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99 Problems and balloons ain't one.

The New York Times recently published a story on Uber, and the cash-burning machine it is. The groundbreaking rideshare company just turned ten and has yet to turn a profit. Pressure from shareholders – who have yet to see an increase in Uber's share price - put pressure on executive leadership. In response, Uber cut 400 marketing jobs from their approximately1200 person marketing roster. Yes, the marketing jobs are always the first to go, but that is for another time.

Photo by  Richard Bagan  on  Unsplash


And we found out recently; Uber will no longer celebrate employee anniversaries with balloons. There is rumor these thoughtful, helium-filled orbs of happiness will be replaced with stickers - because kids love stickers so darn much. Uber did its best to make an environmental issue out of it, but we will surely see them run out of money before we run out of helium. 

I have nothing against saving money, nor against saving the planet. I do, however, take issue with the immediate reaction of corporations to first cut from the "vast" benefits and perks given to employees. 

While it does save the company $200,000, what does it cost? Monetarily speaking it was about $40 per employee per year. Morale wise, we don't know. 

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

And Uber's employees will remember how they used to feel as soon as they get their anniversary sticker.

I'm not advocating for balloons persé, I am advocating for the gesture. Wherein the gesture is much like the hype around a startup. 

A company, let's call it Uber, has relatively little value. It doesn't own anything of real consequence. It's just a really interesting idea. However, the convenience and excitement it brings to market are wildly disproportionate, and so goes its IPO price.

Perks to employees are like exciting IPOs. It doesn't cost much, and your return on investment is again, wildly disproportionate.


When those perks get taken away, we can also expect disproportionate scrutiny as to where those dollars/balloons went. 

Like these fun facts:

  • Uber paid its top five executives $143 million in total compensation last year.

  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi salary and total compensation is $45 Million

  • The average uber driver makes $8.75 an hour.

The cost of the balloons was $40 per employee per year or .000089% of Mr. Khosrowshahi's salary. I find it a shame that a company as innovative as Uber used such an old-school solution to cost-cutting. The cost of a gesture like balloons, at .000089% of Mr. Khosrowshahi's salary, is nominal, but the value to Uber's employees, and anyone's employees really, is immeasurable.

Cover photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Laine GabrielLaineGabriel