clock menu more-arrow no yes

A new video shows Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with a driver over fares

The driver asks why the CEO has “dropped the prices” on its UberBlack service.

A video still of Travis Kalanick in the back seat of an Uber ride, talking to the driver Screengrab from Bloomberg video

A new video published by Bloomberg shows Uber CEO Travis Kalanick getting into an argument with a driver at the end of a ride.

Before Kalanick exits the vehicle, the driver starts talking to the CEO about the status of the company’s UberBlack premium service. The conversation quickly got heated when the driver, Fawzi Kamel, asked Kalanick about why he dropped the prices for the service.

You can watch here:

We’re looking into whether Uber has, in fact, dropped the prices for its black car service, though based on previous reporting, the per-mile rate has stayed at around the same price.

But it’s certainly true that given the low price of the company’s mainstream service, UberX, and its carpool option, UberPool, there is less demand for its UberBlack service.

Anecdotally, drivers have said that demand for UberBlack has decreased. An Uber spokesperson previously said that while demand has grown in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco it has not grown at the level of UberX, according to an earlier BuzzFeed News report.

For the UberBlack service, drivers are typically required to have a premium vehicle that often leads them to leasing one through one of Uber’s leasing programs or an outside fleet.

Kamel tells Kalanick that he has lost $97,000 because of the paradox of the high cost of vehicles that qualify for UberBlack but the low demand.

We’ve reached out to Uber for comment. (Update: Kalanick posted an apology this evening. See below.)

Here’s a truncated transcript of the conversation:

Travis Kalanick: So we are reducing the number of black cars in the next few months.

Fawzi Kamel: It’s good.

You probably saw some email.

I saw the email [that says] it starts in May. But you’re raising the standards and dropping the prices.

We’re not dropping the prices on Black.

But in general.

In general, but we have competitors. Otherwise we’d be out of business.

Competitors? You had the business model in your hands, you could have the prices you want but you choose to buy everybody a ride.

No, no no. You misunderstand me. We started high-end. We didn’t go low-end because we wanted to. We went low-end because we had to because we’d be out of business.

[...]

But people are not trusting you anymore. Do you think people will buy cars anymore? ... I lost $97,000 because of you. I'm bankrupt because of you. You keep changing every day. You keep changing every day.

Hold on a second. What have I changed about Black?

You changed the whole business! You dropped the prices.

On Black? Bullshit.

We started with $20.

You know what, some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!

Good luck to you too, I know that you aren’t going to go far.

Update: In an email to employees, Kalanick apologized for his actions in response to the video.

Team -

By now I'm sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. My job as your leader is to lead...and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away.

It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.

I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.