Uber, Lyft Ride-Share Rivalry Goes ‘Nuclear’

Boston, MA 071613 Hunter Perry (Cq)( a regular Lyft user gets picked up on July 16, 2013 near his office on Harrison Ave. The vehicles participating in the Lyft program wear a pink mustache on their front grille. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)/ MET
Lyft, known for its pink mustaches, is in a public spat with its competitor Uber.
Essdras M. Suarez/Globe Staff

Two ride-sharing services operating in Boston, Uber and Lyft, are in the middle of a little bit of a public spat.

The similar services (Uber’s the one with the $17 billion valuation, Lyft cars have pink mustaches, and both allow users to call for a ride using a smartphone app) are each claiming that the other’s drivers have been requesting their services and then canceling those rides, wasting each other’s drivers’ time. This basically amounts to a high-tech game of ding-dong-ditch, and a pretty petty way for competitors to interact.

The recent war of words started with an article from CNNMoney, showing Uber drivers to have called for 5,560 Lyft rides that were then canceled since last fall.

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The next day Uber said Lyft had done much the same to Uber, saying 12,900 calls for Uber rides have been cancelled by Lyft’s workforce. Uber went a step further, saying Lyft was only complaining about Uber because Uber wouldn’t just buy Lyft out already. Uber told The New York Times:

“These attacks from Lyft are unfortunate but somewhat expected. A number of Lyft investors have recently been pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would ‘go nuclear’ if we do not acquire them. We can only assume that the recent Lyft attacks are part of that strategy.”

Lyft deflected that take, saying: “Lyft has more than 100 investors, all of whom are extremely excited that Lyft is approaching I.P.O.-level revenue. Our ‘nuclear’ strategy is continuing to take market share with 30 percent month-over-month growth, while building the strongest community of drivers and passengers.”

It’s worth noting that drivers with both services are independent contractors, and not employees, who may not be acting with a directive from HQ. The CNN report said there was no data showing the faux Lyft rides were ordered from Uber’s corporate office.

However, during the winter, some of the senior workers out of the company’s New York City office were reported to have called for and then cancelled rides from Gett, another competitor with a similar business model.

Sharing may be caring, but the sharing economy is pretty ruthless.