A woman hand holding Uber app showing on Samsung note 3 in the car

Uber have now announced a carpooling option for commuters in Singapore. Source: Shutterstock

Painful lesson: Uber loses 200,000 riders for allegedly profiting off Trump strike

They say any press is good press, but not when it comes to recent events for Uber.

The ride-hailing giant has been weathering a PR hailstorm due to its actions surrounding the immigration ban outrage at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport in New York.

To summarize, amidst a ban-related taxi strike, Uber had continued operating its services from JFK and had even eliminated surge pricing from the app — sparking suspicion that it was seeking to capitalize on the mayhem.

Reportedly over 200,000 people deleted their Uber app thanks to the #DeleteUber campaign that had gone viral. Many of those users have also jumped ship to rival Lyft, which has been playing its cards right by donating US$1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union.

There’s also a widening rift within the company as many employees and executives were unhappy with CEO Travis Kalanick’s decision to join U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic advisory board. A leaked email from Uber CTO Thuan Pham shows that trouble is indeed bubbling beneath the surface at one of the top tech companies in the world.

In response to the heavy pressure from both users and employees, Bloomberg reported that Kalanick had stepped down from Trump’s advisory council in order to appease its stakeholders. Kalanick wasn’t the only CEO chided for joining Trump’s advisory board — customers of BlackRock, General Motors, Disney and Tesla have since called in to voice displeasure.

To add insult to injury, Uber has also had to suspend its services in Taiwan due to government pressure. The company has, for some time now, experienced regulatory obstacles in terms of the legitimacy of its service on the island and it has been forced to pause operations from Feb 12 onward.

In a time of political instability, businesses will have to make tough choices. As this Forbes piece points out, the #DeleteUber campaign shows that tech companies of all stripes are going to have to pick a side — should they pander to the Trump administration or take action to ensure all stakeholders are happy?

While the recent boycott may not have made a serious dent to Uber’s bottom line, the negative PR attention could have an long-term impact on the slow eroding of the company’s public image.