effort to poach Lyft’s drivers, the company created a campaign called Operation Slog that provides Uber recruiters with multiple mobile phones and credit cards to create fake Lyft accounts. It trained them on a five-point pitch to convince drivers to switch, The Verge reports. Uber employees who were a part of Operation Slog received compensation up to $750 for successfully poaching a Lyft driver.
The recruiting spiel include promising Lyft drivers they would get a “more polished clientele” by driving with Uber.
Uber has talked about the sophisticated systems it uses to match riders and drivers. But The Verge’s report shows that Uber also makes scrappy use of technological tools like Wufoo forms and GroupMe messaging to wage a ground war against competitors like Lyft.
Talk To The Hand On The Wheel
According to The Verge, Uber delayed responding to the publication’s questions until it could publish its own blog post about Operation Slog, calling it a “marketing program“—and even used the opportunity to recruit more drivers and recruiters. Uber denied cancelling rides:
We can’t successfully recruit drivers without talking to them—and that means taking a ride. We’re all about more and better economic opportunity for drivers. We never use marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living—and that includes never intentionally canceling rides.
This isn’t the first time Uber has been accused of aggressively poaching drivers from a competitor. It targeted on-demand car service Gett by ordering and canceling rides, then following up with a text message trying to recruit the driver. In that case, Uber acknowledged that it had engaged in “too aggressive sales tactics,” and said it would stop.
In the case of Lyft, it appears that ride cancellations weren’t meant to inconvenience drivers. Instead, Uber recruiters were told to avoid targeting drivers who had previously been pitched by another recruiter in order to avoid raising drivers’ suspicions. When an Uber recruiter saw that a previously targeted Lyft driver was assigned to pick them up, they would cancel the ride, lest the driver report being recruited multiple times to Lyft headquarters.
The Verge’s report has prompted some Uber riders to reconsider their usage of the service.
— DHH (@dhh) August 26, 2014
Photo of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick by Silicon Prairie News