Uber is sending hired brand ambassadors undercover to recruit drivers from competing companies like Lyft, according to documents obtained by The Verge.
The driver recruitment process is called Operation Slog (Supplying Long-term Operations Growth). The word slog also means to work hard or hit forcefully, like in a fight.
Slog aims to disguise Uber brand ambassadors as normal Lyft riders by giving them burner phones and credit cards to create fake accounts, according to the Verge. Then the Uber workers reportedly talk to Lyft drivers about jumping ship to Uber during their rides. The hired Uber workers are supposedly called “Street teams.”
One Uber contractor tells The Verge’s Casey Newton that, not only is Uber recruiting aggressively from Lyft, it’s also well-aware that Uber’s tactics are costing Lyft drivers business. Lyft previously estimated that Uber workers called and then cancelled more than 5,000 rides on its service, costing its drivers time and money.
“Not only does Uber know about this, they’re actively encouraging these actions day-to-day and, in doing so, are flat-out lying both to their customers, the media, and their investors,” the contractor told Newton.
An email about Slog details the steps Street Teams were allegedly asked to take by Uber:
- Request a Lyft using your temporary phone/account
- Upon arrival enter car, begin small talk with driver (“How long have you drove [sic] with Lyft?” “What brought you to Lyft?” “Do you like Lyft?”)
- After assessing driver for openness to Uber, ask them if they’d consider joining Uber
- If they say “Yes” fill out [a] form.
Verge’s documentation suggests that Lyft is Uber’s primary target. One email from a marketing manager at Uber to “Sloggers” encouraged the street teams to “#shavethestache,” a reference to Lyft’s signature pink mustaches. Other services like Sidecar, Hailo, and Gett weren’t mentioned in documented cited by The Verge.
In response to The Verge’s report, Uber issued a blog post describing Operation Slog in a way that makes it sound like just your average smart growth tactic. (When asked for comment, Uber referred us to this blog post.) It says its aggressive recruitment strategy is just “cutting through the noise” of the crowded ridesharing space.
“With millions of riders and ever-increasing demand for more rides in even more cities, we are always working hard to recruit new drivers onto the platform,” Uber writes. “Ridesharing is a noisy marketplace. To market the benefits of driving with Uber, we cut through the noise to market to potential partners.”
Uber admits that it may have its team take rides from competitors, but says it never cancels rides or hurts a competing driver’s business intentionally, like Lyft has claimed in the past.
“We can’t successfully recruit drivers without talking to them — and that means taking a ride. We’re all about more and better economic opportunity for drivers. We never use marketing tactics that prevent a driver from making their living — and that includes never intentionally cancelling rides,” Uber writes.