Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Uber and Motivated Reasoning

I was catching up on a few episodes of the Daily Tech News Show and they had a great story about Uber, specifically talking about its growth up till now and some speculation going forward.  They didn’t frame their discussion in terms of self-delusion, but I see some really strong parallels.  They wondered why Uber can keep getting caught violating all kinds of regulations and social norms and still be the subject of so much public adoration.  Not just from investors who have made bank on them.  But from users who are the “victims” of their bad behavior.  Other companies would be killed in social media for doing half of what Uber has done: violating our privacy, risking our safety, and using frowned upon variable pricing methods. 

A few recent examples:
·         An executive got busted tracking a reporter who was doing a story on Uber by using Uber’s God mode. 
·         An employee was at a party and wanted to know if a friend was getting close, so he checked the friend’s Uber car GPS location. 

It is understandable why Uber would have these capabilities, but they shouldn’t be usable without the user’s permission by any random employee.

Some previous examples: 
·         If you remember last year there was a seriously rainy day in NYC where Uber used demand based pricing and multiplied their standard rate tenfold.  Coke tried to do this in some vending machines on hot days and they got creamed for it.  But Uber said “Oops” and we all forgave them. 
·         They don’t follow some of the safety rules that taxi companies have to follow, but we don’t seem to care.  This is one of the major claims of the taxi companies that are filing lawsuits, but getting no traction.

My Take

My speculation is that this is a great example of motivated reasoning leading to self-delusion.  We want Uber to be OK because it is so convenient and a hip peer to peer social company.  Because we want it to be good, we find ways to rationalize its bad behaviors.  Instead of thinking “Uber is doing bad things, so they are bad” we are thinking “I want Uber to be good, so what they are doing can’t be bad.” Perfect case of motivated reasoning.

Your Turn

What do you think?  Do you excuse these kinds of behaviors when companies you like do them, but not when companies you don’t like do them?  Apple can get away with them, but not Microsoft?  Coke can do them, but not Pepsi (or vice versa)?  The Red Sox but not the Yankees (sorry, I had to slip that one in there)?