UberPuppy is exactly why cab companies are getting crushed

February 5, 2016 Originally published on SFGate

Sure, there’s a long and rather obvious list of reasons Uber is the runaway supernova of “disruptive” startups: the ridiculous convenience, the easy-to-use app, the freedom from having to carry cash or credit cards, the easy price tiers, the unlimited number of potential drivers on duty at a given moment, the fact that the cars (and the drivers) generally don’t smell like rotting squirrels and the seats aren’t mysteriously sticky and the vehicles are generally not driven by sullen, embittered gnomes who are about as happy to see you as a sledgehammer to the kneecaps.

But when you really get down to it, it’s all about UberPuppy.

Which is to say, of all the reasons Uber continues to destroy/has already destroyed all archaic cab services worldwide, it’s the fact that they continue to innovate, reinvent and wildly clever-ize the living hell out of their category, fearlessly and kind of shamelessly, that makes them so maddeningly incomparable.

To wit: UberPuppy, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and twice as preposterously brilliant.

Who’s the marketing genius who came up with the idea for Uber to partner with Animal Planet and various local animal shelters (SF SPCA, Humane Society) for this years’ Super Bowl, to deliver – yes it’s true – a “pack of puppies” to your door, on demand? Who the hell came up with UberPuppy? This person deserves a backrub and some money.

You want the cute? You can't HANDLE the cute

You want the cute? You can’t HANDLE the cute

You read it right: If you live in a few key urban centers, and if you can spare $30, Uber will deliver actual living bundles of OMG WTF THOSE ARE SO F–KING CUTE straight to your house, for a short visit (Wednesday only, apparently), with a handler and with hopes that you will consider adopting, but also with the understanding that the puppies will continue their journey so they can make their rounds of SHUT THE FRONT DOOR OMG THAT THING IS SO CUTE YOU GUYS.

It seems unlikely that Uber actually makes any money delivering tiny dogs and their handlers around a few major urban centers for a few hours during Super Week. Who cares? The goodwill generated, the stupendous cleverness of the partnership are obviously worth it, if for no other reason than the Puppy Bowl is almost always much better and more interesting (and causes far less brain damage and urban vandalism, obesity, and general thuggery) than the Super Bowl itself. Any truly savvy company would want to be a part of it, but only Uber actually did it. What, you think Yellow Cab would have thought of this, like, ever?

I have no idea how good Uber’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) department actually is, or if it even exists. No one yet knows if this $68 billion megastartup will actually care to do anything truly helpful with its money and its worldwide megafleet. Free rides for cancer patients? Transport Syrian refugees to new homes? Delivering service animals to retirement homes for healing visits? Meals for the homeless? I’m not thinking nearly big enough. What should they do?

And yes, I’ve heard the various whines about Uber, its questionable drivers’ rights, its steamrolling of various city ordinances (and employee-rights advocates) to get its way, its obnoxious C-suite lizards, its flagrant disregard for the rivers of insane bureaucracy most urban centers swim in like blood. I’ve heard a handful of horror stories about terrible rides (but nothing like it used to be, when all we had was cabs). Personally, I use Uber frequently and remain sort of neutral on their ethos – their CEO, Travis Kalanick, is smart as hell but about as classy as a pinecone. Their tactics might just be borderline Mafioso. Then again, few experiences in urban life are (were) more joyless and grossly antiquated than taking a Yellow Cab here in SF. Uber (and Lyft) have made it all light years better.

Which is sort of the whole point, really: Who wants to go back to the way it was? And really, once something like UberPuppy exists, why would anyone want to live in a world without it?

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Mark Morford

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