Contents:

    It’s a common story for many drivers: you’re driving, and then suddenly you get a message from Uber or Lyft about how you’ve done something wrong and might be deactivated. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience, and we have all the emails to prove this is not a rare occurrence. What happens when a driver is faced with this accusation from Lyft? Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian takes us through the disciplinary process for Lyft. 

    I predominantly drive for Uber because I find everything about the Uber app superior to Lyft’s. But once in a while, Lyft misses me and sends me three ride streaks. When they are lucrative enough for my Show Me The Money Club (SMTMC), I do drive for them. 

    Recently, Lyft had offered me a 3 for $18 streak every other hour of the day starting at 5 am. Since I live in the suburbs, I went to its Scheduled Rides page and picked an LAX ride at 5:15 am. I would accomplish two goals at once, as the Scheduled Ride would take me to where all the surge rides are starting at 7 am on the Uber platform (yes, I multi-app!). 

    I had at least two hours to complete the streak until I switched to Uber. With wide-open freeways and Lyft’s higher per-mile rate of 80 cents, I thought I would make $50-60 in less than 90 minutes. 

    However, after only driving for Lyft, I discovered its algorithm will send you far away on the third leg of the streak – but I had a plan for that. I accepted the scheduled ride and completed it without a problem, a $25 dollar trip to LAX, which also started my 3 for $18 streak. 

    Lyft algorithms also tend to send you 15 mile away pickups during a streak; is that a coincidence? I don’t think so! Then the following ensued.

    Quick summary:

    • Drivers are independent contractors only in the sense that they can drive for multiple apps – make sure to sign up for Uber and popular delivery services to not rely on only one company
    • Having a dash camera can help tell your side of the story
    • Lyft does offer drivers a chance to get on their good side with a driver rehab program

    Trouble Starts and Lyft’s Response

    I got the ping I wanted on the third leg of the streak, a pickup 3 minutes away. It was around 6 am and still dark out. I arrived at the pickup spot and saw a female literally stumbling toward my car with many bags in her hand. 

    As a long-time rideshare driver, I have set safeguards for myself. I will not unlock my doors until I confirm the ID of the rider by lowering my passenger window about halfway. 

    Before I could even ask the passenger her name, she started screaming obscenities at me. Figuring this was a ride destined to go sideways, I clicked on Arrive in case I needed to cancel, but I was on the third leg of the streak for $18. 

    The next thing I saw was vegetables and tomatoes all over the pavement, as somehow the contents of one of the woman’s bags had spilled open. She accused me of not helping her with the groceries and proceeded to open the locked rear passenger door. 

    I decided to cancel this ride right then and there; no amount of money is worth that kind of trouble! 

    Within minutes of me canceling the ride with the unsafe passenger, I received an email from Lyft. Now I was truly in shock!

    The passenger apparently complained about me not giving her a ride. Look at the timestamps of the screenshots above. Accepted the ride at 6:17 AM. The Deactivation threat shows up at 6:26 AM. 

    Need to tell your side of the story? Get a dash camera – it’s the number one way to protect yourself from false passenger claims!

    If I hear flexibility and freedom one more time from Uber/Lyft, I am going to lose it. People who defend this rhetoric are clueless. Sure, they don’t have a boss watching over their shoulder, but the algorithm watches you 24 hours a day. So please, spare me; they can have flexibility and freedom, give me justice and safety! 

    I am an independent contractor, all right – I get threatened with deactivation because of baseless accusations. According to my algorithmic boss, I have too many cancellations (even though in Lyft’s company policy, it’s okay for a driver to cancel if they feel unsafe), I am not driving toward the passenger enough (then don’t send me pickups that are 15 mi. away) OR I am calling passengers and asking them to cancel (no, that’s never happened). 

    You Probably Have a Similar Story!

    You probably have a similar story if you’ve ever stood up for yourself as a rideshare driver. Even though I am a 5-star driver with five years of experience, this happened to me – not a newbie! 

    Pinky Swear, Lyft, I will never Cancel on a passenger if they don’t sleep on my hood. I have a crazy passenger calling me all the names in the book, but my account is at risk of deactivation? 

    Then to add insult to injury, Lyft wants me to take this class to teach me why cancellations are bad for the community. What? 

    I play along and start the rehabilitation program, as I call it. All this because I canceled what I deemed an Unsafe trip and my cancellation rate jumped to 5%. 

    Seriously, Lyft? You are going to deactivate a 5 star veteran of 5 years over a 5% cancelation rate? Supposedly 5% is their threshold.

    What happened to being an independent contractor? What happened to flexibility and freedom?

    The following screenshots are self-explanatory! On the third one, it clearly states that I can cancel if a passenger makes a driver feel uncomfortable, so it is in Lyft’s policy to be able to cancel, yet I am threatened with deactivation.

    I am done with the canceling rehab class, but there is more. I have to complete a test Drive Challenge now. 

    Yes, that’s right – I have to give ten rides without canceling to prove to Lyft that I am worthy of being a driver for them. Nice “punishment” to make me accept a bunch of rides, probably bad ones, to “prove” myself to Lyft. 

    I Pinky Swear, I am thinking of deleting the Lyft app off my phone – as a driver and a passenger. 

    Takeaways for Drivers

    I am a so-called independent contractor, but I can’t cancel an unsafe ride. I can’t set the price of the job. I don’t even know what the job is, nor how much I’m going to get paid for it!

    While these may end up being empty threats from Lyft, it sure ruins a driver’s day to receive things like this – especially when we’ve been doing everything right for years. 

    What can drivers do? Sign up for different platforms, like Uber or delivery services. It’s always better to have options, especially if you are deactivated for any period of time.

    Have you had a similar experience? What was your reaction – and did you end up getting deactivated by Lyft?

    -Sergio @ RSG

    Sergio Avedian

    Sergio Avedian

    Sergio has been driving Uber and Lyft for about five years. He has over 6000 rides on both platforms, mostly on Uber. Sergio has a degree in finance, and worked on Wall St. for over eighteen years. In his free time, he still trades stocks and derivatives for himself and a few friends. He is also a PGA certified golf instructor, teaching golf is his passion. Sergio is married with two wonderful kids who take the rest of his afternoons/weekends between their soccer practices and golf tournaments.