Earlier this month, Lyft and Uber got into a war of words over shady recruitment processes and anticompetitive tactics used in the literal “street fight” over drivers in markets that the two compete in. Based on a story in The Verge today, Uber’s recruiting tactics included the systematic use of contractors to request rides and try to lure away the competition’s drivers with fake Lyft accounts.
Previously, Lyft had accused Uber of systematically requesting and cancelling rides during the process, resulting in more than 5,000 lost rides. The next day Uber cried foul as well, claiming an even bigger number of cancelled requests and saying Lyft had planted the story because its investors had been pushing for an acquisition.
The Verge’s post, however, shows how Uber gave a group of contractors burner phones and a series of credit cards that could be used to create dummy accounts on its competitor’s service. Those contractors, which it calls “brand ambassadors,” were hired through a recruiting firm with the express purpose of stealing away Lyft drivers.
Uber, for its part, tried to defray what it calls misinformation in the press ahead of the article being published, with a blog post that attempts to “set the record straight” and “demystify our recruiting efforts.” It provided its side of what “Operation SLOG” entails, which includes a series of rider and driver incentives for recruiting new Uber drivers from the competition.
The evidence presented against Uber is pretty comprehensive and damning, however: The Verge includes a playbook for its “brand ambassadors,” explaining a process for requesting a ride through temporary Lyft accounts using Uber-provided burner phones and credit cards, asking Lyft drivers if they’d like to work for Uber, and getting them signed up on the spot.
It also includes an online form where contractors can request phones, credit cards and driver kits for those it gets signed up. And while the evidence comes from a contractor who was a part of the recruiting program in New York, based on The Verge’s report it appears that Uber was replicating the program in other cities around the country where the two companies compete.
The post doesn’t address the issue of ride cancellations, which both Lyft and Gett had accused Uber of participating in as part of a DDoS-style attack. And in its blog post, Uber writes that it “never use[s] marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living – and that includes never intentionally canceling rides.”
However, Uber’s use of on-the-ground contractors for recruitment shows just how competitive this space has gotten, as both companies seek to provide a high level of driver supply in the markets they operate in. It might not be a winner-take-all market, but Uber has made it clear that it intends to win the ground transportation battle.