What's it like being a female Lyft driver?
According to the Forbes article Why Aren't There More Female Uber And Lyft Drivers? 30% of all U.S. Lyft drivers are women (14% at Uber). While that number is higher than the 12.7% of female taxi drivers in the U.S., it is still very much a male profession. Forbes explains -
"This economic opportunity has excluded women, not purposefully, but women have self-selected out of it," said Nick Allen, a cofounder and former CFO of Sidecar who left to start Shuddle, a ride service for children. "And the number one reason they do that is the perception of safety or lack thereof."
So when I found out a friend of mine, Lori Curry, was driving for Lyft I had to ask her about her experience!
Why did you decide to drive for Lyft?
I was working in child welfare as a foster care supervisor and I was not happy with the way things were going at the time, August 2017, so I resigned. For about a month I didn't work at all, I just focused on my doctorate program but then I decided I needed to do something and at least earn enough to cover monthly expenses instead of using my savings. I have a friend who lives in the Macomb, Michigan area and I knew he drove for Lyft so I spoke with him about it and I researched online if it was considered safe for women.
I decided it didn't seem dangerous, especially if you don't drive late at night, so I thought I'd give it a try. The autonomy and independence of driving when you want really appealed to me.
Did you receive any special training?
No. Lyft requires copies of your driver's license, you have to upload a photo, car registration and insurance. Then they complete a background check. They provide tutorials on their webpage, but I never watched them. Now that I've driven for a few months, I would advise anyone new that they watch the tutorials. I found out things the hard way!
What tools does Lyft provide employees?
They send you two window stickers for your car. Then you download their driver application onto your smart phone. The application is how you get your rides, track your pay and get paid. They deposit the money directly into your bank. In general, no money should be exchanged in your car. Once in a great while, someone will give you a cash tip.
Lyft also gives you the best times to drive in your area. You will figure that out also, but you really have to drive often, 8 or more hours a day, to make as much money as they advertise. But for a part-time gig, it's not bad.
As a woman in the ride sharing industry, did you ever feel unsafe?
Not exactly. There were a few neighborhoods that I picked people up in that I am aware are not the best areas. But people are just trying to get to work, the doctor, home, the store, etc. However, for safety purposes, I kept a small can of pepper spray in my driver's side door and I also kept a spray can of Febreeze. The Febreeze had two purposes, I don't smoke and some people do, and ...some people also smelled like their jobs and some smelled like marijuana. So, I used the Febreeze to spray the backseat after they left and I rolled down the windows to air out the car. I also figured, if necessary, I could spray someone in the face with the Febreeze. I also decided early on that I was NOT going to drive late at night. I didn't want intoxicated folks in my backseat throwing up or giving me a hard time. I thought if I ever had a problem, it would be on a late weekend night, so I didn't drive those times. Though I've heard you can make a lot of money then, I would rather not take the chance.
Does Lyft allow you to decline a pickup if you feel uncomfortable about the area?
Yes. But you can’t really tell until you get there, because even if it’s in an area you think is sketchy, the actual house or apartment may be ok. I was part of a Facebook group for women who drive for Lyft and Uber. Some people shared stories of when they either got to the pickup or had the person/persons in their car and told them they would not be able to drive them, then canceled the ride. I did not have that experience. For example, one woman picked up a rider who wanted a ride to somewhere 2 hours away, which would mean she would be driving 2 hours back also. She told the rider she couldn’t do that and that he would have to request a new ride. Other people shared when they picked up 2 or 3 intoxicated people and then told them, based on the rider’s behaviors, that they couldn’t/wouldn’t drive them anywhere.
I am sure you have a lot of stories, what is the craziest thing that happened to you?
I preferred to drive in the early mornings, 6am to about 10am. Then occasionally 4pm to 7pm, taking people to and from work. I did this intentionally to avoid drunk folks. - sidebar, I'm not opposed to drinking, I like a drink too, but I don't want drunk people in my car. So, on a Wednesday morning, about 7:30am in Ann Arbor, I picked up a woman, around age 30, just outside of downtown Ann Arbor in a residential neighborhood. The address she gave for the pickup didn't exist, so I parked to the closest one I could find and waited. On the app, the driver will indicate they have arrived and the passenger is notified. I'm waiting in my car, it's dark, cold and raining. Then I see a woman approaching the car, I roll my window down and ask if it's "whatever her name was" and she says yes. She gets in and I can immediately smell she's WASTED! She was so drunk it was coming out of her pores! And it was the hard alcohol smell too. I start driving her to the address SHE provides and after a few minutes she demands to know why I didn't turn. I explain to her I'm going to the address she gave Lyft. She starts cussing me out and complaining about how "Uber always does this to her," and she's going to call my supervisor. I tell her, "You're not in an UBER! And I don't have a supervisor!" Then I ask her if she even knows anyone at the address she gave me, she said "Yes, but I don't live there, I want to go home." I asked her for her home address and I ended up taking her there. I needed her to focus though, because it's an area with a lot of apartment buildings. She was able to do that and when I dropped her off, she said "Have a good night." I said "It's MORNING!"
On the Lyft app they asked where I was because they map out your routes for you. I input the new address and submitted a complaint about the rider. They responded right away and said I would not be paired with her again. I told them at least she thought she was in an Uber.
What would you say to women who are afraid to use a ride sharing service?
Take Lyft if you can. They do a more stringent background check than Uber. I asked some of my riders which they like better and they all said Lyft. One woman who rode up front with me said if the driver is a woman, she gets in front, with male drivers she always sits in back. Also, if you ever take one and you are not comfortable, you have the ability to rate the driver and say why you were not happy. PLEASE DO THIS. And please rate the driver if you ARE happy. It matters to us and we have to maintain a certain level to keep driving.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about working as a driver?
I say give it a try! I really enjoyed it and met some really nice people. It's great if you need a flexible schedule. If you are sick, or there's a big snowstorm and you can't or don't want to drive, then you don't!
Thank you so much for sharing yoru experience with us Lori!