Lyft apologizes for angering potential drivers after record-breaking signups



REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A driver with the ride-sharing service Lyft waits for a customer on a street in Santa Monica, California October 17, 2013.

Lyft and Uber have both offered bonuses to persuade people to become new drivers. But last week, Lyft offered a new, eye-popping referral bonus for new drivers:


The company said it would pay $1,000 to each new driver and another $1,000 to the driver who referred them.

All new drivers had to do, Lyft said, was complete a ride by Thursday.

It's no surprise, then, that Lyft saw a ton of new drivers sign up.

The new referral deal "brought the biggest wave of applicants in Lyft history," according to an email sent out by Lyft to its drivers and potential new drivers.


A new wave of drivers is essential for Lyft, which operates in 65 US markets and faces a challenge in the form of car-hailing juggernaut Uber, which has raised $5.9 billion and is expanding internationally.

However, the email, which has been posted to several Uber driver forums and Facebook groups, noted to drivers that the new people who signed up to drive for Lyft may not all qualify for that $1,000 bonus, which is probably what enticed many in the first place.

Here is that letter:

lyft driver email


Predictably, potential new drivers were not happy.


lyft drivers


Some saw the response as a bait-and-switch tactic to get new drivers. Others thought the issue was that Lyft didn't anticipate the demand it would receive.

"I got no problems with Lyft, just seems if it takes several days to a month to go thru the process, how can you run a promotion that ends after a week," one user in the ridesharing driver community UberPeople said.

"Personally, I think they got blindsided with all the applicants and didn't expect the numbers they got and it caused a backlog. Seems the biggest complaint for Lyft drivers is how far away the pings are so if they get more drivers, then hopefully that leads to more passengers and shorter ping destinat [sic]."

Lyft Glowstache


A Lyft driver named Max Weber, who is a Lyft mentor (someone who inspects and onboards new drivers), said that Lyft's mentoring system was also "overwhelmed."


I don't think there are enough existing mentors to expeditiously inspect and approve all of the new applicants. I would imagine there are many new drivers out there who spent hours trying to get matched with one. Additionally, I received a message from Lyft on Monday saying "the background check system is back up" implying there wasn't any application processing happening until then! I share in everyone's frustration as this not only hurts Lyft's reputation in general, but it hurts the reputation of drivers who referred people they know, only to have to explain to everyone that the promotion is actually BS.

Mike Ehrmantraut, an UberX and Lyft driver in Los Angeles, posted on UberPeople on Friday with an updated email to drivers from Lyft apologizing for what happened.

Here's what it said:

Lyft learned a lesson this week, and we're sorry for the frustration it caused you. We vastly underestimated the volume of applications we would receive for our $1,000 sign-on promotion, which was created to help us keep up with record-breaking passenger demand.

We owe it to the driver community and our passengers to make sure our approval process is rigorous and complete. All elements of our safety process are imperative and can take time - that means some applications haven't been approved yet even though the applicant's DMV and background checks are in. We know this can be frustrating.

Lyft has extended the deadline to March 12 for potential drivers who had applied, passed their DMV checks and background checks by Thursday. In addition, the company said it wouldn't "benefit" form a driver application if the driver doesn't qualify for the promotion and decides not to pursue a job driving for Lyft.

"By default, we won't use any information from the applications of drivers who don't qualify for the promotion, unless they would like us to continue with the application," the email, signed by Lyft cofounder John Zimmer, reads.


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