City Desk

Uber Mentions: Emails Reveal That Uber Fight Turned Everybody Into Dicks

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:



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  • Forest Donkey

    Timothy Ferriss is a first rate douchebag. But he's right in this case.

  • Wrack

    I just have one question for the Uber supporters: if you want Uber to be unregulated, do you also want (traditional) taxis to be unregulated?

  • Hillman

    No one is saying they should be unregulated.

    Even without DCTC pricing oversight they still have to get inspections, emissions testing, drivers licenses, etc.

    What we are saying is DCTC obviously has an ax to grind with Uber and is inacapable, under it's current idiotic leadership, of actually treating them fairly.

    And the DC Council is still basically the whore of the taxi industry, doing their bidding as payback for their support of Vince Gray, Marion Barry, Jim Graham, etc.

    They tried to regulate Uber out of existence. Then they tried to legislate them out of existence.

    This, after 30 years of protecting the status quo of one of the worst cab systems in the nation.

    So what we want is Uber to be allowed to be Uber. Like they are in numerous other cities that don't have idiotic city councils and mayors.

    However we get to that point.


    Wrack, regulation is a broad term... what is the purpose of regulating the minimum price of the service? Regulations are fine if they make sense.

  • JGK

    Am I the only one who feels burned by the fact that Uber was clearly negotiating a price floor, couldn't get the $10 it wanted so it became "Mary Cheh is trying to put us out of business!"? That bothered me.

  • Hillman


    That's not entirely accurate.

    Uber didn't want a price floor at all.

    But they covered their bases by saying if forced they would consider negotiating one.

    A $15 price floor is a business killer, and Cheh knew that, but proposed it anyway.

  • DC.nerd

    Jonathan Willingham is my new best friend. "Comprise of" is one of my pet peeves.

  • Typical DC BS

    If we had a DC council staff with a spine, they would have set up an autoreply stating "OOOH, we're so afraid of a blog with 1,000,000 unique visitors each month in cyberspace." Please, ignore these on-line idiots. I can guarantee that 99% of his blog readers don't reside in DC.

    Although, I must admit, I did like the complainer calling them fucktards. ALWAYS a good word.