Manipulation by Lack of Information: Rideshare Shenanigans

So I’ve been doing this rideshare thing for over a month now, and as you might expect I have some gripes about the current status quo. While it’s awesome to be able to finally be my own boss and make money on my own, some of that feeling gets taken away by the way the platform I currently use, Lyft, chooses to operate. At first glance the issues seem pretty minor, but when you think about it a little deeper, you start to see the rather extreme manipulation that the people who run the company engage in to try and trick, or even force, their drivers into taking rides that just don’t make sense.

Let me first begin by explaining how the driver side of the system works for those of you who haven’t done this before so you can have a vague idea of why I take issue with these couple of things. When you open the app and tap “Online”, you’re placed in a queue to await available rides. When the algorithm matches you to an open ride request, you get a pop up that gives you a certain amount of information based on your current rewards level (for Lyft…not sure on Uber because I haven’t started with them yet). If you like the ride, you tap accept and then go pick up your passenger.

The first of my issues is the fact that there is a gate on the information you receive about the fare based on your current “status” with the company. When you first start out, all you get is a time to pickup…no distance, no destination, no nothing. You have to blindly accept based on how far away the passenger is and cross your fingers that it’s worth your time…or not 80 miles away. As an independent contractor, we’re supposed to have full control over the work that we do, but the company refuses to just provide the information we need up front. We’re treated as employees, but classified as independent contractors because it’s convenient for them to do so. Once you reach “gold” rewards status, you get the luxury of pickup time and fare distance, but no monetary amount and no distance in miles to the pickup. You still have to guess.

My second gripe is the fact that after you accept a ride, the company seems to reserve the right to arbitrarily swap passengers on you at any time before you pick them up…without your permission. When it ends up being a higher paying fare, that’s all great, but most of the time it’s just a closer pickup. I personally have a system I use to decide whether a fare is worth my time and more than once I’ve accepted a ride that was within my parameters only to have the app switch passengers on me to a ride I would have immediately declined. It’s completely unacceptable to try to trick me into doing rides I would normally say no to by enticing me with a good ride and then swapping me over to a bad one. Unprofessional is the most polite way I can put it.

Third, I can’t stand the way the automated queuing of rides while you’re already on a fare works. As it is now, you get a popup that automatically adds a suggested ride to your queue unless you actively decline it. This is extremely annoying because many times the notification pops up while you’re focused on following directions, and a ride you don’t want ends up being added to your queue. Part of your driver score to earn points toward your “rewards status” is tied to your cancellation rate, so if you get stuck with a ride you wanted to say no to but were too busy to check the popup, you either eat the ride or eat the cancellation penalty. Automated ride adds should be just like regular rides: you accept or it gets rejected automatically. Again, the company is trying to pull fast ones on us by slipping in rides when they know we’ll be distracted.

The last thing I want to gripe about is the fact that we only get paid when passengers are actually in the car. If a pickup is ten minutes away, I have to eat that ten minutes and only get paid once I actually pickup the passenger. I suppose this is fair for the most part, but I know that I personally would relax my criteria for rides and take a whole lot more of them if I got paid for both the pickup and the drop off. Driving ten minutes to pickup someone going a mile down the road makes no sense if I’m not getting paid for the longer part of my driving time. They seem super concerned about filling rides, but they don’t want to pay drivers to get them done.

I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that I would love it if they just did away with all the complicated crap and set their app up as a bulletin board style system where the customers post rides and the drivers pick from a list of nearby available fares. It would be especially awesome if the drivers could set their per minute and per mile rates so that when we select a ride, the passenger gets our quoted rate, accepts the number and then the driver heads over for the ride. The app company gets a minimal fee for connecting the drivers and that’s it. No manipulation, no hiding of data, and no coercing of drivers to take unprofitable rides.

Of course, that would mean the rideshare companies would have to give up the control they’ve seized over the years, and that’s obviously not going to happen. The only thing we can hope for is for another startup to disrupt the market yet again with a new, honest model that causes both riders and drivers alike to flock to it because they know they’re getting a good service at a good price without all the profit padding. It just takes a bit of ingenuity and courage, and if your product is good enough, people will buy it.

Just need to get the right people together…

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