If you live in a major city, you may have heard about Lyft, an app for Android and iPhone users that connects drivers to people looking for rides. As long as you have a smartphone, a clean driving record, are over 23 and “friendly,” you can be a Lyft driver. The app aims for users to experience fun, pleasant drives with one another, encouraging fist bumps as greetings and riders to sit in the front seat rather than the backseat a la typical cabrides. Awesome, right? Well, not really, because it’s still pretty f’ing sketchy. But friendly sketchy! Except when it’s harassment.
According to a Valleywag reader, the app allowed a driver to harass her by phone for weeks after she got a ride with him. She says:
I got in his Lyft and he seemed normal. Told him I was going to NYC in a few weeks and staying in BK. Just small talk, and whatever. Got to my destination and he pulled over and parked, and asked if I would like to hang out some time, and I felt really uncomfortable being put on the spot so I gave him my number and bounced. He texted me later that day and I didn’t respond and I pretty much ignored him. THEN, Tuesday is when those texts started.
The texts are almost too obnoxious to believe.
TL;DR — basically, it’s all ridiculous. Creep recap (CreepCap?):
- Pay attention to me.
- Oh, you’re going to a place? Me, too.
- Pay attention to me or you’re a bad person.
- I have cancer.
- No I don’t.
- Matt Damon.
- You’re mean for not paying attention to me.
Having somebody ask for your number after a short conversation or meeting is incredibly uncomfortable. Not only does it just generally suck to make people feel rejected, it is also rather stressful; you don’t know if they will be offended enough to take it out on you or get aggressive. So sometimes, you just say yes. It isn’t to lead anybody on or hurt their feelings, it’s just because being on the spot sucks (also, we are allowed to change our minds if we decide not to hang out with somebody — shocking, I know).
I have had very few unpleasant experiences in cabs. Generally speaking, I find them to be quite safe, though there are certainly exceptions to that rule. This, on the other hand, is the equivalent of technology-facilitated hitch hiking; it is trusting somebody because they, too, have an smartphone and may or may not give you a high five when you get in their vehicle. So why are we surprised when things go awry?
Obviously, this is not remotely the woman’s fault, but in my opinion, the app gives people a false sense of security. While I’m sure most Lyft drivers are perfectly respectable, well-meaning people with zero malicious intentions, I also feel that way about most people in general; I will still not get into a car with a complete stranger.
On the bright side, Lyft showed solid business ethics and listened to the woman’s dilemma, then reacted accordingly, fixing the app so that phone numbers are now masked. Of course, you’re still be trusting a total stranger with your life, so there’s still…that.
Edit: I feel like I should explain why I found the app partially at fault. In Valleywag’s article, Sam Biddle also states that a Lyft driver had this to say regarding the system:
In the beginning [Lyft drivers had access to passenger numbers] until a bunch of drivers started saving numbers and stalking chicks. Now all numbers are masked. Not sure how it exactly works, but neither driver or passenger numbers are released.
While this situation involved a woman being harassed by a man she gave her number to, it was not the only time that the app’s usage resulted in this type of harassment. Previously, though, it apparently was directly through the app’s reveal of people’s numbers.
[Photo: Shutterstock; H/T ValleyWag]