Uber drivers are doing all they can to get their hands on flashing blue “U” signs to display on the windscreens of their cars. But Uber has asked drivers in the UK not to buy the signs, creating a thriving black market for online sellers.
It can be tricky to spot your Uber arriving to pick you up — especially if it’s dark. Sure, Uber tells you the make of car and its numberplate, but it’s not always easy. That’s why Uber drivers want a way to make their cars stand out to customers.
Uber says it gave out a “handful” of the blue Uber lights to drivers in Manchester in 2014. They’re nice to have — it reduces waiting time and acts as a safety measure, preventing people from getting into the wrong car. But one of Uber’s competitors complained about the lights and the company pulled them from the UK.
Here’s a photo of one of Uber’s official lights via a listing on eBay:
Now, drivers in London are attempting to buy the lights second-hand, without Uber’s blessing. Sellers are using eBay and custom-built websites to advertise that they have the official Uber signs up for sale.
Here’s what you would see if your Uber driver is using one of the U signs:
British website Uber London Minicab was built with one purpose: Selling the “U” lights. It describes the LED light as “UBER bright” and lists the lights for sale at a £20 asking price (with a £10 tracked delivery charge.) Despite Uber never having handed out the signs in London, the seller lists his location as being in the city.
An Uber spokesman provided this statement to Business Insider UK about the trade in Uber lights:
Uber lights are something we have in some cities outside of the UK as an additional safety measure, as it means the customer can more easily identify the Uber car quickly at night, minimising the amount of time they are waiting around on the street. We have never given these lights out in London or Leeds. We did give these out to a handful of drivers in Manchester when we launched in early 2014 but following a competitor complaint we stopped handing them out and asked partner-drivers to take them down. Given this, we would advise drivers not to purchase these lights in the UK.
It’s not just in London that the lights are being advertised. They’re also being sold in the US.
Here’s what you see on eBay in the US when you search for “Uber sign”:
The first and third listings are for custom-built Uber signs created by people looking to cash in on the Uber sign market. The second listing appears to be an official Uber sign (they’re still handed out in some US cities). And the final listing is for a Lyft sign. Many Uber drivers also use Lyft to pick up extra rides while they’re working.
Uber drivers are even taking to unofficial discussion forums to try and find the sought-after “U” lights. Uber People is a forum where Uber drivers are able to talk (and complain) about Uber freely. On the forum, one user asked about buying a U light:
There’s no indication that Uber is planning on reintroducing the blue signs to the UK any time soon, so it looks like the black market in Uber signs is going to continue.