Lyft Pinky Swear Initiative Aims to Improve Driver Experience: Does It?

Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian is all about giving credit when Uber and Lyft do something great, but he also doesn’t pull any punches when they do something that affects his “SHOW ME THE MONEY” club status. 

Recently, Lyft launched a new initiative to “improve the driver experience” called Pinky Swear. What is Pinky Swear, will it benefit drivers, and what does Sergio have to say about it? Keep reading and share your thoughts below!

The other day, I was writing an article for RSG and received an email from Lyft. I tend to ignore most emails I receive from the two rideshare giants since they keep reminding me to turn my app on to get out there. They both lured me in with fantastic bonuses a few months ago but they are back to their old ways reducing Quests and Consecutive Ride Bonuses (CRB).

This is my response to them: SHOW ME THE MONEY, I’LL DRIVE FOR YOU! Otherwise, my car is parked in the garage. I am not going to beat my vehicle and brain into a pulp for Uber base rates of 60/21 cents and Lyft base rates of 80/12 in Los Angeles. Peanuts, really!

However, I was intrigued by this email sent by Lyft. It was the title that caught my eye – here’s what it said:

What? How did they know that most drivers swear every time they get a pick-up request from 10 miles away only after they start the ride to find out that the passenger dropoff was at the local Whole Foods for a whopping $2.62 minimum fare?

Meaning and Origins of Pinky Swear

For the uninitiated, a Pinky Swear is an act of intertwining your pinky fingers together to signify a promise. In North America, it is most common among school-aged children and close friends and has existed since at least 1860.

Pinky swearing has origins in Japan from 1600-1803, where it is called yubikiri, and often additionally confirmed with the vow “Pinky swear, whoever lies will be made to swallow a thousand needles.” Supposedly, people in Japan believed that if you break a pinky promise, you have to cut off your pinky finger in return. Yes, creepy isn’t it?

Pinky Swear is a two way street according to the Lyft email – ouch, Logan Green, John Zimmer and the genius marketing team at Lyft! Good thing we are not in Japan!

Please continue reading to the end of the article to find out My Personal Pinky Swear List for Lyft!

What is Lyft Offering with Their Pinky Swear Promise?

The last time I ‘pinky swore’, I was five years old. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff? Maybe I should invoke my sense of nostalgia and embrace whatever this is. So what is it?

Lyft’s Pinky promises a new kind of drive (updated driver app), bonus zones, and rewards for drivers:

I have been using this version of the Lyft driver app for a couple of months now. I think it is an improvement over the old version, as it is more streamlined and the swipe up portion reminds me of Uber’s driver app. I give it a positive review!

Better Bonuses

Boom! This totally looks like Uber’s flat rate surge in action instead of those annoying purple and pink boxes of Personal Power Zones (PPZ).

Why is Lyft copying Uber with these bonus zones? Is it because they can make more money upfront since the minute you turn your driver app on, the surge/bonus numbers are halved or disappear like a mirage? With PPZ, they had the roulette wheel going and they would be stuck with the bonus offered. Lyft’s pricing algorithm must have improved in order for them to switch to this method.

Lyft must still be facing a driver shortage, as referral bonuses are as high as I can remember it. I have a suggestion here, why spend millions a year on marketing budgets? Just pay your existing drivers a fair wage, and they would not quit on you!

Improved Safety

Most if not all of these steps have been in existence for a while, per Lyft’s safety study. Here’s another suggestion for Lyft: rideshare driver assaults are on the rise. How come Lyft doesn’t require riders to upload a valid ID? That would be a much-welcomed change.

New Driver Rewards

Oh wow, cash back when gassing up! Gas prices are up over 50% in Los Angeles in the past three years, yet Lyft’s per mile and per minute rates haven’t changed since then – and are actually down from 2016.

Overall, this just seems like a copycat “improvement” from Uber’s partnership with GetUpside.

Top Driver Features

This is why Lyft spent millions supporting Prop 22 in California during the last elections. Why should this only be an exclusive Lyft Ant reward? There always is a carrot dangling on a stick with Lyft.

As so-called Independent Contractors (ICs), which Lyft would prefer us drivers to be, tell us what the job is and what it will pay upfront in order for us to make a proper, profitable business decision. Imagine you called an IC plumber and told them you’ll only divulge what the job entails and how much you will pay for it after they show up to your house. You will immediately hear a few choice words before they hang up on you!

Takeaways from Lyft’s Pinky Swear Promises & My Pinky Swear Promise to Lyft

I am sorry folks, there is nothing earth shattering here. With survey after survey conducted by RSG, the top complaint of drivers is low earnings.

Yes, no one is putting a gun to our heads to drive for an algorithm, but at some point fairness has to come into play, especially these days with Uber/Lyft taking more than 50% of what the passengers are paying.

My Pinky Swear List for Lyft:

  1. Lyft, I Pinky Swear I will accept every ride request if you pay me $1.75 a mile and 50 cents a minute (half of Los Angeles cab rates)
  2. Lyft, I Pinky Swear at 80 cents a mile and 12 cents a minute, I am losing money
  3. Lyft, I Pinky Swear I will treat every passenger respectfully if they don’t slam my car door and treat me like their personal chauffeur
  4. Lyft, I Pinky Swear to clean the puke of your passengers properly
  5. Lyft, I Pinky Swear not to kick belligerent drunks out of my car if you paid me enough for the abuse I receive
  6. Lyft, I Pinky Swear to pick up a passenger from 10 miles away if I knew I would be profitable
  7. Lyft, I Pinky Swear not to cancel on a passenger unless they are stumbling towards my car and sleeping on my hood
  8. Lyft, I Pinky Swear your Driver Deactivations by fraudulent passenger complaints must STOP!
  9. Lyft, I Pinky Swear, I am an Independent Contractor
  10. Lyft, I Pinky Swear, gas prices and maintenance costs of my car are up over 50% the past three years yet you still pay me the same as 2019
  11. Lyft, I Pinky Swear to wait for every passenger on a multi-stop trip as long as they wish if you paid me $1 a minute instead of peanuts
  12. Lyft, I Pinky Swear if you hired me, I wouldn’t come up with these kindergarten marketing ideas

The best one for last, this time from a rider to a driver!

Driver, I Pinky Swear I will tip you in the app…

What do you think of Lyft’s Pinky Swear initiative? What do you pinky swear to do for Lyft?

-Sergio @ RSG