When I’m reading a mystery novel, I hate when I can guess then ending within the first few pages. No matter how crazy the plot twists and turns, I’m always disappointed when I am right in the end. Sadly, that is how my Lyft driver referral bonus saga has played out.
If you are just catching up, you may want to read my first few chapters of this novel in full.
- Lyft $1,000 Driver Referral Promotion (March 3)
- Trouble For Lyft (March 4)
- Lyft Bonus Saga (March 5)
- Lyft Driver Referral Debacle – Fixed? (March 6)
- Lyft Did Not Come Through (March 7)
- Lyft Comes Through – Sort Of (March 7)
- Lyft’s Latest (March 8)
- Lyft Limbo (March 9)
Here’s the short summary of my journey:
Thursday, February 26: Lyft offered an AMAZING driver sign up/driver referral bonus. New drivers could sign up and complete their first ride by Thursday March 5 and receive $1,000. Better yet, if they were referred by an existing driver, that driver would also receive $1,000. I signed up under my friend Jason’s referral code, excited to help him score a bonus. The bonus was a nice enticement as I had been kicking around the idea of signing up for Lyft for about six months.
Friday, February 27: Demand apparently far exceeded expectations from Lyft’s team. By noon, the bonus offer was dialed back considerably and many additional restrictions were put in place. Speculation began in driver chat rooms and forums about whether Lyft would find a way to disqualify or restrict those of us who had already signed up.
Saturday, February 28: I complete my mentor ride, risking my own safety on a very icy day in Fort Worth, as I don’t want to make one misstep in the process. For Lyft, the mentor ride serves as quality assurance and an opportunity to collect driver and vehicle photos for the app. I had an experienced driver/mentor who said he had been bombarded with requests to mentor, apparently because no other mentors were available in the market. (He was removed from Lyft’s mentor program the following week for completing “too many mentor rides” in proportion to his Lyft ride requests although he was paid for the numerous mentor sessions he conducted.)
Sunday, March 1 – Tuesday, March 3: When I go to Lyft’s online “check my application status” window, I’m told I’m at step 5 “background check”. Lyft reports that background checks and DMV checks have been “down” so a large backlog exists.
Wednesday, March 4: I independently verify that my background check has been completed by Sterling, the company Lyft contracts with. They report that as of that date, Lyft has everything.
Thursday, March 5: Today is the deadline for drivers to drive their first ride by midnight. It comes and goes without any word. Oddly, I can now request hours to drive on the website which is something that was not previously present during the process.
Friday, March 6: Lyft’s CEO gets out in front and reports that those who passed a background check by March 5 would get a one week extension to complete their first ride by March 12 at midnight. Applicants would be notified whether or not their application was still eligible.
Saturday, March 7: I’m notified that I passed my background check BUT my mentor ride did not meet Lyft’s standards so I have to repeat it. I find a mentor that afternoon and repeat the process. I may have annoyed my mentor because I triple checked every step of the process, including photos, to be sure there would be no more issues. I also pass this round.
I later chat with drivers in other cities who had the same mentor issue. Ironically, some of the mentor rides completed by my first mentor did get approved without having to complete a second ride which further complicates the matter.
Sunday, March 8 – Tuesday, March 10: Radio silence, other than a request to rate my mentor ride. A steering wheel appears in the right corner of my Lyft app however, something only drivers have. But when I toggle to select “drive”, I am still not approved.
Wednesday, March 11: Lyft sends me a text in the afternoon to tell me I am “almost” approved but that my photo taken by my mentor did not meet “standards”. I am asked to submit another through their website. Now I’m just angry.
I send them five. They reject all of them. I send more. I also talk to both my mentors who had shown me the photos taken on their phones – Lyft even gives them a guide as to how to line up the shoulders and head in the frame – basically its like a passport photo – and they tell me my photo definitely conformed. Another bogus Lyft excuse in my book.
In frustration I reach out to that department – they need a headshot that cannot be a selfie. In other words, both shoulders must be fully visible and level. I have a hotel concierge snap one as I’m not near home.
I confirm with Lyft that the photo meets standards.
Thursday, March 12: It’s down to the wire. I’m headed home from my business trip and ready to drive. I even have been approved for hours for tonight. I’m excited as I’m sure I’m going to make it.
I check with Lyft on the status of my application and I’m told it might take 1-2 days to get my photo edited. I reiterate the time sensitivity of my request – I applied 14 days earlier, completed two successful mentor rides, drive a like-new interior late model low mileage upscale SUV, have a clean driving record and background, and have quickly responded to every request they have made. I stay up until midnight as I’m hopeful I’ll make the 11:59 pm deadline.
At this point, I know how the story ends, but I turn the page anyway.
Friday, March 13: I wake up at 5 am to discover that I was approved to drive at 12:44 am. 45 minutes too late to qualify for the bonus.
The steering wheel in the upper corner is now active. And it’s funny to see the photo “edit” that took so long – all that time to add astroturf to the back of it.
The strangest part of the entire process has been what has been revealed in conversations with other driver applicans. There appears to be no sequential flow to how drivers were approved.
For example, the driver who completed her mentor ride after me (on March 7 – the second one) with the same mentor was approved to drive a couple days later. She supposedly applied after I did and completed her first mentor ride after mine as well. There is not a logical explanation in my mind for how she jumped the queue unless her bonus payout liability was lower.
I’ve also heard of many later (higher qualification threshold) applicants being approved earlier. And there are still some rumbles from mentors about friends of Lyft employees being rushed through the process.
Did Lyft scam me – and thousands of other applicants – out of a promised sign on bonus by purposely delaying our applications? What role did those applications play in helping to secure the latest round of VC funding and the exclusive Austin airport deal that were both oddly completed this week?
I’m curious to know what you – the readers – think…
- Did Lyft act in good faith?
- Did they deliberately engineer the process to minimize bonus liabilities?
- Or are they so mismanaged that bungling this deal was inevitable?
- And most of all… should I drive for them at all at this point or just stick with UberX if I feel like I need to
earn extra pocket money put excess miles on my carget out of the house?
At the end of it all, I may let small claims court decide this one for me.