As I saw headlights approaching while my driver continued in the wrong direction down a one-way street, I was already thinking of the raging ride review I was going to submit to Lyft.
Almost dying in a head-on collision was definitely the worst part of the Lyft ride I took Saturday afternoon from Penn Station in Manhattan to my new apartment in Brooklyn, but it was just one of the many aggravating, dangerous and complaint-worthy events that occurred—together, they amounted to a true taxi app nightmare. I detailed everything that went down when I requested a fare review. No response. I wrote to customer service a second time three days later, and I finally heard back and learned that while “Lyft takes reports of this kind very seriously…all charges on the Lyft platform are non-refundable.”
On Saturday afternoon, I got picked up in a Lyft on the corner of West 33rd street and Eighth avenue in Manhattan, my destination: Brooklyn. Right away, we were off to a bad start. My driver—who, along with his car, reeked of body odor—headed west when we should’ve gone east. Then, even though he was using GPS, he went downtown until we reached 26th street, only to turn around and drive uptown past 50th street.
When I noticed we were closer to Central Park than we were to any bridges that connect Manhattan and Brooklyn, I asked what was going on.
“Why are we going uptown? What bridge are you trying to take?”
He had no plan. “Ugh I don’t know. I got turned around. Hmmm. We could take the Queens Midtown Tunnel by 36th?” he mumbled.
I told him, “Fine, then go there,” annoyed because we had already been driving for 20 minutes and that tunnel is only a few blocks from where we started. Also, I should’ve been really close to my destination by that point, yet we hadn’t left the island.
As we neared the tunnel, he stopped in the middle of the street and began digging through his car for something. Meanwhile, cars understandably honked and drove around us. Again, I asked what he was doing, to which he replied that he was looking for his E-Z Pass. Fine, although we didn’t need to do it in the middle of the street. And, unbeknownst to me at the time, that E-Z Pass would be useless.
Now in Queens, we got through the tunnel and pulled up to the toll, where the driver held up the E-Z Pass to pay. A warning flashed on the screen that the balance was too low and he had to call the company. It was obvious the E-Z Pass was not going to work, but the driver continued flailing his arms around while holding it in an attempt to get the sensor to read it. I was obviously fed up by this point and told him it wasn’t going to work and that he had to find another way. He did a real-life ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and we sat there while the line of 20 or so cars that formed behind us honked. Eventually, the fact that cars were backed up into the tunnel got the attention of a booth attendant and prompted him to come over. We paid cash and drove away.
A few minutes later, I noticed we were driving in circles and that the driver seemed to have no clue where we were going. I asked him what happened to his GPS, and he said it stopped working. This surprised me because he had a phone, tablet and GPS on the screen fixed in the dash. While stopped, he just looked left and right, as if that would help him figure out where to go. I considered getting out of the car and even told him that, but I ultimately decided against it because 1) we were on a backstreet by abandoned warehouses in Queens and I had no idea where we were, 2) I was in a huge rush (I was in the middle of moving, and the movers had already arrived and were waiting on me), and 3) I had my cat with me. As I was setting up the GPS on my phone to direct him, I saw that he was driving back toward Manhattan. Luckily, I gave him directions before he managed to cross the river again.
After I started giving him step-by-step directions, things were looking up. That was until he, at one point, didn’t listen to my instructions and started driving the wrong way down a one-way street. We were literally driving into oncoming traffic, and it was as chaotic and terrifying as it sounds. Cars were swerving around us until we were eventually able to turn around. He then laughed as if nearly dying is hilarious.
We arrived at my apartment a few minutes later. The ride took over an hour—twice as long as it should have. It obviously cost twice what it should have too.
Later that night, I selected “request review” on the receipt in the app and typed a detailed account of what happened. After three days, I still had not heard back, so I wrote in to customer service. I received the following response:
Thank you for reaching out to let us know about your safety concerns with your recent Lyft driver.
We take reports of this kind very seriously, and we continuously strive to improve the quality of the Lyft platform. Your feedback is an integral part of making this possible.
Please know that the Trust & Safety team has taken the appropriate and necessary actions with this particular driver. In the meantime, I can assure you that you’ll never be paired with this driver again.
We’ve also added one free ride worth up to $15 to your account. The ride grant will expire within the next 60 days, and you will be able to see this free ride in your account by visiting the payments section on your Lyft app.
If there are any additional questions that we can answer for you, please do not hesitate to ask.
“A $15 credit really does not resolve this issue and it certainly doesn’t restore my faith in Lyft,” I wrote back. I explained that $15 brings my fare to $35, which is still more than the ride should’ve been even if we never drove out of the way or weren’t held up at the toll booth for 10 minutes. I went on to say that while this doesn’t remedy the fare issue, it doesn’t even attempt to make up for the fact that my driver nearly killed me in a head-on collision. “This entire ride should be free, and then some,” I wrote. “If you can not credit/refund me for the entire cost of that ride, I’d like to be redirected to a supervisor or someone else. You said you take these kinds of reports very seriously, so please prove it.”
The same representative got back to me the following morning with another generic response. The only difference was that this one upped my ride grant to $25. So what has to happen before Lyft will grant a refund, or even a ride credit for the full amount charged? Would I have to actually die?
A passenger who was in the car with a drunk Lyft driver in Austin during SXSW got five free $25 rides. Even if I was granted that many free trips, however, I wouldn’t use them, because I am never, ever riding with Lyft again.
UPDATE: Since publication of this article, another Lyft representative has reached out to me to apologize for the way the situation was handled and inform me I’ve been issued a full refund for the ride. Is this because of the article? There’s no way to tell, but probably.