City Paper is not for tourists
When luxury cab service Uber fought Councilmember Mary Cheh‘s effort to set a minimum price floor on its trips last month, the company’s fans unleashed a wave of emails and phone calls to the D.C. Council. Washingtonians like Proof and Estadio owner Mark Kuller, chef José Andrés‘ business partner Rob Wilder, and We Love DC editor Tom Bridge were among the thousands who wrote in favor of dropping the amendment or supporting Jack Evans‘ later amendment to deregulate Uber.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, City Desk obtained thousands of pages of pro-Uber emails sent to the D.C. Council on July 9 and 10 (as well as three anti-Uber emails). While most of the missives were polite, some Uber users got pretty intense about the taxi-cum-sedan service.
“Once again, you will gain nationwide notoriety for being fucktards,” wrote one woman to the council. An amused At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown forwarded the email to his chief of staff, adding, “A good one!”
Things were not so cheerful in Cheh’s office. Deluged with Uber emails, Jonathan Willingham, Cheh’s frustrated chief of staff, wrote an email to the rest of the office about, of all things, the use of the phrase “comprise of” in office correspondence.
“Because I’m all hot and bothered about Uber, I have to release some steam,” Willingham wrote. “I’ve decided to take out my anger on all of you.” He went on to unleash a 400-word investigation of the differences between transitive and intransitive verbs. “Given all of that, I never expect to see the expression ‘comprise of’ in anything produced by our office (e.g. talking points, press releases, tweets, listserv posts, interoffice emails, words coming out of your mouth that I have to hear),” he concluded.
If Willingham was peeved about the average pro-Uber email, he must have been driven mad by the followers of Tim Ferriss. Ferriss, the fitness guru and philosopher king behind the popular book The 4-Hour Workweek (and an Uber advisor), had urged readers on his blog to urge the D.C. Council not to apply a price floor.
Ferriss’ assistant laid down some serious firepower in an email to the Council. “My boss, Tim Ferriss, mentions you all in a post he wrote about Uber in DC,” she wrote. “His blog gets more than 1,000,000 unique visitors per month, and he was recently the #7 most powerful personality on Newsweek‘s ‘Digital 100 Power Index.'”
That million visitors thing is apparently a meme with Ferriss—-many of his fans warned councilmembers that their “response –or non response- will be noted in the comments section of a 1,000,000+ readership blog.”
One man wrote in to say that meddling like Cheh’s inspired him to move his family to New Zealand. He has company down under—-the councilmembers were shamed by a woman in Brisbane, Australia.
The words of one Uber partisan could be used to describe the whole affair: “Seriously guys. this is just f@#@ing embarrassing.”
UPDATE: Here is the results of DC-FOIA request that produced the emails: [documentcloud url=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/406278-uber.html”]