Leaked video of a heated confrontation in the back of an Uber is not how Travis Kalanick wanted to start his week. Yet, here we are.
What started as a post-Super Bowl ride for Kalanick devolved quickly into a heated exchange between him and the driver of his Uber Black — the company’s high-end service — Fawzi Kamel. Kamel then turned over the dashboard recording to Bloomberg, who published the video today. The exchange started with a handshake, and ended with finger pointing and two visibly (and audibly) annoyed men.
It went down like this:
Kamel: People are not trusting you anymore. Do you think they’ll buy cars anymore? Unless they buy them through your app. Nobody wants to buy a car. I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you. You keep changing [Uber’s pricing] every day.
Kalanick: What have I changed about Black?
Kamel: You changed the whole business.
Kamel: You dropped the prices.
Kalanick: On Black?
Kamel: Yes you did.
Kamel: We started with $20.
Kamel: How much is the [per mile rate] now? $2.75?
Kalanick: Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their shit. They blame everything in their life on someone else. Good luck.
The exchange is nothing out of the ordinary. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying Uber’s pricing strategy is putting the squeeze on drivers. Speak to an Uber driver for three minutes and you can ascertain as much. Or, maybe Kalanick doesn’t pay much attention to that.
Another exchange in the video starts with one of Kalanick’s female friends asking about Uber’s bad year, to which the Uber CEO quipped: “That’s kind of how I roll. I make sure every year is a hard year. If it’s easy, I’m not pushing hard enough.”
How do you spell tone deaf? K-A-L-A-N-I-C-K.
Update: In a blog post titled ‘A profound apology’ on Uber’s site (which was also sent to all company employees on Tuesday evening), Kalanick said he was sorry for the way he behaved and that he believes that he needs ‘leadership help’. As expected, it’s too little, too late. You can read the entire post below:
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.