In early October of 2017 I received the following e-mail:

    From: Driver Support
    Sent: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 10:24 AM
    To: George Wilkerson
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    My name is Danny and I am reaching out to you from the Trust & Safety Team. We are investigating a potential violation of our community guidelines and Terms of Service. According to policy, I've placed your driver account on hold while we investigate.
    The safety of our community is our top priority. During this time, you'll be unable to drive on our platform. I know this is a difficult situation, but it's our policy to investigate all reports we receive. I'm following up on feedback I received about one of your recent passengers.
    This feedback alleges you made unwanted close contact with a passenger well after a ride had been completed. Can you give me more details about this?
    Because our Trust & Safety team doesn't take inbound phone calls, communications or questions about this investigation or email should only be sent through this email thread. Email replies ensure you'll get the quickest and most thorough response.
    Best,
    Danny

As you might guess, this strange and vaguely threatening message had me perplexed. I hate it when people 'reach out' to me. It sounds like a throw-back to the old AT&T advertisement (pre-sexual harassment days) encouraging us to "reach out and touch someone," and I wasn't sure what sort of "unwanted close contact" I was supposed to have made, So I replied, asking for more detail.

    From: George Wilkerson
    Sent: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 4:43 PM
    To: Driver Support
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Hi Danny
    I have no idea what you’re talking about. If you provide me with specifics (i.e. time and date of service, where it allegedly occurred)
    I can respond better.
    George

I didn't hear anything for two days, so I followed up with a second message.

    From: George Wilkerson
    Sent: Tuesday, October 5, 2017 7:19 PM
    To: Driver Support
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Danny
    Please note that I did not request the notice I received. I’m not sure why (as in the message below) it says “Your request” when it’s not mine.
    But that aside, I want to reiterate that I cannot provide you with “more details about this” as requested without specifics regarding the day and location of the alleged incident. I keep extensive, detailed records of every ride so given the date and time of the ride I will be able to review my records and respond.
    I am anxiously awaiting your response.
    George Wilkerson

When the reply came I realized that I wasn't communicating with the rideshare company at all. Instead, the messages were coming from a company called Zendesk. I investigated and learned that they are a 'service' company with whom the rideshare company contracts to do customer (and driver) support.

By October 7th, I still had no reply to either of my messages, so I sent one more.

    From: George Wilkerson
    Sent: Tuesday, October 6, 2017 3:59 PM
    To: Driver Support
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    I have just received my weekly driving report for the period September 29 through October 5. My Safety Rating for that period is “Perfect.” Therefore, I must assume that the circumstances referenced in Ms. Annie’s e-mail (below) occurred prior to September 29th.

    I have scanned my personal driving records for the two week period prior to September 29th and can find no record of any ride where such an incident occurred. As earlier, without further detail from you I cannot respond to this inquiry.

    And please note that three days have now passed since this issue arose, during which time I have sent three e-mail responses and had no reply from anyone at Zendesk, despite the assurance that my e-mail to you would ensure “the quickest and most thorough response.”

    I would appreciate some sort of response from someone.

Then, as if to confuse matters further, I got a package in the mail. So I sent this message.

    From: George Wilkerson
    Sent: Saturday, October 7, 2017 3:44 PM
    To: Driver Support
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Does anyone realize the irony in the fact that I received in today’s mail an Amp front emblem for my car?

    This all makes me wonder if my situation is even being handled by a human. Is there really a “Trust & Safety Specialist” named ‘Danny’? Are all of the replies I get automated? (Let’s see…if this message gets replied with “Your request (525558010 HAS BEEN UPDATED” I suspect that’s how it works.)

    Which makes me question why I should even bother responding.

    George Wilkerson

The next day I received the reply below.

    From: Driver Support
    Sent: Sunday, October 8, 2017 2:38 PM
    To: George Wilkerson
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Hi George,

    Thank you for your patience. Due to the nature of the allegations, your account will remain deactivated while there is an ongoing investigation.

    To protect the privacy of those involved, we are unable to disclose the specific details of the report. The feedback alleged you utilized a passenger's address after a ride had been completed. Can you give me more details about this?

    Regards,

    Danny
    Trust & Safety Specialist
    Help Center

This is why people get migraines. I considered how this would work if a real 'crime' was at issue. Would they have said "To protect the privacy of those involved, we are unable to disclose the specific details of the report. The feedback alleged you murdered a passenger. Can you give me more details about this?"

After much consideration and frustration I replied as follows:

    From: Driver Support
    Sent: Tuesday, October 8, 2017 8:41 PM
    To: George Wilkerson
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Mr Danny

    I am now completely confused. Your original message said that a passenger alleged that I “made unwanted close contact with a passenger well after a ride had been completed.” But today’s message says I “utilized a passenger's address after a ride had been completed.” Which of these is at issue?

    In either case, you are asking me to provide information about situations for which you have given me no frame of reference. Neither of them is reflected in my personal driving records. I do not recall, at any time, that I made close contact with a passenger “well after “a ride was completed. In fact, that phrase (“well after”) is too vague for me to reflect upon. Is “well after” five minutes after or thirty minutes after? And what purpose would I have for using someone’s address after they completed their ride?

    The only possible explanation I can offer for either of those alleged incidents is that those individuals making those claims were inebriated. Nashville has a reputation as a ‘party town’ and I get a large number of riders who have been drinking. As I tend to be forgiving, I don’t report them, nor do I rate them poorly, as I feel I’m actually doing them a service; however, I do retain the information in my records, which is why I am asking for more detail so that I might see if these reports came from one of those riders. Please give me an estimate of how long this “investigation” will be “ongoing.” And please respond to the requests and questions I have asked. If these matters are not cleared up by the end of the week I will need to look into alternative solutions.

    George

I waited a few days but, of course, I got no response, so I sent another message.

    From: George Wilkerson
    Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2017 3:01 PM
    To: Driver Support
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Mr Danny or Whomever is Behind this:

    I am attaching to this message a complete record of all rides I have given since beginning to drive for your company. As you will see, my records are thorough and detailed. In addition to the dates, names of riders, and notes about each ride, they include items like rider feedback, gasoline purchases, mileage accrued, and maintenance on my vehicle. Some of the notes may not be entirely explanatory as I use a code to identify some aspects of the ride (e.g. drunken, rude, or angry rider). If you have questions about any of them feel free to ask me. I assure you that the promptness of my response will exceed your responses to me.

    Having said this and given the absence of adequate responses to my inquiries, and the fact that none of these matters were cleared up by the end of the week (10/13) I am now forced to seek alternative solutions. I regret having to do this, as my experience with your company was very positive before all this began.

    George
    Attachment(s)

The 'alternative solution' I'm referring to is my lawyer, whom I called and who searched the lengthy "Terms and Conditions" and found a section that would apply. So I sent a certified letter to the CEOs of the rideshare company AND of Zendesk and I sent the following e-mail message:

    From: George Wilkerson
    Sent: Friday, October 27, 2017 2:19 PM
    To: Driver Support
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Danny

    Please note that I am responding to the inquiries shown in your messages below. In keeping with Section K of the Terms and Conditions document cited in your earlier message, I am attempting “to negotiate any dispute, claim or controversy informally” within the prescribed 30 day period.
    I have thus far provided information in an attempt to resolve the issue allegedly raised by a rider. The following is in addition to that information as I believe it might relate to the case although, as I have said, without specifics as to location, date, and time I cannot be sure.

    The first possibility concerns a small project I undertook to thank those riders (approximately 30) who used my services on a regular basis. I enlisted the help of local businesses who donated ‘gifts’ for the riders and distributed those gifts along with a ‘Thank You’ note to each of those riders. (A copy of that note is attached to this message.) When I began this project, I contacted the company to ask for support, thinking they might add something to the gift bag (e.g. a keychain with your logo). I was told that you do not do this, but I was encouraged to go ahead with the project. I then proceeded to drop off the gift bags to each of the ‘regulars’ and in some cases handed them to them personally. A number of them were very pleased and thanked me.

    The second possibility concerns a ride that was ‘flagged’ on August 4th. The note concerned a navigation issue which I wrote to you about. A drunken rider insisted on having me disregard the navigation system (WAZE) and follow his directions, which turned out to be wrong. Nonetheless, he blamed me for the error and was not very polite about it.

    The third possibility concerns a comment made by one of my riders on August 11th. He wrote .“He was being very smart with me and argumentative and im trying to tell him how to get to my building and he being smart and he is disrespectful. I don't want to ride with him ever again.” According to my notes this rider, whom I believe was named Jeffrey, insisted on calling me “Dude” and was extremely belligerent when I tried to explain to him that the reason I was having trouble locating him was because most of the buildings did not have numbers and I gave him a landmark (Taco Bell) to which he responded by shouting “I’m here ‘Motherfucker!” to which I responded by cancelling the ride and indicating there would be no charge. I communicated this incident to you and requested that I not get assigned to him again. On August 12th I submitted a handout I created which I provide to riders who cancel quickly. And on the 13th I received the following reply: “First of all thank you very much for the useful information, you are so kind! Drivers like you help us make a better Us! We really appreciate for you taking the time to do this, since we know you work really hard! I'm glad to inform you that I have escalated this information so we can share it and help other drivers as well!”

    I believe that any or all of the above might explain some of your concerns and help to resolve this issue.
    I look forward to resuming my driving for you.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. George Wilkerson

And it worked. Or so it seems, as two days later I got the following message:

    From: Driver Support
    Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2017 6:56 AM
    To: George Wilkerson
    Subject: Follow-Up from Trust & Safety

    Hi George,

    Thank you for getting back to me and following up on the matter. After further consideration, we have elected to reactivate your account. Please keep in mind that any future reports of this nature may lead to the immediate and final deactivation of your account on the platform.

    Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns.

    Best,

    Danny
    Trust & Safety Specialist
    Help Center

As all of this went on, I looked into driving for a different rideshare outfit and found it easy to do. (The companies don't talk to each other or share data, so to them my record was clean. But on closer scrutiny, I learned that the other company had been having problems, including a class action suit by their drivers for having been short-changed. With my problem resolved I decided to stay with my current group, but to assume a more defensive posture. If there was any chance a rider might want to cause me problems I vowed to head them off with a complaint of my own.