Recently I became a driver for Lyft. Why? Because I needed extra money. I mean, with today’s economy and the lack of jobs for college-educated individuals (I’m actually serious here. The job market in my field after college is extremely difficult to get hired in), why not start a side gig with Lyft? The pay can be good, and there are some benefits that I didn’t actually realize came with the job (e.g. reduced gas prices, discounted roadside assistance). However, there are also plenty of downsides that come with the job. Here are just a few (in no particular order):
1. One State Driving Rule
Now, as someone who lives (almost literally) on the border with another state, this one is one of the most annoying ones for me. I live practically in the middle of nowhere, where if it’s not an Uber, no one knows what it is (although Uber drivers are beyond rare to find out by me, too). I would love to get out on the roads more and make more money, but due to my living where no one knows about Lyft, I have to drive at least 30-45 minutes to even come to some remotely populated area where Lyft may be used. Yeah, that can be fine, except for the fact that then I get into a potentially dangerous area, where I may be brought into one of the most dangerous parts of my state, or I may have a rider that decides he or she wishes to go out on the town for a night, at which point I’m stuck paying endless tolls in beyond horrible traffic. I have done this once, and I despised it. No, I wasn’t given any more rides once I crossed state lines, which I was thankful for (before I fully understood this rule), but I drove into a place where I had promised myself I would never drive.
Anyways, I am forced to drive extremely far from where I live, just because I cannot pick up passengers 10 minutes away in my neighboring state. Yes, I understand the rule (to an extent) but at the same time, personally I feel as though there should be exceptions.
When I started driving the tips were okay – nothing great, but hey, at least they were there. Then, as I continued driving, the tips became more and more scarce. No, I am not a horrible driver who tries to crash into every road sign possible. I am a normal-ish driver (because who actually knows what “normal” driving is?) and do my best to be cheerful to my passengers. I’m not sure why passengers don’t believe tips to be worthwhile, but for the driver, it can be a big part of our income. Think about it like this: if you were in a taxi, you would most likely tip the driver. Just because the payment is online, why does that mean that you should no longer tip your driver? We’re using our cars, adding miles to them, increasing the wear and tear on our vehicle, and sometimes we're going very far out of our way to drive people places. Also, drivers aren't reimbursed for gas, which has gotten insanely expensive. So be a decent person and help drivers actually make a living. Even if it’s just $1, don’t be an asshole.
3. Automatic Queue
So when you turn on your Driver Mode, you are basically telling Lyft that you are available for anywhere that drivers are needed. This is fine and quite understandable. What’s a little less understandable is the automatic queue that comes with Driver Mode. What this means is that basically you are allowed to accept or decline your first ride. However, after that you will continue to be given rides (if there are people by you that are requesting them) until you turn Driver Mode off. With the queue, you are unable to see how long the next ride will be, or how far away the passenger is. If there is a lag in-between requests, however, you will once again be able to either accept or decline the ride request. I understand why this is in place, but personally, I feel as though there should be a way to turn off the automatic queue. After all, if I’m in New Jersey and someone wants to go to Manhattan, I may very well not want to make that drive but if it’s a busy time, it will be automatically put into my queue.
4. Unable to see the drop-off location until you pick up the passenger
Even though you set in your destination when you request a ride, the driver does not actually see that location until they pick you up. Instead, they are just told if it’s going to be a longer drive than 30 or 45 minutes. This comes as an issue when the automatic queue is a thing, because if you’re just looking to stay local, that may not be an option. Luckily if there are not many riders around and so your queue is not being used, the app will tell you if it will be a “long ride” or not. Now, that sounds ideal, except for the fact that “long ride” doesn’t say much other than it’ll be more than 30-45 minutes; it doesn’t tell you the location or the ETA at the drop-off location.
For some drivers, this is fine. After all, the longer rides get more money. However, for someone that hates New York traffic and has never wanted to drive in to the city, it is worrisome.
My third passenger (ever) requested a ride to a hotel by LaGuardia airport. I did not know this at the time of acceptance. What I did know was that it was a “long ride.” Okay, I thought. The city is much farther than 45 minutes from where I was. Yes, yes it was. It was about an hour and a half away. I felt a sense of dread driving to the pick-up location, but I still was not sure where the rider was going. I kept telling myself that there are plenty of places in Jersey that are 45+ minutes from where I was, and that it was probably not the city. For those New Yorkers out there, you may be telling me that LaGuardia is not the “city.” Let me tell you this: if I have to cross the George Washington Bridge, it’s the “city.” No, it may not have been Times Square or Manhattan, but that does not mean other drivers don’t drive like crazy by LaGuardia.
It was after this ride that I started becoming even more wary about picking up passengers, and it wasn’t until an old Lyft driver told me about the automatic queue (since I hadn’t experienced it yet, but as of today I definitely have) that I should turn off if going in to the city. No, it’s not because I can pick up rides in the city; it’s because as soon as I cross the bridge again, there are going to be more rides that want to go back into New York, which is definitely not something I’m a fan of. It was also after this ride that I started going even farther from the city to avoid it at all costs (unfortunately, that doesn’t work too well because not many people use Lyft in suburbia).
5. The riders
Okay yeah, as a driver for Lyft I should expect to come across some people that I may not be a huge fan of. I also completely understand that I am one of the biggest introverts I know and that I cannot physically or mentally cope with being around people for any extended period of time. I knew both of those things going into this gig. What I didn’t know? How people don’t understand Lyft and expect to be able to take advantage of it. To fully emphasize this point, let me tell you a story of one of my more-recent encounters.
I was on the highway and received a pop-up stating that someone was requesting a Lyft. Okay, wonderful. I was slightly worried about the location since I was sort of close to areas that I did not want to venture in to, but I accepted regardless. It was a Line (before Lyft changed the name), so there was the possibility of picking up additional passengers along the way.
I followed the GPS to where I was supposed to go and when I came to a security gate, I asked the attendant which way the building was where I was supposed to pick up my passengers. As I was driving towards the building and came to the second security gate, my phone rang. It was my passengers. Okay, that was fine, but generally I prefer it if the passenger waits for me to call them, mostly because if I’m driving I may very well not have the ability to answer my phone. Now, I understand calling your driver if they are veering off-course or if it’s at the airport and there are a ton of security guards around telling your driver to keep going, but if your driver is very much on their way towards you and it’s a reasonably simple pickup location, let them be.
I passed the security gate and I drove up to the only building that was not a parking structure and was before the “Do Not Enter” sign. I pulled into a cul-de-sac in front of the building’s entrance, and then called my passengers. I kept my eyes out, looking for two Indian individuals (I could tell they were from India based on their accent), but I did not see anyone that looked as though they requested a Lyft. I kept telling them that I was looking at a parking structure, sitting in a roundabout right by a fountain, and was past the security gate. Okay, so here is where confusion set in.
Apparently when they called me and I said I was just about to pass the security gate, my riders assumed I was talking about the first security gate. Okay, that’s a reasonable assumption, if you don’t put your pickup spot as a building past the security gate. It took 15 minutes for all of the confusion to be sorted out, and that was only because they finally gave their phone to the security officer at the first gate. Let me tell you this, as a word of advice: for a Line, drivers are only supposed to wait 2 minutes for their rider. If their rider is not in view by the time those 2 minutes are up, the driver is supposed to leave (the app actually has pop-ups that tell you to leave after 2 minutes of waiting). If you just request a regular pickup, you have 5 minutes to get to your ride before the driver is supposed to leave.
By the time it was figured out where they were, I was on the verge of tears from frustration. I waited a lot longer than I was supposed to, and the riders were not in the location they said they would be in. But wait – there’s more!
So I looped around, going back on the highway, to get to the entrance where these riders were. Okay, fine. When I got there, though, there were four of them. Let me tell you something about a Line: it is a carpool, ultimately, and kind of like a bus. If someone else needs a ride on the way to drop off the first people that requested a Lyft, the driver needs to go pick up that person, too. Because of that, only two riders are allowed in a Line request (so that more can be picked up on the way). Yes, I get it can be tempting to request a Line because it can be cheaper, but if there are more than two of you: DO NOT DO IT. The Lyft Driver app tells us to move on if there are more people than the number specified in the request, and we will not be penalized for it. So know this as a warning: if you request a Line, but there are more people with you than were specified, expect to be declined.
Now, since this was the first time this happened to me and I was so frustrated at this point, I said there were only two of them and then prayed that no one else requested a ride as I drove them. Luckily there were no other requests to be dropped off by where these passengers were going, so the ride went reasonably smoothly. That is, until they asked for a “favor.”
We were on the way towards their drop-off location when one of the guys asked if I could do them a favor. I was cautious because I knew I didn’t want to, but I also knew that my Midwestern-heritage made saying “no” to favors very difficult. I asked what it was, and they said they needed to pick up rice from the grocery store. They then asked if I could wait for them, for roughly 3 minutes (because apparently Indian’s can find the rice they want in 3 minutes?).
So here are the problems with this situation:
- There are too many riders
- It’s an extra stop that was not included on the ride request
- As a driver, I am not supposed to “wait for you” while you grocery shop. That is not my job. My job is to get you from Point A to Point B, unless a Point C is requested on the ride request.
I did not wait for them at the grocery store. I dropped them off close to the grocery store, rather than their hotel, because that is apparently where they actually wanted to go.
No, these types of rides have not been typical, but that does not mean that they don’t happen (clearly, since I just wrote a story about one). Regardless, these riders do exist, and they are incredibly draining on the driver (at least, they were on me, but that may also be that I am a huge introvert).
So moral of this story:
- Be in the spot you say you’re going to be in
- Don’t request a Line (or Shared Ride or whatever it’s called now) if you have more than 2 people
- Don’t misuse the Lyft system
- Don’t be difficult
I’m not sure if I’m the only one annoyed with things like this, but to me, these are some of the most annoying things about driving for this company. Yes, the money I can make is good, but honestly it’s not necessarily worth it, based on how far I have to travel just to get a ride, and how much farther past that I have to travel to avoid trips into New York City.