Nathan For You (2013) s04e03 Episode Script

Andy vs. Uber

1 - My name is Nathan Fielder, and I graduated from one of Canada's top business schools with really good grades.
Now I'm using my knowledge to help struggling small business owners make it in this competitive world.
This is "Nathan for You.
" In season two of my show, I gave marketing advice to a small taxi company owner named Andy Farshidian, whose business was being destroyed by the ride share giant Uber.
- The idea was to generate press by encouraging pregnant riders to give birth in his taxi.
But what I never saw coming was that just a few months after that episode aired Uber just happened to launch a new campaign offering free baby onesies to anyone who gives birth in one of their cars.
Encouraging customers births to get press was our idea.
And when I met up with Andy to tell him about it, he couldn't believe his eyes.
- You know, you're right.
You're right.
They stole our idea.
- Did you know about this? - No, I never saw this.
This is the first time I saw it.
- After already having taken so much from this struggling cabby, for Uber, this was a new low.
Business had gotten so bad that Andy had resorted to turning his cab into a mobile karaoke booth in a last-ditch effort to hold on to his customers.
- Say my name say my name Around you Say I love you If you--my name Say my name say my name - It was clear we had to do something.
So I sat down with Andy to discuss our options.
I never get mad.
I'm very cool and calm all time time, but I am so furious that they did this to you.
- They stole everything.
You know what I mean? The idea, the money, the passenger, everything.
They stole everything, you know? - Well, I have an idea, but it's pretty crazy.
- Talk to me.
- Uber may be a powerful company, but there's a big vulnerability in their business model.
Anyone can become a driver.
So if we recruited a fleet of disgruntled cabbies to sign up as Uber drivers, we could effectively create a sleeper cell of rogue agents within the Uber network, allowing Andy I with the push of a button to turn our drivers into nightmares and unleash total chaos across the globe.
The plan: get Uber to stop using those baby onesies by threatening them with a sleeper cell.
- A sleeper cell, you said? - Sleeper cell.
- A sleeper cell.
- Not sleeping.
- Yeah, just a sleep cell.
- Sleeper.
- Oh, sleeper.
- Sleeper cell.
Oh, the person asleep.
Sleeper cell.
- But no one's sleeping.
- Yeah, I know.
- Right.
- Yeah, okay.
- 'Cause once Uber realizes a large portion of their drivers are under our control, they'll have no choice but to listen to your demands.
- Very smart, very smart.
- And at that point, you can tell them, "Get rid of that onesie.
" - Knock them down.
That's the best idea.
I love you, man.
- I, uhI love you too.
Okay, so I think that's good for today.
- Okay.
- I'd never started a sleeper cell before.
But in doing some research online, I learned that the key to running any clandestine cell operation is having a communication structure that kept the identities of the leaders secret.
That way, if any of our sleeper agents were compromised, they wouldn't be able to rat us out to Uber and bring down the cell.
From now on, we couldn't risk using our personal phones.
We'd have to get prepaid burner phones.
So to make sure the purchase couldn't be traced back to us, I anonymously hired someone off Craigslist to go to a local Walgreens and told him there would be cash hidden in a dirty McDonald's cup outside the location, which he was to use to buy up the store's entire supply of prepaid cell phones.
The Craigslist guy was told to then bring the phones to an abandoned pier at the San Pedro harbor at exactly 1:15 p.
m.
, where he would find a waterproof pouch hidden inside a white first aid kit at the end of the dock.
He was then instructed to put all the phones into the pouch, hook the base of the pouch to a nearby cinder block, and throw it off the pier, where unbeknownst to him, I was awaiting the delivery in full scuba gear beneath the surface completing the final step of a burner phone purchase that would be impossible to trace back to either me or Andy.
Now that we had a way to communicate with our drivers, we would need to figure out the commands to give them.
So I started researching Uber Yelp reviews and online comments to see what behaviors from drivers customers hated the most.
The complaints ranged from foul-smelling vehicles to telling offensive jokes to blasting terrible music.
But to know which combination of these would be most effective, we would need to test them out on actual Uber customers.
So I had Andy go undercover and sign up for an Uber driver account with his personal vehicle.
And after taking it for a final inspection posing as an average Joe looking to make a few extra bucks on the side - Yeah, I'm just an average Joe, make some money the side, you know.
- Yeah, I'm a normal guy.
- Andy was now registered as a fully accredited Uber driver.
And that meant we could begin our test.
- "Playing bad music," yep.
"Bad smell, driver" Driver what? - Gas.
- Oh, that's bad, yeah.
- What's the worst of these? - The worst one's driver gets lost--go 5 right? You're supposed to go to 5 North, drive me 5 South.
That's it.
They're like, "No, it's crazy.
" - Do you know how to do these, like-- - Oh, of course.
I'm the master of these.
- You're already a bad driver? No, I'm not bad driver, but I have lots of experience.
- To simulate the smell of driver farting, I brought Andy box full of ziplock bags each filled with a sulfur-based stink spray.
So it's, like, one per ride.
- Okay.
- They smell really bad.
- Oh, they--oh, okay.
- To test the effects of bad music, I gave him a burned CD with an endless loop of Lou Bega's 1999 hit "Mambo No.
5" on it, considered by many experts to be one of the worst songs ever made.
So with everything prepped, Andy turned on his Uber app and headed out to pick up some customers.
- Hello.
How are you? - Fine.
How about you? What's your name? - Lori.
- Lori, yeah.
- Well, it doesn't matter the price.
How did it come out? Yeah.
Uh-huh.
Excuse me.
Can I--can we roll down the window? - Oh, the window doesn't work.
It's broken.
- It doesn't go down? - No.
- Oh, 'cause it smells in here.
Oh, I'm in an Uber right now.
I'm going someplace, and the window doesn't go down.
And it kind of smells in here.
[laughs].
So--oh, wait.
No, so I can't - Ladies and gentlemen, this is mambo number five.
- Oh, wait.
I'm on the phone.
I'm sorry.
I'm on the phone.
Excuse me.
Sir.
[upbeat music] Sir, I'm on the phone.
Oh, my God.
I'm gonna get out.
- One, two, three, four, five - I'm getting out.
- The first ride lasted less than a minute, and after running through our list with several other customers - Yo, I think I'm lost, man.
- You're lost? - The most intolerable Uber driver behaviors became clear.
- Turn off the music.
Cut it off.
Turn off the music.
Turn off the music.
- And after a full day of testing, we got the results we were hoping for.
- Bad rating.
- Bad rating.
They gave me all bad rating.
- With our activation plan in place, we decided to name our sleeper cell after Andy's dog Lucky.
Because he thought it would bring us luck.
- So maybe we get lucky, you know, from his name.
- So I created a website that would act as our main hub for recruits to sign up.
Now I just had to get word spreading amongst taxi drivers.
- Because I had to remain anonymous while recruiting drivers, I went to a local hospital pickup zone disguised as someone who had just been released from surgery and began hailing cabs.
Hi, there.
- Yes.
Where do you want to go? - Just circle the block.
We have business to discuss.
My goal was to get word spreading that an anti-Uber resistance was looking for members.
So how's the taxi business going? Not doing as well as you used to? - Why is that? - If you're interested in helping take Uber down, give me a call.
- I spent the entire day hailing cabs, driving in a circle, and talking up drivers.
Would you be happier if Uber wasn't around? - Well, there might be a way to do that.
Each of the business cards I gave them had a burner phone number on it where they could get information about a meeting that would be happening later that week.
- The interested cabbies who reached out were given the address of a local day care I had rented after hours, where they were told the leaders of The Lucky Group would be speaking.
So while the cabbies trickled in and helped themselves to our spread of complimentary snacks, Andy and I got ready in the back storage room.
Does it fit okay? - Yeah.
- But even with disguises, Andy was concerned that a fellow cabbie might recognize his voice.
- I'm the most famous cab driver in Orange County.
Everybody knows me.
- Really? - Yeah.
- Can you do any accents? Or can you disguise your voice in any way? - So how about Southeast United States, somewhere around there, Louisiana or something in that area? - Sure.
- How was your day, partner? How is your business? The taxi's gone, man.
- That's Louisiana? - Somewhere around Louisiana.
- Oh.
- Maybe it's not exactly, but somewhere around Louisiana, the Southeast, I know that one.
- Yeah, I think that will work.
- Okay.
- Sure, yeah, okay.
And with that, we headed out to begin the orientation.
I'd like to apologize for the disguises.
But what we're doing is very sensitive in nature, so they are necessary.
Firstly, thank you all for being here.
- We are The Lucky Group.
- So we all agree that the Uber corporation has destroyed our industry, right? [together] Yes.
- Our business down 60%.
- 85% - Wow.
- Since Uber.
- As soon as Uber was mentioned, a wave of frustration swept over the room.
- Uber corporation itself taken over everything, everything.
It is completely unfair.
- We're working with our permits.
We're working with background checks.
- You know, whenever I see bad news coming out of Uber, I will see rape, rape, and then, "We deliver puppies.
" - I will not allow anyone in my family to ride in an Uber vehicle.
Because it's--not because it's competition but because it's unsafe.
- I cannot pay my mortgage.
I cannot buy good shoes for my children.
- Listening to these stories, I began to understand the human cost of Uber's unquenchable thirst for expansion.
- And it's not me alone.
Maybe thousands and thousands like me.
- I just hoped Andy would be able to sell them on our plan.
- I think have more experience than any of you in taxi business.
I started in taxi business in about 1984, '85.
- 1980 right here.
- Oh, okay, so you have four years more experience than me.
- It was a bit of a rocky start, but pretty soon, they started to get it.
- I want you to humiliate Uber driver and get one star.
- How it is gonna affect the whole system? - No, no, no, no, no.
What he's saying is, you give bad service to a customer.
- Bad service? - Yeah.
- Thank you.
- And before long, it seemed like we had won them over.
- From our company alone, I will tell about 250 drivers went to Uber, and I have contact with all of them.
So they are sleeper cells, all those people holding City of Los Angeles taxicab driving permits.
- So you have 250 people.
- I have--I don't have to persuade anybody.
I can give you names and driver's license numbers in a matter of 25 minutes.
- The meeting couldn't have gone better, and the drivers were eager to hand out our website info to all of their friends.
- I will--I have bunch of friends I'm gonna give them to.
- Really? - Yes.
- Thank you so much.
Within a week, we already had 62 sign-ups in The Lucky Group inbox.
So with momentum building, I felt it was time to prepare a short video to make Uber aware of our presence.
- I was pretty happy with how the video turned out.
But before sending it to Uber, I wanted to show Andy it to get his thoughts.
- It's a little bit you go too far.
- After watching the video, Andy seemed very concerned.
- It's not--they then sue us, we go to jail, all of us.
- And that made me worry too.
I hadn't fully considered the legal risks of starting a sleeper cell.
And as a Canadian citizen, if I got charged with even a misdemeanor, it would be a violation of my green card, and I'd be deported from the country I've grown to love, America, so I did some research to see if there was anything that could protect me from deportation.
And it seemed like the only thing that could give me immunity was if I married a U.
S.
citizen.
There was no one in my life who would marry me right now.
I tried asking Andy if he would marry me as a favor, but he didn't want to do it.
- Just legal status? - Yeah.
- I don't want to marry a man.
- So with the clock ticking and no romantic prospects, I felt like the only way to safely move forward was to marry Andy without his knowledge.
My plan was to make it appear to Andy like we were just gonna grab some Chinese takeout for lunch one day.
So I rented out a Chinese restaurant and redesigned their menu to only consist of unappealing dishes that no reasonable person would want to order.
The only exception was the house special, a chicken and broccoli dish called Ai-doo.
To officiate the ceremony, I hired someone who specialized in traditional Chinese weddings.
Oh, my gosh.
I so nervous.
[laughter] - Don't be.
Don't be.
- Okay.
- All right, so--so-- - To be clear, the ceremony's gonna be entirely in Mandarin? - In Mandarin.
That's correct.
- Okay, you're not gonna say a word of English the whole time? - No, I won't say a word of English.
- Okay.
- Now, is Andy gonna understand Chinese? - Of course, yeah.
- Yeah.
- Yeah.
- Definitely.
So this where I was thinking you could stand - All right.
- And do the ceremony.
- Oh, really? - And we'll come in there.
- Okay.
- So with our officiant in place, I met Andy outside when he arrived.
One thing before we go in; it's really authentic, the restaurant, so it's respectful if you order your dish in Mandarin.
It's written out phonetically.
- Oh, okay.
- And with that, we headed inside to get married.
- [speaking in Mandarin] - What did he say? - I think he-- he wants you to order.
- Oh, you want me to order.
So Ai-doo.
- [speaking in Mandarin] - I do.
I told the officiant I wanted our marriage certificate to look like a restaurant bill as an homage to our first date where we split the check.
- So you accept Visa, right? - After Andy and I each paid, we signed what he believed was the receipt - [speaking in Mandarin] - Officially making us jie hun, or married, in the eyes of the state of California.
It was a little odd sitting across from someone who had no clue they were your husband.
But all that really mattered is that I was now legally protected, so we could finally move forward with our plan.
- I was still a little nervous about delivering our video to Uber, as I knew that once I sent this email, they would do everything in their power to track us down.
So before sending it, I cleared my entire browser history, including cookies, and destroyed any remaining evidence that could link either me or Andy to The Lucky Group.
I didn't want to leave a single trace of our existence.
Even the daycare we met at was fake and designed from the very start to disappear by morning.
But when I called in Andy to delete his Uber account, he dropped a bombshell.
- What's all this? - These are how many--you've got five star.
This is-- - No, but why have you been doing Uber rides? You're doing rides every single day.
- Yeah.
- Andy had logged hundreds of rides on the account I set up for him since the time we completed our test.
- Well, so is this your job now? Are you an Uber driver? - No, I'm not an Uber driver.
I mean-- - Well, what do you mean? You've done-- - No, I started to research about that company.
- But you're driving for Uber full-time.
- Because I-- - Andy, that wasn't the plan.
- Yeah, I know.
- We're supposed to be - But I have to survive somehow.
- Andy admitted that he was now relying on Uber for his entire income and had been keeping it a secret from me for weeks.
Why didn't you tell me you were doing this? - Oh, I don't know why should I tell you, because, you know, compared to taxis, it's easier to go to pick up, get the car, all those things.
I don't even come from taxi anymore.
- He was now worried that if we continued with the sleeper cell, it would affect his driver rating.
And that's when I realized Andy had been turned.
When he took me outside and showed me that he had transferred his entire karaoke machine into his Uber, words were not even necessary.
We knew this was the end of The Lucky Group and our fight for the onesie.
- I had the first karaoke taxi in the world.
Now have the first karaoke Uber in the world.
- I couldn't help but feel a bit betrayed, but maybe from the very start we had been fighting a battle that could never be won.
Just like telegraphs had been replaced by telephones and horse and buggies by cars, the free market had again chosen a winner.
The real enemy wasn't Uber.
It was progress.
If Andy didn't want to move forward with the sleeper cell, there was also no longer a need for us to be married.
So I sat down with a divorce lawyer to explain my situation.
- Oh, so what did he think was going on during that time? - He just thought he was ordering lunch from someone at a Chinese restaurant.
- Okay.
- Fortunately, the lawyer said our marriage would be easy to nullify.
- So that's where the element of fraud comes in, that you brought him to the restaurant under false pretense, that you performed the ceremony without his knowledge and in another language.
- But as I sat there listening to him lecture me about all the mistakes I had made, I was reminded of the vows we had taken at that Chinese restaurant.
- [speaking in Mandarin] - I had promised to love and accept Andy for who he was, not who I wanted him to be.
- I do.
So if Andy wanted to be an Uber driver, I'd support him, because no matter who he worked for, I knew no one could stop him from being himself.
- Oh, this a karaoke Uber, so you can sing.
- A feather in his cap and called it macaroni Yankee Doodle keep it up Yankee doodle dandy Mind the music and the step + And with the girls be handy - Hoo.
- So you're aware, Andy and I won't be kissing, because he has an STD right now.
- Oh, okay.
- Is that okay? - Yeah, no, that's fine.
You don't have to kiss.
I mean, you can hug.
- Okay, sure, yeah.
- But both of you have to sign-- sign the papers.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.