French cabbies are protesting Uber... by helping Uber.
French taxi drivers are in the midst of a national strike that included a blockade of roads to Paris airports and an assortment of tire fires. They’re angry, of course, that Uber and other ride-sharing startups have ripped apart their government-sanctioned monopoly and, in turn, hurt their livelihoods.
To be clear, a lot of this looks more like a riot than a strike, based on both the flames and some reports of Uber cars and their drivers being attacked:
But the reason for this post isn’t to argue for non-violent strikes over violent strikes. It’s simply to point out the absurdity of this sort of strike in the first place.
Unlike many other industries, on-demand auto transportion (whether taxis or Uber) is primarily about convenience. By going on strike, all the French cabbies are doing is driving their riders into the arms of the enemy. After all, someone who has to get from Point A to Point B isn’t just going to shrug his shoulders because the taxis aren’t running. He’s going to either use his Uber app or, even worse for the cabbies, download Uber for the first time (and perhaps learn he prefers it to taxis).
I recall a much more mild taxi strike in Boston last year, which was brilliantly planned for an afternoon in which a massive rain shower was expected. Guess what I did when I needed a ride?
To be clear, I understand the distress of taxi drivers who paid a small ransom for medallions, only to have those same governments not create and/or enforce laws that arguably create a more even playing ground. So protest your legislators. Vote against them. Run against them. Contribute to the other guy. Or figure out something else like, gasp, improving your service.
But don’t do the one thing that helps the competition more than anything else. All you’re doing is hastening your industry’s demise.