I’ve always been a fan of Uber and as an avid rider I expect a certain standard of service.
But earlier this month I was on the receiving end of one driver’s homophobic rant and, to be honest, it really shook me.
I had taken an Uber from a work event to Clapham in South London to have a few drinks with my close friends, when in conversation, I asked the driver what his craziest Uber ride was.
I usually start the conversations when I ride Uber with this question but this time the driver’s response completely threw me.
‘There were two guys in the back of my car, kissing…’ he said. ‘It was disgusting and vile. It’s not normal.’
Immediately I felt unsafe. It’s not that I expected him to physically attack me. But I was alone in a car with a homophobe. I started calculating if he had realized I was gay and reckoned not.
I just sat in silence as he continued to spurt his verbal abuse.
What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to react?
I explained I had gay friends and I respect their way of life. But I was thinking of all the ways I could possibly keep myself safe in this situation. His hate had pushed me back in the closet for that journey, making me uncomfortable and, I admit, angry.
It was so awkward I resorted to phoning my friends just to get me out of the conversation.
As soon as we arrived I got out of the car, turned to the driver, said ‘you just had a ride with a gay guy’ and slammed the door.
I had never felt so disgusted, having to sit and listen to his closed minded opinions made me feel sick.
You get used to the idea that the world has changed and think of London as a city where you are free to be yourself.
I reported the events of my Uber ride almost immediately to the company and got a response within 12 hours. And actually they were great.
An Uber senior support specialist contacted me, apologizing for my experience and making clear Uber has a ‘strict policy with regard to discrimination of any kind.
The email was followed up by a phone call from another support specialist.
I was asked to describe in detail what had happened so a thorough investigation could take place.
The phone call was followed up with another email outlining that the driver would be suspended whilst the investigation took place. I was also given a full refund on the journey.
I’m happy knowing that this driver wouldn’t be able to make any one else feel uncomfortable but this is still a problem.
It won’t stop me using Uber. Their response was the right one and this could happen to any company. I’d urge others in the same position to report it.
Long term, I think Uber should install cameras into the cars for driver and rider safety.