Uber turns on marketing engines to pressure Seattle city leaders: Illegal posters, robocalls, giant billboard trucks

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Uber is gluing promotional posters on Seattle utility boxes to drum up support for its company. This one is at E Madison St. and 17th Ave E in Capitol Hill.

Seattle city officials say Uber and other alternative transportation networks are operating outside of city law by offering rides to the public through popular apps. Now, with a critical vote coming up this afternoon, Uber’s marketing tactics are breaking the rules, as well.

Looks like Uber used glue to stick their posters on utility boxes, which is illegal according to Seattle's postering regulations.

Looks like Uber used glue to stick their posters on utility boxes, which is illegal according to Seattle’s postering regulations.

In an effort to “save UberX in Seattle,” Uber is revving up its marketing engine by gluing promotional posters to city utility boxes, robocalling hundreds of people and driving around giant billboards.

The posters, which encourage people to “tell the Seattle City Council why they should #SaveuberXsea,” appear to be illegal based on the city’s postering legislation. Some of the signs extend much taller than the 24-inch maximum, glue was used as an adhesive — which is not allowed — and they also appear to be missing a posting date in the lower left corner of each poster, which the city requires.

We’ve reached out to Seattle’s Department of Transportation and are waiting for confirmation in regard to the postering regulations. Uber did not respond to an inquiry about the signage.

UPDATE, 2/28: The city got back to us and confirmed that the signs are illegal, citing these regulations. City officials will be contacting Uber to address the issue. Here’s the statement they shared:

As they are attached to structures that are either city-owned or under permit, the posters on the utility boxes and dumpsters are illegal due to their location. Even if placed on poles, they would not be in compliance due to their size, attachment method and the lack of a posting date.

The Stranger’s Dominic Holden first spotted the posters Wendesday, and we ventured out to the Capitol Hill neighborhood this morning to find even more Uber signage on several utility boxes and dumpsters:

This dumpster, laden with Uber marketing material, is located at E Pike St. and 11th Ave E. in Capitol Hill.

This dumpster, laden with Uber marketing material, is located at E Pike St. and 11th Ave E. in Capitol Hill.

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This Uber poster was pasted on a utility box at E Madison and 14th Ave E.

 

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At E Pine St. and 12th Ave E.

Later this afternoon, the Seattle City Council’s Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations will vote on an ordinance that limits the total number of Lyft, Sidecar and UberX drivers to 300 (we’ll be at City Hall at 4 p.m. live-blogging the meeting). These startups say that the cap will effectively shut down their operations in Seattle.

uberxThe signs are just a snippet of Uber’s marketing strategies in Seattle. The transportation company is also robo-calling people with an automated message from Brooke Steger, general manager of Uber Seattle. I just received the call, which was paid for by Uber, an hour ago.

“We need your help,” the recorded message said. “The Seattle City Council … is imposing devastating caps on the number of drivers we can partner with.”

Uber then encourages you to press “1,” to connect with Seattle City Council. After pressing “1,” I was directed to councilmember Nick Licata. His voicemail was full, though, and I was then forwarded to the Seattle City Council mailbox. However, that was also full, and I was then transferred to the City Clerk’s office where I could leave a message.

Lots of others — some who don’t even live in Seattle — have received the same call and haven’t been too pleased:

In addition to the postering and robocalls, Uber is also driving around giant billboards with the same messaging:

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This is all on top of the celebrity support Uber has received over the past week from people like rapper Macklemore, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and musician Allen Stone.

It’s clear that Uber is on a mission to rally its supporters and have their voice heard. The company’s petition to stop City Council from implementing caps now has nearly 10,000 signatures.

We’ll see if all of this has any impact on the city’s decision-making process. Check back on GeekWire at 4 p.m. for live updates from today’s meeting.

  • Mus

    Try Uber or Lyft! Your choice. Get $20 Uber credit at https://uber.com/invite/3bp6x. Or $25 Lyft credit at http://www.lyft.com/invited/kach30.

    • frederigoxcz305

      my Aunty Grace got a nearly new blue Kia by working part
      time from the internet. look at this now J­u­m­p­9­9­9­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Guest

    Shame on Uber. I’m in favor of their convenient low-cost service, but spamming one’s own customers is a despicable practice. Pasting posters in prohibited places is also a poor platform. Uber may be below the taxi price, but they’re not above the law!

    • Shiggity Shwa

      this doesn’t bother me as much as all the rude ass Seattle taxi drivers who think they’re divas and need to get the fuck out of my country

  • Guest

    Uber isn’t “bending” the rules in their marketing tactics — they are breaking the law (again). If it’s ok for them to put their posters on a Waste Management-owned dumpster, is it ok for me to put my posters on an Uber-owned car?

  • SnarkyOne

    Oh well it was a good idea for a time.

  • pitbullstew

    Ubers got no problem breaking laws

  • Dave

    The true looser in all of this is the Uber-X driver. People who driver for Uber-X are very short and near sited. The rate for Uber-X is only benefiting the Customer and Uber, Driver will have a car with over 100.000 Mile in a YEAR.
    They do not make enough money to even cover a new car.
    Look at the math: From 100 % of a regular taxi rate.
    Deduct 20 % Less for customary taxi driver tip which Uber refuses to enforce.
    Deduct 20 % Less for commission to Uber
    Deduct 30 % Less for rates below normal taxi rates.
    What is left is only 30% for the driver. So what is the profit for the long term? NOT A DIME, they end up car-less in a year :)

    • Viet Nguyen

      I support Uber and ride-sharing options, but you raise some important points.

    • Tyler

      If your arguments are true, which it’s possible they may be, then guess what? After a year or so disgruntled Uber drivers would start talking about it, word would spread, and Uber would find it much harder to get new drivers. They’d change, or go out of business. Their competitors would fill the gap of Uber’s poor wages by shifting the revenue shares around to levels that satisfy the drivers. The market works.

      Uber has been in operation much longer than a year… so your arguments seem questionable.

    • Shiggity Shwa

      fuck off taxi driver

  • Heather Arias

    I’ve used both UberX and Lyft, and I find that Lyft is such a better experience. The drivers are much more friendly; My last driver, Adam, was such a cool guy. We talked for 30 mins straight about EDM. You actually feel like it’s your friend with a car. Definitely give them a try and you’ll see what I mean. The fares are cheaper than UberX too.

    And if you haven’t taken your first Lyft, download the app and enter code “PROMO1″ for $20 credit :)