I’m Sticking With The Big Yellow Taxi

The definition of a Luddite is a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology. At times I am that person.

If I need a ride somewhere and don’t have my own car at my disposal, I’ll take a taxi. I have a mistrust of Uber and Lyft. My feelings about the former were bolstered by all the news stories of Uber drivers sexually assaulting or kidnapping their passengers. I read most, maybe all, of these headlines on Gawker. Granted, when Gawker decides it doesn’t like someone or something, it posts a bunch of meaningless disparaging articles about that someone or something. Just ask Macklemore, James Franco or Woody Allen. Nonetheless, when one is starting with a negative impression of a service where any Joe Q. Public can act as a chauffeur without any skills or knowledge or abilities besides having a driver’s license, the association of that service with the words rape or threat or assault reinforce that impression.

I hadn’t read any stories about felonious Lyft drivers. My cousin who lives in San Francisco uses Lyft. She was in Los Angeles a couple of months back, while my car was in the shop. We had dinner and then she ordered a Lyft car to take her back to her hotel. The app said the driver would be at my home in two minutes. We went outside to wait. Wait we did. Two minutes. Four minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. My cousin checked the app, which has a map to show you how far away your driver is. Per the app, her driver was now fifteen minutes away. On the map it showed the driver at a motel located directly behind the building in which I live. We share a driveway with that motel. It was fifteen seconds away, if there was traffic. My cousin wished to cancel the ride, but Lyft charges you the fare if you cancel.

The incident supported my previously based on nothing in particular feelings about Lyft. Still, as my cousin used them in San Fran frequently with no issues, I gave them another shot.

My own car was ready to be picked up from the body shop. The shop is two and a half miles from my home. I would have walked there if it wasn’t 102 degrees outside. I downloaded the Lyft app and was greeted with the message that I’ll get a $5 credit for each of my first ten rides. I also got the message that being it was Monday, all rides are 50% off. By my math, traveling two and half miles would be free.

My driver showed up promptly. We went to the body shop. I asked her the fee. She said she had no idea – all charges are done via the app. I got the message while in the body shop that the ride would cost me around $8. Using a button on the app, I sent a message to Lyft’s customer service, asking if they applied the 50% off and $5 credit. Per the app, I should expect a reply within twenty-four hours.

I did not receive a reply within twenty-four hours. I did not receive a reply within forty-eight hours. The charge for the full fare went through. Because I paid using Google Wallet (I’m not 100% Luddite), I called Google to dispute the charge. I sent them copies of the messages in which Lyft offered me the $5 credit and the 50% off. I told Google how I already tried to work this out with Lyft but they ignored my message.

Google contacted Lyft, which got me a response from Lyft. They told me I was supposed to do something or another within the app in order to get these discounts and credits. I replied that nowhere in their text messages to me did it say I had to do anything special to take advantage of their offers. I also told them that as they disregarded my email to their customer service, I couldn’t have the matter resolved within their required time frame.

Ultimately, I got my credit for the trip. It wasn’t worth all the hassle. Next time, I’m going old school. A taxicab it will be. Sometimes I prefer being a Luddite. You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

Today is the 72nd birthday of the great Joni Mitchell. Kicking off our Joni playlist is her 1970 single “Big Yellow Taxi.”

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