Use Lyft? Here’s your etiquette guide

Know before you Lyft.
Know before you Lyft.
Image: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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I’ve been riding Lyft since early 2013, but this fall I decided to take the wheel. Applying to drive was as easy as I thought it’d be: I filled out an online form, and about an hour later I did a test drive with a “Lyft Mentor.” Then I waited a few days for Lyft to run a background check.

Once I started giving rides, I began to learn a few things about ride-sharing that any user should know.

1. The ride starts after the driver arrives, not when you hop in the car. The duration of your ride factors into the total fare, and that meter starts ticking shortly after you get the notification that your driver has arrived. Often my passengers don’t realize this and ask me to wait, unaware that their Lyft ride has technically already started.

2. Give good drivers five stars. Lyft’s five-star rating system doesn’t work like Netflix’s, where three or four stars are good enough. When you give your driver fewer than five stars, his score falls, and if it slips below 4.6, he could be deactivated and essentially get fired from Lyft. Give your driver five stars if he does a good job, but if the ride is a truly unpleasant experience, give him three stars or fewer and you’ll never be matched again.

3. Bad ratings can hurt you, too. Drivers also rate their passengers, so if you were rude, acted up or in some way, or got on your driver’s bad side, the driver can ensure he’ll never give you another ride by also rating you three stars or fewer. Get enough negative ratings and you could be banned from Lyft.

4. Tips and compliments are appreciated. If you get an exceptional driver, there are two ways to reward him. This first is to leave a compliment on the payment page’s comment box. Drivers see their top comments, and a few kind words can really make their day. If you’re feeling extra generous, you can add a tip. There’s a tip option on the payment page as well as in your email receipt. Both take you to a second page where you can add a few extra bucks.

5. It’s OK if you don’t want to chat. Lyft is known for having very friendly drivers, but it’s OK if you don’t feel like having a conversation. One polite way to indicate this to your driver is by sitting in the back seat of the car. Plenty of riders do this.

6. It’s your ride, so get comfortable. Don’t be afraid to get cozy when you hop in a Lyft. I’ve had passengers ask if they could charge their phone, change the music, or turn the A/C up. I’ve even had passengers recline the seat and nap. As long as you’re polite and respectful to your driver and his car, most things are fine—just don’t light a cigarette or put your feet on the dash.

7. Give clear instructions. Communicate with your driver so you get exactly what you need. If your ride requires four stops, say so from the get-go. If you don’t want him to use Apple Maps, speak up. And if you’re going to give directions, give them with ample time so your driver doesn’t miss any turns.

8. Canceling rides inconveniences drivers. Don’t request a Lyft ride if you think you might cancel, because your driver will start heading your way immediately after he gets the request. If you cancel less than five minutes after you make a request, you won’t be charged anything, but your driver will have wasted his gas, time and effort for naught. Drivers only get compensated if a cancellation happens five minutes after a request or after they arrive at your location, but even then they only get $5.

9. Tell us where you want to be picked up. You can set your pickup location anywhere by moving the little green pin around, so place it exactly where you want to be picked up. This helps drivers if you are at a place with several exits like a mall or a university or if you’re at a busy avenue. You can also call your driver to tell him exactly where you’ll be.

10. Don’t be afraid to make friends. Using Lyft is a great way to meet cool people, so if you ever get a driver you want to see again, it’s OK to ask for his number. Most drivers won’t ask for yours because it would be inappropriate, but there’s nothing wrong with a passenger doing so. Of course, if your driver tells you no, let them be.

Salvador Rodriguez is a Los Angeles-based writer. Follow him on Twitter at @sal19.