Recently, an Uber driver in Chicago reached out to us about a fun, partially driver-centric event hosted by Uber in downtown Chicago. The event was designed to ‘celebrate’ drivers and their families, inviting them to a dinner, live music, and more. Unfortunately, the event didn’t go quite as planned. RSG contributor Paula Gibbins interviewed Sean, an Uber driver and describes the disaster that unfolded below.
Recently, drivers in the Chicago area were given an invitation to what sounded like a pretty fun evening: night out at the science museum while receiving free food along with a welcome meeting put on by Uber — as well as live music, face painting, balloon artists, etc.
Here’s what the drivers in Chicago saw if they went into the messages on their app:
They were expected to RSVP by clicking on the “Count me in” button shown. The driver I spoke with got the message just about one week before the event was to take place. As the invitation shows above, he was told he could bring himself and up to 3 guests to the event.
It sounded pretty awesome, so the driver (Sean) RSVP’d and took the day off from driving so he’d have the energy to attend the evening event. He also didn’t eat much throughout the day so he could enjoy the promised buffet. Typical driver 😉
Sean was most interested in attending the meeting. “I was excited to see if there were any special ‘reveals’ that often go with this type of event. You know, cutting-edge perks for drivers,” said Sean.
An Uber-Sponsored Event Turns Into a Disaster
Sean was more than a little disappointed with what he saw when he arrived. “On the day of the event, we made sure we left the house with plenty of time. After we took in the sights of downtown Chicago, we headed to the parking garage. After parking, we walked into the waiting area. To my surprise, there must have been several thousand people there already when we arrived at 6pm.”
For an event starting at 6:30, this was a strange thing to behold. “After 45 minutes, we moved up in line enough to hear a woman yelling at the top of her lungs that we could bypass the wait and walk right into the museum unless we wanted to enter for the free raffle.”
They stayed in line another quarter hour before deciding whatever raffle prizes they were offering wasn’t worth the wait. “We expected that the reason we were all waiting was to check in, but that was not the case,” explained Sean. “They did not verify a single person. So, the RSVP meant nothing? I thought maybe the RSVP was so they would have enough food and set aside enough money to pay for the event.”
An Uber representative had this to say about the RSVP: “Over a thousand more than RSVP’d came, and we had to close admission to the event for everyone’s safety, when the rented portion of the venue reached capacity.”
Once they entered the main event area, the pandemonium continued.
Here’s what it looked like:
It was wall to wall people trying to make their way through and trying to make sense of it all. “There were no signs or speakers giving directions,” said Sean. “It was every driver for themselves to navigate through the sea of confused guests.”
Eventually they made it in and there were no signs anywhere, but they could see the occasional person with chicken fingers or small burgers and chips. Food had to be somewhere. Sean and his partner started looking around for the source of the food. “Finally, I saw servers walking by with empty containers and headed from whence they came. Once again, there was chaos. There were no lines for food or drinks, just a sea of people very tightly snuggled together.”
“With every minute,” Sean elaborated, “we walked literally one foot. Imagine rush hour traffic on the I-94 with an accident blocking most lanes…If I could have looked from above, it would have looked like ants building their hills but with less organization and in slow motion.”
@Uber Out here in Chicago breaking all types of health and safety codes at the Museum of Science and Industry. Call the fire marshall. Unorganized catastrophe! The city ought to shut them down after this. pic.twitter.com/ty9RpSdDzw
— Donna Haralson (@WorshipAGoddess) June 11, 2019
Forget the Food – What About the Event?
Sean waited in this mess for another 10 minutes and then gave up on ever eating food there that night. Instead, he turned toward the main part of the museum where the drivers were given free access to as part of the event.
It was getting to the point where the welcome meeting was supposed to be taking place. So, Sean looked around and once again there were no signs pointing where to go. “I found an Uber rep and asked her where the meeting might be,” said Sean. “She informed me, and I quote: ‘I don’t think we are having the meeting because of all the pandemonium, but we will contact you by phone if you win the giveaway.’”
Well, that was a disappointment. But what about the promised face painter and balloon artist? Yes, there was literally one of each that Sean saw that night. And it was so loud with so many people that you could barely hear the music coming from the two-man band hired for the event.
As he was leaving the event, Sean received a text from Uber: “due to the overwhelming response, the Museum of Science and Industry is at capacity and is not able to accept any more guests. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”
An Uber representative said the following,
“We’re thankful for the thousands of partner drivers and their families who attended the event to celebrate Uber in Chicago. We are working to make it right with those partners who were turned away due to the overwhelming interest.”
They also added, “The museum is an amazing asset to Chicago, and a great draw. We want to continue to work with them to make sure our partners, their families and the community can continue to enjoy it.”
Are We Surprised That an Uber-Sponsored Event Was So Poorly Managed?
If an event like this were ever to take place again, Sean said he’d only attend if the way it took place changed. “I would rather have paid a small fee to get in just to hear keynote speakers if there were any. There also was no way to verify whether or not they actually gave away prizes as promised.”
The catastrophe of an event also caught the eye of local news sources including the Chicago Tribune, where one attendee was quoted as saying, “I haven’t seen masses of humanity like this since I was at Woodstock ’99. … That many people going to one place is just dangerous.”
A message to Uber: Next time you plan an event like this, keep an eye on your RSVP’s and cut it off after an unreasonable number is reached. Or cut down on how many people drivers can bring. GET ORGANIZED. It’s difficult to know where to go and what to do without directions or signs showing where to go.
— Peggy Mason (@neuroMOOC) June 11, 2019
Drivers, have you attended a driver-sponsored event like this? Would you now?
-Paula @ RSG