Did the Lyft $1000 New Driver Promo Net Too Many Applicants?

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The Lyft $1000 new driver promotion last week (as first reported here on Prior2Boarding/Boarding Area by The Reward Boss) garnered viral interest around not only ridesharing communities but also among the general public.  But now many new drivers are trapped in the approval process and worried they will not meet the published requirements due to Lyft’s backlog.


It seems Lyft quickly discovered the lure of $1000 was stronger than they estimated.  The original offer to apply and complete one ride by Thursday March 5 to receive $1000 was dialed back within the first 24 hours and amended to require new applicants to complete 30 rides by Sunday March 8.

Still, applicants continued to sign up in the fifteen selected markets (as well as in NYC who offered a $500 bonus).  Some of the traffic was spurred on by an existing driver promotion promising current Lyft drivers a matching $1,000 if their referred drivers qualified.

As an existing UberX driver, I couldn’t resist the urge to sign on, especially given the harsh reality of Uber’s deep rate cuts in some markets.  One of the plusses of Lyft is that they avoid routine surge pricing like Uber and also allow for their drivers to be tipped.  As a result, many of the ridesharing drivers I know report they mix their time driving for both services – often running both apps simultaneously to keep riders in their cars.

One major difference between applying for Uber versus Lyft is the approval/onboarding process.

With Uber, you apply, submit to a background check, and upload your drivers license, insurance, and registration information to the internet.  All approvals are virtual and once drivers are set up, they are encouraged to watch a training video online.

With Lyft, you submit to a background check and then are required to watch online training videos before you can move forward.  You are then matched with a “Lyft mentor” who meets you in person, checks (and photographs) your drivers license, insurance, and vehicle and then completes a brief training/evaluation ride with you in your vehicle.  The extra step helps ensure driver and vehicle quality and identify any obvious issues before a driver is approved.  Mentors receive $35 for their time so becoming a Lyft mentor is a source of extra income for those senior drivers.

And extra income it has been.  I completed my Lyft mentor ride on Saturday and my Mentor reported receiving a high volume of requests for mentor rides from excited new applicants, so many he said that he did not have time to actually drive passengers.

Other drivers I talked to said that the driver recruitment push was needed due to a low volume of Lyft drivers on the road in some markets (such as mine in Dallas/Fort Worth), a phenomenon I’ve experienced myself as a passenger where the nearest Lyft driver is often 15-20 minutes away from me, if at all available.

As of 6 am this morning, I'm still awaiting approval to drive.

As of 6 am this morning, I’m still awaiting approval to drive.

But now those drivers who have successfully completed their mentor ride are stuck in limbo waiting for Lyft’s approval.  And with less than 72 hours left for the initial “one ride” group of applicants to complete their first ride, some (this writer included) are wondering if the delay is an intentional attempt to mitigate the financial impact of a “too popular” promotion.

Other drivers who applied later will have to complete 30 rides by Sunday, a volume that one driver I talked to estimated might take more than 40 hours of logged on time to accomplish if many others are trying to meet the same goal.  Some are already calculating the cost of having friends and family members request their 30 rides to self-fund the $1000 bonus.

So did the Lyft $1000 new driver promotion overreach?  Perhaps.

It seems that the market was ready for the drivers.  But perhaps Lyft was not.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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  1. In the event you are still stuck in limbo after the Mar 5 deadline, what do you plan to do about it? It’s very dirty of Lyft to use tactics such as this. Technically speaking tho, just like any other job interview, Lyft has the right to reject 99% of applicants and only accept a few.

    • It would definitely prompt me to never drive for Lyft in the future – and certainly a deceptive business practice such as this would warrant some examination of their business practices since I know I passed both the mentor ride and would have nothing prohibitive on my background check.

      • I applied via a link from another driver. The driver promo was $1,000 to the referring driver and $1,000 to the new driver – so a double outlay to Lyft if they approve those candidates.

      • I signed up to drive, and could log in and was approved for hours on March 5th, but mysteriously was not officially “approved” until the 8th and was not given the bonus. It was obviously a way to get free advertising via bad publicity as no one will remember the scam a year from now but they will know the brand. I feel a bit violated, actually. I was and still am a happy part time Uber driver. Lyft is slimy. Slymy?

  2. As a mentor for Lyft as well as a driver who referred new drivers for this promotion myself, I have to say am simply disheartened. From the moment I personally signed to become a driver on lyft until the moment that I was approved to get behind the wheel was less then 24 hours. Is this unusual approval time legit or simply a stall tactic? As a mentor I received a text informing us on Monday that their DMV backround service is back up and running (it was down all weekend…..coincidence?).

    Yesterday alone I mentored 14 applicants. While the $35 compensation for each mentored applicant has made for a nice payday; I still cannot help but look at these potential drivers that have a glimmer of hope in their eye to qualify for the bonus and help them with rent, car payments, put food on the table, and some other stories of saving grace from this promotion, and think to myself……what has Lyft created here!! As an advocate for Lyft over Uber my skepticism grows broad as my applicants themselves (already great drivers on uber) are on day 6 of still no word of approvals.

    ……..at this point with just a couple of days remaining; only time can tell.

    • I’ve long worried about Lyft being underfunded compared to Uber. It’s hard to spend the money to compete if you don’t have it. For me, the $1,000 won’t break the bank but for others who may have already mentally spent the money, its a sad situation.

  3. I’m in the exact same scenario. Mentor ride on Saturday and have been reaching out to LYFT ever since trying to figure out what can be done to expedite this process. The $1000 was a great lure but if they time us out of the sign up bonus it would be a dirty tactic to get us all in the system. To AI’s point, technically the interview has elapsed, we are waiting for “background checks” and LYFT says these take from 48 hours to 2 weeks. Absolutely possible we don’t see this $

    • Agree… and I also think it was playing dirty if this was the intent. It will deter me from ever driving a single ride for them if that is the case.

      • Same here. I actually signed up Thursday evening (2/26) and met up with the mentor the following day and I still haven’t been approved. This just makes me not want to ever drive for Lyft. It’s almost as though they started this bonus intentionally since I’ve heard from other drivers that it does take about a week to get approved. There’s just not enough time. Lyft should extend the deadline so that we may have a chance for those who really want to start driving for Lyft.

  4. New Lyft drivers shouldn’t be penalized for things beyond their control. Lyft should step up and extend the promotion deadline. It’s the only right thing to do.

  5. I applied Thursday and completed my mentor ride Saturday morning. My fiancé drives for Lyft and we want to put this bonus towards our wedding and I feel like it’s not going to happen 🙁 It took Lyft 4 days to approve his application when he signed up.

  6. I just received this very disheartening email from Lyft:

    Last week’s invitation – apply to be a driver, give 1 ride by March 5, and make $1,000 – brought the biggest wave of applicants in Lyft history.

    As we’re processing the applications, it’s important that we continue to fulfill our safety obligations. Some of these steps, including DMV and background checks, are outside our control and can vary in length for different applicants.

    It is possible that you won’t qualify for the promotion if all steps aren’t completed by the March 5 deadline, along with the ride requirement. In the meantime, you can check the status of your application at lyft.com/drivers.

    We’ll be in touch again via email with another update on Friday. Thank you for your patience.

  7. Major PR nightmare in the works here. If it goes down like this, count me among the Uber loyalists. Preparing the masses to be disappointed- this just in from Lyft.
    “Last week’s invitation – apply to be a driver, give 1 ride by March 5, and make $1,000 – brought the biggest wave of applicants in Lyft history.

    As we’re processing the applications, it’s important that we continue to fulfill our safety obligations. Some of these steps, including DMV and background checks, are outside our control and can vary in length for different applicants.

    It is possible that you won’t qualify for the promotion if all steps aren’t completed by the March 5 deadline, along with the ride requirement. In the meantime, you can check the status of your application at lyft.com/drivers.”

  8. Hi all. Our experience seems to be shared by many. This Law Firm in LA is currently willing to talk to anyone who wants to explore additional options.

    Dunn and Associates
    310 393-2769

    • It is a good idea, they need to be taught a lesson, you can not cast your line and make promises when you have no intention on following through on them. We were “baited” in only to be crapped on.

      We all have spent time and money to do this! I had to take time away from my other job to do so!

  9. Either way: they actually couldn’t process the applications in time for people to meet the deadline, which is false advertising/bait and switch/or something else unethical. Or they are purposely stalling on processing so people are unable to meet the deadline, which is extremely unethical.

    • I guess the key is whether people who were *not* part of this promo have been approved to be drivers. So if drivers in other markets are getting on the road in the normal time frame but new drivers in the promo markets are not getting approved that would be important to know. Of course a few people’s stories do not equal proof so Lyft would need to release data.

  10. Such a scam and the worst part is now you can’t sign up again with a regular driver referral code that are always available for at least a few hundred dollars. Which you can get from any driver, so lyft is getting away with not having to pay their existing and new drivers their referral bonus.

  11. Waiting to see if Lyft has any integrity or not. Pinning deliverance of a bonus on a deadline that is out of the applicant’s control is ridiculous. I’ve done my part, Lyft. Now do yours!

  12. The company that Lyft is using to process their background checks is Sterling BackCheck. Many applicants have contact them already to ask about the status of their checks. Sterling has confirmed for most that their checks were completed and that it was up to Lyft to post the updated status. If you speak to Sterling, be sure to collect a reference number from them, and have them send you a copy of the completed report. This report will have the completed date listed. Then also go to Lyft.com/drivers and check the status of your application with Lyft. If it still says pending, print that page out as reference to the fact that Lyft is lagging. Then contact the mentioned law offices of Dunn & Associates. they will help you from there.

  13. This is disheartening. I signed up on the evening of February 26th, took my mentor drive on the 27th, and my application is still pending. I called Sterling this morning and they told be they sent Lyft my background check on the 27th! So dirty, Lyft! I’ll be contacting Dunn and Associates as well.

  14. What’s even more atrocious than everything is that Lyft is PUBLICLY claiming to be “extending the promotion deadline” to save face, and is PRIVATELY emailing timely applicants that they “do not qualify for the extension.”

    • I’ve been in ongoing limbo. I passed my background check. I did mentor ride 1. I did mentor ride 2. And now 72 hours later they are still yanking my chain.

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