Friday, July 18, 2014

An Open Letter to Lyft: Since you asked...

Dear Matt and Lyft,

First of all, let me just say that I really like driving for Lyft. I’ve been doing it for about five months now. I enjoy meeting and talking to new people. And I really love driving in San Francisco. I’ve learned so many amazing aspects about the city by driving its streets. I also appreciate the flexible schedule that being a Lyft driver allows me. But there are some things that kind of rub me the wrong way. And, based on numerous comments I’ve read on various online driver forums, I’m not alone.

I understand that Lyft is a growing company. I can only imagine the gargantuan task that you guys have accomplished by taking a very basic idea to the level it is at today. And I know you’re still figuring things out. But since you asked, here are some suggestions. I’m sure you’ve heard most of these already, as they are what us drivers complain about all the time, but, again, you asked…

1. Ratings. The Lyft rating system is flawed at best, bordering on draconian. Constantly feeling threatened with being deactivated is a horrible feeling. By focusing on only one aspect of a driver’s performance, i.e., passenger satisfaction, you don’t get an accurate reflection of the driver’s ability to do their job. If the rating incorporated not just passenger feedback but also the acceptance rate and the number of rides given, it would provide a better overall sense of the driver. Drivers who accept 100% of ride requests run the risk of bad pick up locations, potential troublesome passengers and a myriad of other difficulties associated with Lyfting that passengers can hold against them. Driving a car in a city like San Francisco is a tough gig. We shouldn't be penalized so harshly when things go wrong. And a 4 star rating shouldn’t reflect so negatively on the average. That’s just cruel. (A Better Lyft Rating System.)

2. Get rid of the giant mustache on the grill. You made your point. People know what it means now. It’s a branding success! I’m sure you’re aware that many, many drivers don’t like it and put the mustache on their dashboards, where it ends up looking like a cannibalistic stuffed animal threw up in their car. Incorporate something smaller and tasteful that maintains the brand. I know you are experimenting with a small “cuddlestache.” And you send new drivers something that clings to the rearview mirror. These are good ideas. Keep going in that direction. And the next time you send out emails asking drivers if they want to participate in a beta test like the recent one for the cuddlestaches, please make the emails seem more official. In my constant paranoia about not using the mustache, I just assumed it was a set-up. (It's Not About the Mustache...)

3. Fist-bumps need to go. I have never in my life fist-bumped anybody unless I had no choice. Don’t force behavior on people. Sure, it’s nice to greet your passenger and be friendly, but do we have to get physical?

4. Treats. Please, for the sake of all that is decent in this world, discourage drivers from handing out water, candy, gum, lotion, baked goods, etc. etc. etc. This inclination to please the passengers at all cost is so unnecessary and reeks of desperation. I drive for Lyft to make money. I function on a slim margin as it is. I can’t afford to invest in snacks and bottled water. Why anybody would want passengers eating in their car in the first place is beyond me. Isn’t it hard enough to keep your vehicle clean? Besides, we all know the small water bottles are horrible for the environment. Still, by not offering extras, I face the risk of a bad rating because passengers expect them. In what reasonable universe does somebody get penalized for not handing out treats unless it’s Halloween and their porch light is on? I once had a girl get so pissy because I didn’t have any water for her that she left my back passenger door open outside a club on a busy street. I had to put the car in park, get out and close it myself, all the while hoping a cop or a bus didn’t come by. I’ve already gotten one ticket from Lyfting. I don’t need another because I can’t hydrate somebody who didn’t realize they were thirsty before they left their house. The new San Franciscan is self-entitled enough as it is. Let’s not make it worse.

5. Stop the price wars. Seriously. This race to the bottom is killing us all. As much as passengers are important to your business plan, so are drivers. We are making less and less each week and it sucks. I know this is difficult since Uber doesn’t play fair. But what happens when nobody can afford to drive for either service? I guess it’s time to start investing in self-driving cars.

6. The recruitment campaign I’ve seen outside the Uber offices on Vermont is distasteful and embarrassing. Sign twirlers? Tacos? Billboard trucks? C’mon, you’re better than that.

7. Finally, regarding the Pacific Driver Lounge and my satirical article about it: Be open to criticism, however puerile it may be. Drivers should be able to visit the lounge to get answers, advice and tips on driving. Not be exposed to a flurry of rabble-rousing and self-aggrandizing posts. While this may turn off some folks—and I have spoken with numerous drivers who avoid the lounge because of it—I find it amusing. So I decided to poke fun at it with an article… big deal. I don't think I deserved to be kicked out. How am I supposed to get my Honey Boo Boo fix now?

Okay, that’s it for now. I’m sure I can come up with plenty more suggestions, but it’s Friday and I need to go drive. Here’s hoping it’s busy tonight!

Best wishes,
Kelly Dessaint

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