Surprise! A company whose cost structure is based on strenuously minimizing contact with, accountability of and responsibility towards their “contractors”—remember, Uber drivers are not employees—is responding like shit to reports of sexual assault customer complaints.

Over the weekend, BuzzFeed posted screenshots they’d gotten from a former Uber customer service rep, showing a high number of tickets containing the words “sexual assault” and “rape.”

In one screenshot, a search query for “sexual assault” returns 6,160 Uber customer support tickets. A search for “rape” returns 5,827 individual tickets. Other variations of the terms yield similarly high returns: A search for “assaulted” shows 3,524 tickets, while “sexually assaulted” returns 382 results.

After BuzzFeed contacted Uber asking for comment, the company “began contacting customer service representatives in its system who had searched the Zendesk database for the terms rape and sexual assault, apparently in a hunt for the leaker,” write Charlie Warzel and Johana Bhuiyan. Uber also responded with what they say are the accurate numbers:

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According to data provided by Uber to BuzzFeed News, the company received five claims of rape and “fewer than” 170 claims of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride as inbound tickets to its customer service database between December 2012 and August 2015.

So, Uber is claiming that 5,822 out of those 5,827 screenshotted “rape” support tickets are invalid. How could that be true? They explained:

These results are highly misleading because:

  • Riders routinely misspell “rate” (as in the fare) as “rape”, or use the word “rape” in another context. For example, “you raped my wallet”;
  • Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included. After analyzing the data, we found more than 11,000 rider names and 17,500 rider emails with the letters “rape”;
  • The results also showed tickets from passengers who got into cars not on the Uber platform, or who were discussing unsubstantiated media reports of sexual assaults.

Oh yeah, of course, you know that crazy statistic: one in four women will at some point in her life accidentally write “you raped my wallet” into an Uber customer support ticket, which will then (as implied by the BuzzFeed screenshots) not even necessarily be escalated to a manager unless there is a risk of “LE [law enforcement]/media interest.”

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All complicating factors notwithstanding—it’s true that passengers who experience sexual aggression or violence while in an Uber may choose to sidestep Uber’s internal process, as the company is notorious for treating these types of complaints extremely poorly—five “rape” tickets in 32 months seems extremely rich. Here are some stories that Jezebel has posted, for example, on the topic of Uber and assault, in half that time.

Uber Driver Accused of Returning to Woman’s Home to Rob, Sexually Assault Her

Uber Driver Threatened to Rape and Kill San Francisco Passenger

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Australian Woman Says Uber Dragged Her Out of Car and Ran Her Over

Uber Took Nearly a Week to Give Police the Name of Sexually Harassing Driver

Philadelphia Woman Says She Was Raped and Kidnapped by an UberX Driver

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LAPD Investigating Uber Driver for Sexual Assault

Boston Uber Driver Charged with Kidnapping, Sexual Assault

Uber Offers $31 to Woman After Driver Asks if She Likes Blow Jobs

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Woman Reportedly Raped by Uber Driver in India

I could go on, but you get the picture.


Contact the author at jia@jezebel.com.

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Image via AP