Why Not Lyft

S. Ben Melhuish • Tuesday, November 18, 2014, updated Thursday, April 1, 2021

I have had conflicted feelings about Uber for quite some time now.

John Gruber recently summed up my feelings with the understated “Love the Uber service, but it’s hard to like the company” (a post a couple weeks later put it as “Great service, dirtbag tactics”). It’s been making the news lately, but I’ve been unhappy with competitive tactics such as hardball political tactics that don’t mesh nicely with the best interests of the city’s residents, bad labor practices, and ominous signs of how they would behave with less competition, to say nothing of the “dirtbag” tactics (linked by Gruber) against close competitor Lyft.

Why didn’t I stop using the service earlier? Well, because their “Black Car” service was super convenient (and, I rationalized, different than their “UberX” service which was the focus of much of the above trouble). No, that doesn’t speak well of me. I further rationalized it by telling myself that I didn’t use it that often (which is true, less than ten times total), though that isn’t much justification.

In any case, there were more problems reported yesterday by Buzzfeed, with a devastating followup by Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily that (among other things) lists various signs of corporate misogyny at Uber.

Okay, fine. Enough is enough; I deleted the Uber app and will not use their service again.

I thought this article was about Lyft

So enough about Uber. Their closest competitor is Lyft; two friends recommended it to me on Twitter, and Susie Ochs’s article at Macworld (among many others) lists it first among various alternatives.

I have two main reasons for (so far) deciding not to use Lyft.

First is that they play the same illegal political hardball that I didn’t like when Uber did it. The basic approach is to set up service in a city, regardless of existing regulations that may well cover their service, then fight tooth and nail to dismantle those regulations. I certainly agree that, at least in Seattle, the existing taxi companies have provided mediocre service, but I don’t think we can blame that on the regulations (except at the distant remove of making them fairly complacent), and in any case that doesn’t justify their tactics.

The second is entirely superficial, but one that I can’t get over: Lyft’s marketing tells me loud and clear that I am not a potential customer. I find the moustaches off-putting, of course, like all right-thinking people, but take a look at their web site again: “Your Friend with a Car”.

I probably don’t have enough friends. But no, thanks, I don’t really want another. And when it’s night, and I’m ready to get home quickly but the bus schedules misalign to give me a 45-minute wait, the last thing I want is a friendly person whose car has a pink moustache. I want a car, a quiet ride, an easy escape, a chance to start recharging my introvert batteries from whatever acts of extroversion I’ve been performing.

Too close!

It’s fine that businesses market to people who aren’t me. It’s smart! If I were selling something, I’d make it very clear what kinds of people I think would benefit from buying! I don’t dislike Lyft’s marketing at all. I’m just listening to them, and they’re telling me: “Lyft is not for you.”

Updated to add (November 19, 2014): I now have a third reason, pointed out by a friend, which now you will never unsee, either. I pondered whether it was intentional on Lyft’s part, and eventually decided that there was no plausible way it was unknowing, which is more or less the same thing.