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.
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:
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.
The 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:
Wow @Uber_SEA robodialed me to contact Seattle council If you want me to use my time & city's at least have courtesy of calling with a human
— Guillaume Theoret (@Smokinn) February 27, 2014
@Uber_SEA I don't live in Seattle and I've received 2 robocalls from you today. Cut that shit out.
— Brett Michæl Lewis (@brettlewis) February 27, 2014
live in chicago, being robodialed by uber seattle. super.
— Matt (@mattdennewitz) February 27, 2014
lol, the general manager of Uber Seattle just called me stalking as a service
— Colin B. (@vogon) February 27, 2014
In addition to the postering and robocalls, Uber is also driving around giant billboards with the same messaging:
— Macklemore (@macklemore) February 25, 2014
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.