Uber: Free jobs, free ice cream, free for all?

Salem, Eugene unaware of company, or ice cream blitz

A person using the Uber app (Courtesy: Uber, July 19, 2013)
A person using the Uber app (Courtesy: Uber, July 19, 2013)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Who can say no to making their own schedule, $1,000 a week and free ice cream?

Make $1,000/week driving with Uber!, read more than 100 job postings on Salem, Eugene and Portland’s Craigslist job boards.

Despite grey area in Vancouver, where the company began operating July 11, and major hesitation from city officials in Portland, the multinational ride sharing company is on a serious hiring bend throughout Oregon and Washington.

City officials in Salem, Eugene, Portland and Vancouver had not had any consultation with the company — whose scorn from established, permit-buying taxi companies is only matched by adoration from smart phone-wielding millennials — the day before Uber’s worldwide ice cream promotion blitz.

Ride share company Uber is running an ice cream delivery day in 144 cities to promote the app. (Uber)
Ride share company Uber is running an ice cream delivery day in 144 cities to promote the app. (Uber)

The posts appear in job categories ranging from customer service, to general labor, business management and transportation.

Yet, the only cities, out of 144 worldwide where the ice cream is being offered for free are Portland, Vancouver, Wash., Salem and Eugene.

Uber who?

City staff in Salem had never heard of it.

“At this time I can’t find anyone here who has been contacted about that service,” Salem Urban Development Public Information Officer Nicole Miller told KOIN 6 News. “They have not contacted the City’s Permit Application Center regarding the service or the ice cream.”

No one at the City of Portland, where a city code requiring non-taxis be called 60 minutes in advance stands in Uber’s way, could confirm the city had been consulted about the ice cream day either.

City of Eugene Division Manager Stewart Ramsing said the city had not had any discussion with Uber. “This is the first time I’m hearing of it,” he said. But, he did not comment on any issues regarding permits or impact on taxi companies.

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What it takes to drive Uber

“You drive your car and set your schedule — the app on your Uber iPhone will help you connect to your customers. Switch it on. See people near you who need a ride. Pick them up. Take them places. Get your fares. It’s that simple,” the job posting reads.

After signing up for the service, an SMS text appears in the potential driver’s inbox.

“Welcome to Uber SMS! We’ll send you updates and let you know when Uber is busy so you can make more $$.”

Legal or illegal, what can you do? 

The company began operating in Vancouver, Wash., Friday to the intense satisfaction of users, several of whom Tweeted publicly about it.

One customer, Sasa Vukovic, said his seven-mile trip to Minnehaha from Salmon Creek near Vancouver, Wash., was quick, easy and free. The first 10 rides for the two weeks of the service are free, he said, although the driver was being paid a bonus, as he understood.

However, Vancouver Community & Economic Development Director Chad Eiken, who initially believed Uber’s operation in the city was illegal, said he hadn’t heard of the ice cream promotion.

“It  would be great if Uber would contact us in advance to find out what permits and approvals might be needed for their activities,” said Eiken.

But, Eiken said he wasn’t aware of anything the city could do to stop it from happening, while city staff investigate the legal standing of Uber.

Uber would need a City business license and potentially a health permit from Clark County, he said. But, diverting resources to stopping an ice cream blitz on a hot day is likely not in the cards, he said.

The enforcement issue  

Uber’s drivers are vetted through a 5-10 day process that includes a criminal record check and a driver’s abstract check. But, Uber clearly states in its legal section that it’s not a transportation company.

There is nothing law enforcement can do to stop Uber if the drivers are not doing anything illegal — something like driving without a permit or causing traffic violations, said Vancouver Police Department Public Information Officer Kim Kapp.

Virtual companies can be difficult to regulate, she said. “There may not even be a way for the city to do anything,” she said.

“It wouldn’t be illegal necessarily to offer people rides,” Kapp said.

Taxis say Uber is in violation

Radio Cab General Manager Steve Entler. (KOIN 6)
Radio Cab General Manager Steve Entler. (KOIN 6)

“They choose to ignore the local regulations,” said Radio Cab General Manager Steve Entler. “It’s a whole different issue when you’re hauling people.”

Entler said the company’s launch in Washington is in violation of several codes. He said because Uber drivers carry private insurance, rather than a vehicle for hire permit, the company poses serious problems.

“It’s against the law and they don’t care,” he said.

Any vehicle-for-hire company has to have through the state of Washington a vehicle-for-hire permit, a process that takes months, Entler said.

He said insuring a taxi for a year costs roughly $10,000. “Uber doesn’t have to pay that,” he said. Another tax the company avoids is airport roadway tax, because the vehicles don’t look like taxis.

‘Embrace ridesharing’

Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend said the company is always exploring new cities, and it was clear people across the U.S. had embraced ride sharing.

“Vancouver loves uberX and we love Vancouver,” said Behrend. “We’re looking forward to working with state officials to adopt a common sense approach that embraces ridesharing throughout Washington State.“

She said the demand in Portland is evident.  “We’re excited about the Portland market and look forward to exploring opportunities in the future.”

Behrend did not say why only four cities (Eugene, Portland, Vancouver and Salem) were offering free ice cream, out of 144 cities, nor did she comment on any potential violations.

In an email to KOIN 6 News, Behrend wrote: “…Though we are not offering our traditional platforms anywhere in Oregon at this time, we are excited to bring the Uber Ice Cream experience to the state…”

How to get free ice cream July 18 

  • Download the Uber app for iPhone or Android
  • Request the “Ice Cream” option via your app
  • If a truck is available, you’re in business
  • Ice cream trucks will be on the road from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, July 18

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