Tag Archives: lyft problems

The Cult of Lyft: Inside the Pacific Driver Lounge

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[This post originally appeared on Medium in July 2014. Lyft has since dissolved the driver lounges.]

Lyft sees itself differently from other car services because the passenger rides up front. Like a friend. Drivers are supposed to greet passengers with a fist bump. Like they would, conceivably, with a friend. Drivers play music and engage the passenger in conversation. Since that’s what friends do.

I knew this much from taking Lyft cars in the past. But when I signed up to be a driver, I was enrolled in a Facebook group for Lyft drivers called the Pacific Driver Lounge. It was in the Lounge that I learned there was more to the Lyft Experience than just pink mustaches and fist bumps. Lyft wants to cultivate a community between drivers and passengers. But only the drivers seem to be interested in participating in that community, creating what’s best described as the Cult of Lyft.

In the Lounge, the faithful worship the pink mustache. They post selfies with their mustaches and even travel with small versions called cuddlestaches, which they photograph in distant lands. They wax poetic about the difference they’re making in the world by driving for Lyft. Many drivers post screen grabs of their daily and weekly summaries, showing off how much money they earned, highlighting long drives with Prime Time tips added (“Score!”) and favorable comments from passengers. All of which are followed by hashtags like #fistbumps or #lyftlove.

There are numerous pictures of tricked-out cars. Since Lyft encourages a quirky and fun vibe, many drivers come up with themes for their cars. One guy put a mirror ball in his car and became the DiscoLyft. Another put a karaoke machine in his car and decked out the ceiling with Christmas lights. This is the Caraoke. Then there’s the RocknRollLyft, where the driver has a guitar and portable amp in the back for passengers to shred on. Or the BatmanLyft. The PirateLyft. The ReptileLyft. The MomLyft. There’s the GameLyft, where the driver has an iPad for his passengers to play Flappy Bird while en route to their destination. While it may not be officially called the PornoLyft, I have heard of a driver who keeps Hustlers and Playboys in the back seat of his car. Maybe one day there will be a StipLyft, where the driver has to remove a piece of clothing each time he takes a wrong turn.

Drivers go this extra mile, at their own expense, for higher ratings, but also to have fun and be part of the Lyft community. This is what differentiates Lyft from other rideshare services. Community.

In the Lounge, Uber is referred to as “the dark side.”

Cabbies are the enemy.

The state legislature is comprised of a bunch of bullies out to take away our fun.

The worst thing you could do in the Lounge is malign the Lyft brand. You will soon be facing a cyber lynch mob.

Like all internet forums, the Driver Lounge is a cesspool of glad-handers, gossip hounds, chicken-littles and a chorus of kool-aid drinking cheerleaders; clueless consumers lapping up a marketing ploy and defending their faith to the bitter end. A handful of participants do 75 percent of the talking. They maintain the party line and make sure it’s all Lyft, all the time. Some of these regular posters are not full-time drivers. They do Lyft to supplement day jobs. So they have the time to waste posting and commenting and making sure the reputation of Lyft is preserved.

While other drivers occasionally use the Lounge to complain about Lyft policies, problems with the app and difficult passengers, more than half of the posts and subsequent comments glorify Lyft and all the wonderful things it stands for.

Since the Lounge is an official Lyft group, Lyft controls it. But it’s mostly self-governed. There are moderators or “mentors” from Lyft HQ who patrol the discussions. Posts get deleted if they aren’t up to snuff. People get banned for posting inappropriate or non-Lyft related items. (Anything to do with Uber is generally verboten.)

Sometimes discussions get heated and everyone gets upset. People start blocking each other. Discussions can get downright nasty.

This is all highly entertaining to me.

Over the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with the Lounge. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I check for new posts daily. I’m not proud of it. But I’m not ashamed either. My fascination with the online chatter of other drivers is akin to some folks’ dedication to reality television. We all like to watch people behave without self-awareness.

The Lounge is my Honey Boo Boo.

I have gained some useful information about the driving process by lurking in the group. It’s a good place to check the pulse of the city when I’m on the fence about driving into the city from Oakland to Lyft. Plus, there are so many confusing aspects to being a Lyft driver. The Lyft FAQ can be atrociously vague at times. In the Lounge, however, when these nebulous topics are discussed, you can easily get a consensus or find a few kindred drivers who share your opinion on the matter. Like whether or not it’s a requirement to display the mustache, the legality of accepting cash tips, traffic laws and the never-ending speculation on the insurance question, which is still up in the air.

My favorite posts in the Lounge are the ones where drivers complain about passengers cussing, being drunk, having dogs, smelling like pot or slamming doors. Some drivers even suggest kicking out passengers they don’t like. I always want to point out that in their blind hatred towards cabbies, they are missing the point of creating an alternative form of transportation. If many of these gung-ho drivers actually listened to why passengers prefer Lyft and Uber, they’d know it’s because cabbies are assholes. But watching these taxi-hating Lyfters slowly morph into cabbies themselves, it only makes sense that after driving people around for a while, cabbies would have figured out how to deal with passengers. It’s not easy. Every request you accept is a roll of the dice. You never know who’s going to get in your car. But hey, trying to appreciate the struggles of the other team requires more self-awareness than you can expect from the faithful in the Lounge.

Another amusing subplot in the Lounge ensues when a driver is “off-boarded” and removed from the Lounge. Only active Lyft drivers can participate in the Lounge, so drivers who are involved in accidents or altercations are deactivated from the Lyft system and thus removed from the Lounge. This is especially problematic because the most important thing any driver wants to know is what happens after an accident. That is, what happens with our insurance? What is covered and what isn’t? Do we pay a deductible? Will our insurance company drop us when they find out we’ve been ridesharing? Since a regular car insurance policy does not cover commercial activity, we are technically uninsured while driving for Lyft. Lyft supposedly carries a million dollar policy when we have a passenger in the car, but we rarely get any further details of how that coverage plays out after an accident.

Lyft assures us they will take car of everything, as long as the collision is not our fault. But without first hand knowledge, how are we supposed to be certain? While the Lyft faithful may dominate the discourse, when the shit hits the fan, the doubters emerge from the shadows and all hell breaks loose.

Not knowing all the facts leads to a lot of conjecture. Which is ironic because the official word from HQ is that drivers are removed from the lounge to prevent rumors and speculation. Don’t they understand it’s human nature to want to know the entire story and fill any holes with make-believe?

All it takes for one of the Lyft cheerleaders in the Lounge to have an accident, get deactivated and disappear for the rest of the flock to start asking questions. And maybe slowly realize they are taking too much a risk for a company that is only interested in making money.

Like the mustache, the Lounge is another great Lyft marketing scheme: placate your workers by convincing them they are part of a team so that whatever benefits Lyft, benefits them as well because they are all on the same team.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

You have to wonder if Lyft really has it in them to succeed in the rideshare racket. With all this emphasis on being friendly and fun, they seem to be missing the most obvious component of transportation.

Based on the responses of passengers I’ve talked to, your average Lyft user is not looking for some quirky experience. They just want to get to their destination, quickly and safely. Perhaps with some decent tunes playing. Maybe a friendly person to chat with along the way. If they’re in the mood. Otherwise, they’d prefer to not deal with a chatty driver. Or one who talks on the phone during the whole ride, for that matter — cabbies, I’m talking to you.

More than anything else, though, people just want to be able to request a car, have it show up in a timely fashion and not have to deal with a cash transaction. This excludes most taxi companies, or at least the cabbies who frequently tell passengers their credit card machines are broken.

It’s that simple. This is all you have to provide to succeed as a rideshare company. Get people where they want to go without bringing cash into the equation.

Uber, who doesn’t have a social media forum for their drivers, has figured that much out. If only they knew how to placate their own drivers, who are known to protest outside Uber HQ.

Providing a community for drivers is great. The Lyft Pacific Driver Lounge makes a lot of drivers feel special and appreciated. That’s cool. Let them show their team spirit, make friends with each other and proselytize for the Cult of Lyft all they want. Just leave the passengers out of it.

[artwork by Irina Dessaint]

Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft – The New Zine

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From the trenches of San Francisco’s sharing economy: another rideshare confessional zine

Behind the Wheel 2 includes more insight into the day-to-day travails of a rideshare driver in San Francisco, more stories about driving drunks, switching from Lyft to Uber, a visit to Uber HQ, self-entitled douchebags, talk of gentrification and displacement, the tech boom, public debauchery, emotional breakdowns, police activity and the constant threat of pukers.

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The print version is available through Etsy or PayPal.

56pp. | Wraparound cover | Illustrated | Staple bound | $5.00 postpaid

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A PDF or ePub Download is available for 99 cents through Etsy!

(For PayPal, click here.)

_________

EXCERPTS:

To Uber Or Not To Uber

A Day in the Life of a Rideshare Driver

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Bookstores in San Francisco that carry Behind the Wheel:
Adobe Bookshop
3130 24th St
Alley Cat Books 3036 24th St
Bound Together 1369 Haight St
City Lights 261 Columbus Ave
Dog Eared Books 900 Valencia St
Modern Times 2919 24th St
Needles & Pens 1173 Valencia St
Press 3108 24th St

Table of Contents:
Emperor Caveat
To Uber or Not to Uber
A Day in the Life of a Rideshare Driver (PDF)
The Wrong Bush and Mason
Gun on the Street
Infinite Douchebaggery
The Polk Gulch Vortex
Another Wasted Night
The Leather Man

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What is a zine?

A zine (/ˈziːn/ zeen; an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine) is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier. — via Wikipedia

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Behind the Wheel 2 debuted at the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest:

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Trick or Treat: Lyft Wants ME to Be a Mentor?

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I have to say, I’m somewhat flattered that Lyft took the time to email me the morning after Halloween with an invitation to be a Mentor. On what was supposed to be the busiest night of the year for ridesharing, Lyft had to deal with a server outage that caused snafus for drivers and passengers alike. Then there was the Sacramento passenger who died in a wreck on the freeway. This is Lyft’s first fatality. And the first rideshare passenger killed during a ride.

It was a hell of a night for Uber too. Their servers also went down worldwide. And they had to fend off the usual criticism for surge pricing.

On top of all that, both Lyft and Uber were offering drivers an hourly guarantee. In San Francisco, it was forty bucks.

Despite the guarantee, I stayed home and watched slasher flicks with the Wife. We did Halloween, Halloween 2, Scream and Scream 2.

The next morning, the Facebook groups were inundated with screenshots of extremely high fares. Once the server issues were sorted out, prices surged 5x in San Francisco and LA. In other cities, they went as high as 9x. Drivers who powered through the glitches took home some serious treats. While several passengers were just tricked.

I felt a mild pang of disappointment that I missed out on the shit show, but the email from Lyft certainly raised my spirits. In fact, I laughed my ass off. I have to assume it was another server error. I mean, really… They want ME to be a Mentor? Me? The person who continuously trashes their brand? Who made fun of the Pacific Driver Lounge? And who wrote a scathing post that sent all the Lyft loyalists into such a tizzy? Me?

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Are they completely out of their fucking minds?

I’m tempted to accept the invitation just to see if they would actually approve me. And if they did… Well, that would only validate my theory that Lyft and Uber don’t give two shits what you say about them online. Regardless of what many think, we work for a computer. All that matters is how well you drive. And as far as Lyft’s algorithm is concerned, I’m good enough to be a Lyft Mentor.

Me!

Ten Consequences of Driving for Uber and Lyft

After seven months of driving full time for Lyft and Uber, these are ten things that make me dread going into driver mode:

1. Vehicle Depreciation

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Besides passengers slamming my doors, which has caused a mysterious rattle, scuffing my interior, leaving behind trash and generally making the kinds of messes you’d expect from a two year old, there is also mechanical wear and tear. The more I drive, the more things go wrong with my car. I figure I have about two more months until I need new brakes and tires. And then my rideshare days are over. I just don’t make enough from driving for Uber and Lyft to afford to keep driving for Uber and Lyft.

2. Boot Malfunction

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My right boot is more worn than the left. To be fair, this may have more to do with my bony heels, but it’s not something I ever noticed until I had to keep my foot on the gas and brake pedals for hours at a time.

3. Physical Discomfort

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My neck is like an open wound. No doubt from glancing over my shoulder as I switch lanes in traffic all night long, always diligent to keep an eye on my blind spots, as well as the other cars on the road, speeding bicyclists, impatient cab drivers and cavalier pedestrians. As a result, the muscles that run along my jaw are steel rods. I have very little radius when I turn my head left or right. The tension never goes away. There is a real possibility that I may have some dislocated vertebrae. My joints hurt. My right ankle has a creak in it. And I have a chronic case of hemorrhoids. No matter how much ointment I apply, they remain perpetually enflamed. I noticed once, when I was a Lyft passenger, that my driver had a hemorrhoid pillow on his seat. I may need to acquire one of those in the near future…

4. Spousal Neglect

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Since I’m out late driving on the weekends, the Wife’s home alone. And she’s not happy about it. I’ve tried driving during the weekdays, but the gridlocked traffic makes getting anywhere in the city a chore. It’s not worth the frustration. I spend more time driving to the pinned locations than I do taking passengers where they need to go. And the only time you can get surge pricing is on weekend nights. And holidays. Or special events. So…

5. Fear of Deactivation

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Nobody enjoys being judged. But constantly feeling threatened with “deactivation” is downright humiliating. The rating system employed by Lyft and Uber focuses on only one aspect of a driver’s performance: passenger satisfaction. And it’s not easy making people happy. Even when the ride has gone perfectly, there’s never a guarantee the passenger is satisfied. All it takes is one drunk passenger on a power trip and you’re deactivated.

6. Erratic Sleep

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I work late and come home late. But I can’t sleep late because my head is filled with dreams about my Lyft summary, which is the only way to find out what I made the day before and what’s happened to my rating. Sometimes the summary is in my inbox before I wake up. Other days the email doesn’t arrive until the afternoon. With Uber you know, for the most part, what you’ve made at the end of each ride. And your rating is updated in the app as feedback is left. So at least you’re disappointed in real time.

7. Misanthropic Tendencies

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After a while, you really start to hate people. I’ve met some really great folks in my car, but I’ve also encountered a lot of stinkers. People that I’d rather see under my front tire than in my front seat. But I have to maintain a sunny disposition and be accommodating to my passengers or risk a negative rating. Not an easy task when some passengers are just straight up assholes. They input the wrong location. They make you wait. They ignore you. They talk down to you. They say racist and sexist things in your car. Your only retaliation is to rate THEM low. Which doesn’t amount to much since it’s unlikely Uber or Lyft would ever deactivate a passenger’s account. I guess we should just be grateful our passengers act like self-entitled douchebags rather than punching us or holding guns to our heads.

8. Paranoia

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Every time I go out to drive, I say a prayer that nothing bad happens. I can’t shake the nagging sensation that if something goes wrong, I’ll be fucked. Uber and Lyft tells us to use our personal insurance in the event of an accident. But our insurance won’t cover any damages since we’re engaged in commercial activity. So what’s the point of having personal insurance to do rideshare? Not that things would be better with the insurance companies Uber and Lyft use. I’ve read numerous reports from drivers who’ve been in accidents and had to crowd source funds to get their cars fixed. Or just being left in the lurch. We are hardly protected under normal circumstances, but what if we’re at fault? Oh, the horror… And with Uber, there’s no support number. We can only email them afterwards. On top of all that, both Uber and Lyft charge us a deductible. So if we are covered, we still pay out of pocket, even if we aren’t at fault.

9. Monetary Deficiencies

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Because of the price wars, as Uber and Lyft fight it out to determine who will be the preeminent rideshare platform, drivers are getting squeezed more and more. The rates just keep going down. As it is, I’m broke as hell. My credit cards are all maxed out, most of the time my bank account is overdrawn and I have a painful toothache I can’t afford to fix. Not to mention taxes… I don’t want to even think about what I’m going to do when it’s time to pay taxes.

10. Self-loathing

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If you’ve made it this far on my list of rideshare consequences, you might be wondering why I don’t just quit. I know it’s stupid to complain about something you can’t control. And I know it’s my own damn fault. I bought into the promise of ridesharing as an alternative source of income with a good amount of freedom and it turned out to be a lie. I fell for the classic switcheroo. I’m an idiot. So why don’t I just get on with my life? Well, that day is coming. Without a doubt. For now, the hell I know is better than the one I don’t. And I like driving. I like meeting people. I like exploring the streets of San Francisco. But there’s no future in ridesharing for drivers. Hell, the way things are going, there won’t be a future for taxi drivers either.