The veil has been lifted on Operation SLOG -- Uber’s calculated ploy to stake its dominance within a budding ride-sharing industry.
While the company’s penchant for cancelling rides has been well-documented, internal communications obtained by The Verge illustrate that the practice remains largely misunderstood. Rather than an attempt to prank competitors like Lyft by thwarting their services, for instance, the cancellations are actually the upshot of a vastly strategic program to recruit more drivers.
Here’s how it works: Uber has allegedly sourced an army of independent contractors for whom it provides iPhones and credit cards to order rides from competitors. These contractors -- or “brand ambassadors,” as they’re called -- are then tasked with striking up conversations with the competitor’s drivers in an attempt to lure them over to Uber.
Successful conversions -- a practice Uber calls “slanging” -- can rake in commissions of $750 or more.
But as competitors like Lyft have wizened to Uber’s tactics, The Verge reports that thousands of cancelled rides by Uber actually mark a concerted effort by the company to avoid detection as opposed to straight-up sabotage.
Operation SLOG apparently went into full force last month when Lyft was eyeing its debut within New York City. As Lyft drivers might inevitably be approached by Uber’s growing fleet on multiple occasions, Uber urged its recruiters to take certain precautions. “Wait a period of time before you request so you do not have to cancel on the same driver if you get them again,” reads an alleged email from an Uber street team manager.
The initiative is rolling out nationwide, with Uber deploying brand ambassadors in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Miami, Washington, DC and more.
Following The Verge’s exposé, Uber published a blog post detailing Operation SLOG, which it explained stands for “Supplying Long-term Operations Growth.”
“We can’t successfully recruit drivers without talking to them -- and that means taking a ride,” the company wrote. “We never use marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living -- and that includes never intentionally canceling rides.”
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