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The Lyft $1000 new driver promotion last week (as first reported here on Prior2Boarding/Boarding Area by The Reward Boss) garnered viral interest around not only ridesharing communities but also among the general public. But now many new drivers are trapped in the approval process and worried they will not meet the published requirements due to Lyft’s backlog.
It seems Lyft quickly discovered the lure of $1000 was stronger than they estimated. The original offer to apply and complete one ride by Thursday March 5 to receive $1000 was dialed back within the first 24 hours and amended to require new applicants to complete 30 rides by Sunday March 8.
Still, applicants continued to sign up in the fifteen selected markets (as well as in NYC who offered a $500 bonus). Some of the traffic was spurred on by an existing driver promotion promising current Lyft drivers a matching $1,000 if their referred drivers qualified.
As an existing UberX driver, I couldn’t resist the urge to sign on, especially given the harsh reality of Uber’s deep rate cuts in some markets. One of the plusses of Lyft is that they avoid routine surge pricing like Uber and also allow for their drivers to be tipped. As a result, many of the ridesharing drivers I know report they mix their time driving for both services – often running both apps simultaneously to keep riders in their cars.
One major difference between applying for Uber versus Lyft is the approval/onboarding process.
With Uber, you apply, submit to a background check, and upload your drivers license, insurance, and registration information to the internet. All approvals are virtual and once drivers are set up, they are encouraged to watch a training video online.
With Lyft, you submit to a background check and then are required to watch online training videos before you can move forward. You are then matched with a “Lyft mentor” who meets you in person, checks (and photographs) your drivers license, insurance, and vehicle and then completes a brief training/evaluation ride with you in your vehicle. The extra step helps ensure driver and vehicle quality and identify any obvious issues before a driver is approved. Mentors receive $35 for their time so becoming a Lyft mentor is a source of extra income for those senior drivers.
And extra income it has been. I completed my Lyft mentor ride on Saturday and my Mentor reported receiving a high volume of requests for mentor rides from excited new applicants, so many he said that he did not have time to actually drive passengers.
Other drivers I talked to said that the driver recruitment push was needed due to a low volume of Lyft drivers on the road in some markets (such as mine in Dallas/Fort Worth), a phenomenon I’ve experienced myself as a passenger where the nearest Lyft driver is often 15-20 minutes away from me, if at all available.
But now those drivers who have successfully completed their mentor ride are stuck in limbo waiting for Lyft’s approval. And with less than 72 hours left for the initial “one ride” group of applicants to complete their first ride, some (this writer included) are wondering if the delay is an intentional attempt to mitigate the financial impact of a “too popular” promotion.
Other drivers who applied later will have to complete 30 rides by Sunday, a volume that one driver I talked to estimated might take more than 40 hours of logged on time to accomplish if many others are trying to meet the same goal. Some are already calculating the cost of having friends and family members request their 30 rides to self-fund the $1000 bonus.
So did the Lyft $1000 new driver promotion overreach? Perhaps.
It seems that the market was ready for the drivers. But perhaps Lyft was not.