Lyft makes its relationships with drivers look so friendly, with those festive pink stickers and light-up purple amps. Until now, we’ve heard mostly positive things about being a Lyft driver. Even through COVID-19, the company seemed to be doing good deeds and saying sweet stuff to drivers for being brave enough to go out and do their jobs.
But lately, we’ve heard some not-so-good things that have happened to Lyft drivers. More than a few turned on the app to find they’ve been taken off the road, their wheels pulled out from under them.
They’ve been … deactivated.
In many cases, Lyft doesn’t even offer a reason. And when they do, it’s often a bogus charge that comes as a total shock to the driver involved. This can be disconcerting to any once-happy Lyft driver, to say the least. That’s why we want to present some info about the issue and offer suggestions for you to keep your relationship with Lyft nice and cozy.
In this post we’ll cover:
- Mystery deactivations: What we’re hearing
- Rationale given by Lyft
- How COVID and customers could contribute to this mystery
- What you can do to dispute false charges
- Be proactive: Protect yourself from the devastating effects of deactivation
Mystery deactivations: What we’re hearing
First of all, we’ll admit that we don’t fully know why this is happening–we just know that it is. Many of the drivers who experience sudden deactivation have not driven since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are getting deactivated because of the new measures they’ve had to take due to the pandemic.
Here’s what one driver said to us in an email. He first noticed it when he went to log on after not driving for several weeks:
Notice how the message was worded: that his account was “flagged for one of these reasons.” Lyft doesn’t say which reason; they don’t give him any example. They just tell him the decision is final.
From reading Lyft’s message, you’d think this driver was a regular renegade. Well, he’s not. This is a screenshot of his most recent ratings:
Just like the driver who sent us these screenshots, others who wanted to stay safe and avoid driving during the COVID-19 crisis are reporting random deactivations. They took precautions and chose not to go out for a few months, and now it appears they’re being punished for it.
And for many drivers who were deactivated, Lyft offered no explanation for them. Others got emails informing them they were no longer welcome to drive for Lyft for a variety of reasons–all of which were likely bogus.
To think Lyft is pushing out those who wanted to be smart, stay safe, and take some time off is shocking enough, but there’s more. Would Lyft dare to deactivate drivers who didn’t sit out the pandemic?
Well, yes–but with a twist.
Anyone who’s driving in the midst of the pandemic knows it’s difficult out there. New rules about sanitizing cars, wearing a mask, making sure riders are also masked, not allowing people to sit in the front seat with you … all add up to a long list of new conditions. These new rules can upset riders, and people can get feisty when you, albeit reluctantly, have to enforce them. And when riders are really upset …
Yep, drivers sometimes get reported by passengers for following and enforcing the new COVID-19 rules. Many drivers were told they were being deactivated for being “unsafe” or making their customers feel “uncomfortable,” when in truth they were doing exactly what the company required of them. Both Lyft and Uber have implemented extra safety measures to make drivers and riders feel safer, but apparently it doesn’t always work out that way.
The extra COVID rules make the false accusation issue even worse than normal, but what’s worse–when drivers stopped going out for a while, and when drivers got a false report from a cranky rider–they got the “this decision is final” message.
And when they appealed to Lyft, this is what they got:
Clicking on the pink button leads to a form to fill out so you can contact support by email. Some drivers received a “nothing can be done” reply, while others were so outraged they took further steps..
The point is, there’s no one from Lyft you can speak to, person-to-person, in this situation. If you’re thinking “I’ll just go to the Lyft Hub and talk to someone,” fuggedaboutit.
Communication regarding disciplinary action always includes instructions to not take them to representatives at the Lyft Hubs. And anyway, because of COVID-19 few hubs are open anymore.
Think this is beyond infuriating? Wait! There’s more.
Sure, there are some cases where drivers have committed acts that deserve deactivation; there’s a list of these in an earlier blog post. It happens sometimes, even to good drivers.
But in the cases we’re hearing about most recently, some of these deactivations appear to be random and baseless. According to drivers who’ve contacted us, Lyft either sent emails or responded to them with reasons for deactivation that included:
- Poor safety record
- Low star rating
- “Multiple reports from customers”
Drivers with high star ratings, a good safety record, and many good comments from customers–until they stopped driving due to the pandemic–are mystified by these reasons for being deactivated. But even more baffling are reports from other drivers who haven’t logged on to Lyft for more than a year, and were not deactivated.
Theories bouncing around social media include:
- Lyft just wants to cut down on the number of drivers
- The company has chosen to do this only in certain markets
- Lyft deliberately chose to drop drivers who were collecting unemployment benefits during the COVID crisis.
This is all speculation, of course, because Lyft hasn’t given actual reasons. It’s up to the individual driver to try to figure out what happened, and if possible, get reinstated. We’ll get to that after we take a look at other contributing factors.
Possible contributing factors
It’s important to remember that Lyft, like all rideshare and delivery apps, operates like the robots they are. The app follows coded instructions that say, in essence, “If this condition exists, this action is to be taken.”
The good thing is, there isn’t much these robots can do to discriminate against you. They don’t know what you look like, where you were born, or whether you’re wearing a mask at any given moment. But that’s also a challenge because machines don’t have human reasoning to guide their “decision-making.”
Unless you’re brand-new to driving, you know customers register false complaints. They do this sometimes, as we said earlier, to get even with you for setting boundaries. You might ask them to wear a mask or not to smoke in the car. They won’t like you for that, and they know that if they complain about you, they can get discounts on their rides.
If there have recently been more complaints against you than usual, it’s not unreasonable to pin it on COVID-19, the shutdowns, and to some degree, people’s bad moods. Nobody likes to be told they have to pay three times as much as usual for a rideshare trip, and then be told they have to wear a mask and sit in the back seat. And these days, the population in general is on the crabby side because of the angst, frustration, and disappointment people have in their daily lives.
These conditions can affect the way your riders rate you, certainly, as well as their general feeling about using Lyft. That’s bad enough–and unfortunately, they can create even more complicated scenarios.
The surges that the rideshare companies are laying on riders are astronomical these days. It’s not considerate or fair for them to take that out on us drivers, but they do, especially if it means they’ll get all or some of their money back.
Although it may not be fair, and definitely isn’t reasonable, customers can report you and say, even falsely, that you weren’t wearing a mask, or your car was dirty, or that you were driving in a way that made them feel unsafe. They make a false claim, you either get a nasty notice from Lyft (or Uber), and then … if you get more than one or two, you get the boot.
Disputing false (or non-existent) charges
Because we’re hearing so much about the problem of drivers being deactivated, we really want to see Lyft do something to at least be fair about it. That’s why we encourage you to do everything you can to push back.
Try not to get frustrated, and DON’T give up if you get one of those nasty messages in the app. Go back in there, follow this link, and fill out the form. Don’t accept “this is final” unless you really don’t care if you drive for them ever again. You might find, if you begin an honest exchange with the company, that a mistake was made–and they might even admit it. After all, it really is possible that there’s some glitch in their system.
But of course, it’s also possible that something else is going on.
You have every right to dispute any charge, and if you really want to be strong and serious about it, you can even engage the services of an attorney to help you do it. You can take action against the company and/or the passenger who falsely accused you.
Lyft’s Terms of Service might state they can deactivate you at their discretion, but there aren’t many courts that would let them get away with doing it under false pretenses. Depending on your situation, litigation could be worth a try. It is probably better than losing your driving gig. Who knows? Your relationship with Lyft might even get to a point where you can be “in the pink” again.
Be proactive: Protect yourself from the devastating effects of deactivation
Sometimes all we can do is fix damage after it’s been done, but in other instances we can prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some recommendations to help you avoid getting caught up in the deactivation marasse:
If you have an incident, REPORT IT.
You know when a customer isn’t happy with you. The person might be argumentative, and you might even wind up refusing the ride. Report the customer before they report you. Drive away from the scene of the situation, pull over, and type out the reasons why you’re giving a customer a low rating. If you can’t do that, contact customer support and fill them in on the details.
Get a dashcam and USE IT.
As sad as it is, you can’t always trust people, and there are times when you really need a recording of what happens in and around your vehicle. Make sure you follow state laws about mounting a camera and informing passengers they’re being recorded, but don’t hesitate to use any footage that could help you refute a false claim.
Keep records of your DRIVER RATINGS.
It’s easy to say you’re a “five star driver,” but that can be hard to prove. Some drivers report that once they were deactivated, they couldn’t gain access to their driving records. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, take weekly screenshots of your ratings and SAVE THEM. That way, if there’s ever a dispute, you’ll have evidence to substantiate your claims and prove you’re a driver in good standing.
CREATE A HYBRID DRIVING GIG.
It’s not pleasant to be deactivated, that’s for sure. But the impact hurts much less when you have something to fall back on. These days, when lockdowns can be lifted or reinstated at any given time, it pays to have multiple gigs going. You can drive for more than one rideshare app, and also add in prepared food and grocery delivery. The companies are adding on other delivery services to maximize the use of their platforms, so experiment with all of them to create a diverse and profitable business for yourself.
Protect yourself: keep it all together
Many of us rely on the driving and delivery apps for information that’s pertinent to our mileage and earnings records, but as you can see, when something bad happens you could get burned. If you lose access to the app, you’re stuck waiting for the company’s tax form to arrive in January. In the meantime, how will you know how far you’ve driven and how much you’ve earned?
Keeping records can become extremely unwieldy if you decide to drive for more than one company. Yes, you could wind up trying to fiddle with spreadsheets and take even more screenshots on a day-to day-basis, or…
You could download the Gridwise app.Yes, it really is that easy.
Gridwise tracks the mileage on every shift, and lets you enter earnings for each app you’re using. It not only saves this information for you, the app also analyzes your earnings by company, by time, and by mileage, so you can see what you’re making in the time you spend driving for each app.
On top of that, there’s current airport, events, and weather information, and easy access to our up-to-the-minute blog and the Gridwise youtube page. Say what? You don’t have the ultimate assistant for rideshare and delivery drivers yet?? Well then, download Gridwise now!