If you get an email offering free rides to a free party with free booze, it's usually too good to be true.
Last night I attended a "celebrate Uberx in Chicago" event hosted by the Uber Chicago team. The email invitation billed it as an event for "TOP uberX Chicago riders" to "hear more about your experiences getting around town."
They kindly sent an email code for a free ride to the event at Hubbard Inn in downtown Chicago with the following note: "drinks are on us tonight! Stop by and grab some small bites and chat with the Uber team. We have some awesome surprises for you from our partners and friends. :)"
We showed up about halfway through the event and the place was packed with probably 150 people. Lines at the bars were about 15 people deep. When we finally got to the bar a woman who identified herself as an Uber employee (by yelling it in my ear) pushed me out of the way and asked the bartenders to stop serving everyone immediately. Then the Uber Chicago team fired up a PowerPoint presentation and asked the room to be silent. You can guess how well this went over.
After going through slides about the history of the company for ten minutes (which they also demanded people not take pictures of because it was a "proprietary" presentation) they then launched into the real reason they invited everyone to this event: proposed legislation in Chicago that would restrict Uber. Ten more minutes of pontificating about this evil legislation and they basically lost the room. People were essentially heckling the presenter, and every few minutes an Uber employee or enthusiastic invitee would yell "SHUT THE FUCK UP" to the room. It was a train wreck.
Look, I love the Uber app. I use it probably ten times per week. But it's almost like Uber goes out of its way to alienate its users. It's some of the worst marketing I've ever seen. If you're going to invite the top users of your service to a private event, do not give them a background on the history of the company, everyone already knows it, and it's not the proper venue. Do not preach to the room and pretend you are having "a conversation" when you have lured people to a free cocktail hour when your real purpose is a political agenda (also of note is that Uber had several photographers on-hand - I assume they will use for political purposes - "look at all our support!").
There's actually a really easy way to do this and not be such manipulative dickheads that treat their customers like middle schoolers. Have the event, talk for 30 seconds and say "thank you for being such loyal customers. We need your help, there are proposals that would change and limit our services for you in Chicago. Please take a flyer that explains this in detail if you're interested. Thank you for coming." They did none of this, and every conversation I had with other attendees (none of whom were Uber employees as they were all huddled together) was how poorly everything was handled.
Also - they had weird "What Does UberX Mean To You" white boards that anyone could write on.
The whole thing was disingenuous and insulting - I almost hope the legislation passes.