By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
Uber exists in over 100 countries around the world, and it is pretty much the same everywhere: Click on the app, get from point A to point B, and evaluate the trip.
That is basically true in Mexico as well, but some interesting undercurrents are happening that might not be apparent.
When Uber made the move in Mexico to try to capture a greater share of the market and allowed cash payments, everything changed.
All of a sudden, drivers were obligated to pick up passengers with no way to track a rider, who may have created a false account. The driver only knows the current location of the passenger request, not the final destination, until the trip is accepted. The driver does not know how the trip is being paid for when the request comes in.
Criminals know this and expressly order certain models of Ubers to rob the driver and steal the car as it goes into certain pre-planned areas.
Drivers have been killed, yet Uber has not responded to repeated requests for data regarding that number in Mexico. However, the drivers are talking about this and are in fear for their lives.
Here is a simple example of what many drivers are forced to do, and it has probably happened with you, and you likely have not even noticed: You request your trip, a driver reaches out to you with something as simple as, “If you’re going to pay in cash, could you please have the exact change.” You reply, “Ok, I do.” And like magic, your trip has been cancelled.
The drivers completely admit that the practice is unethical, yet feel they “work” for a company that does not care about their safety. They want to arrive home with a car and their life.
So why not just organize a no-Uber day, as other countries have, forcing the company to negotiate with drivers?
In large metropolitan areas, all the drivers do not know each other. While many are linked on private WhatsApp groups, a strike is only effective if all drivers participate. Drivers feel it will never be possible to ever achieve that level of unity, even when it is in the best interest of all drivers.
The company knows this, and it also knows that if just a few opt out of a planned strike, demand will be greater that day and fares will be higher for those few drivers who ignore the strike. And those who do strike can be traced in the system and fired. Sad!
Some drivers do like cash because it is not taxed the way a credit card purchase is. Others will simply cancel you if you say you are paying in cash because they feel the risk is too great.
So while it looks on the outside to be the same as in other countries, on the inside, Uber in Mexico is definitely a reflection of the current state of insecurity.
From the drivers’ perspective, neither the civil authorities nor Uber care about their safety.