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Why You Need to Pay Attention During Lyft and Uber Rides

Last week, I was in Maryland for work and used Uber and Lyft to get to the airport and around town. I normally don’t have an issue with either app. Both are convenient to use and I’ve only had one incident where the driver  took a ridiculous detour to increase the fare. So it kind of surprised me when two drivers (that I’m aware of) in Maryland took pretty significant detours when I wasn’t paying attention. It made me realize you really do need to pull up the map on your phone and make sure the driver is going the right way. I rarely do this because drivers normally use an app to navigate. But on two occasions (both with Lyft drivers), they stopped using the GPS when I wasn’t paying attention and drove off-route.

The first time it happened, the address on Google Maps was wrong. So I used my iPhone map and told the driver the correct address, which was a mile away. Instead of continuing down the main street, he drove off into a residential area. After about five minutes of this, I checked the map and found out he was going in the opposite direction. I pointed this out to him and he said, “East West Highway is this way.” “No, it’s not. You’re driving way north. It’s east”. So I turned on my GPS and basically made him drive in the right direction. I arrived at my destination a few minutes late, but it wasn’t a big deal.

The next morning, I used Lyft to get a ride to DCA. I know, DCA has direct Metro access and it’s cheap and easy. But I had an early flight and figured this way I could get an extra hour of sleep. The driver asked if I was in a hurry “because traffic is pretty bad right now”. I told him maps showed it was about an hour drive, so we were ok on time. I dozed off pretty much right away. Then I woke up and we were in traffic, but not on the highway. So I checked maps to see how far away we were…10 miles north of the route. I mapped our location from the pick-up point and he had taken a bizarre detour up north. 

Lyft driver in Baltimore taking a detour

After picking me up at the Marriott, the Lyft driver started heading north

Noticing I was awake, the driver seemed a little thrown off and said, “there’s a lot of traffic right now”. “Yeah, there seems to be” I said flatly while looking straight at him in the rearview mirror. He made a swift U-turn, going back on the correct route towards the airport. The fare was cheap – something like $35, which isn’t bad for an hour long drive. But I reported this to Lyft because it’s just not ok. What if he does that to someone and they end up missing their flight? Or being late to a meeting? I guess they wouldn’t be, because he might ask them (like he did with me) what time they have to be at their destination. But it’s annoying and just shouldn’t happen.

Lyft agreed that the driver had gone off-route and refunded me around $6. The thing that bugs me is that I would have left him a bigger tip than what he tried to get by padding the fare. His dishonesty and lack of respect for my time annoyed me more than anything else. After that, I realized that going forward, I need to track my Lyft and Uber rides to ensure drivers are headed where they’re supposed to be. As a solo female traveler, I wasn’t particularly concerned about my safety (which other people pointed out to me), but that is of course something to consider and even more reason to be aware of the route your driver is taking.

Have you ever had an Uber or Lyft driver go off-route in order to increase the fare? What did you do?

Ariana Arghandewal

19 Comments

  1. That’s messed up. I hope people report these incidents and rate the driver accordingly and that Lyft & Uber do more than just refund people ~$5 bucks.

    I’d post about such incidents on social media. Public shaming has a lot more chances of making Uber/Lyft/any company take measures to curb such behavior than just reporting the offending driver privately.

  2. Hate Uber/Lyft drivers that scam you. I was in Peru recently and all (literally ALL) of the drivers cancel your ride as soon as you get into the car (and say that there is a problem with the app) and then try and negotiate a cash fare.

  3. Happened twice to me in Baltimore. I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of there because the 2 Uber drivers we had were extremely shady to say the least and took long routes on purpose and missed an off-ramp.

    • What is with Maryland? Btw the first driver who took the scenic route had towels laid on all the seats of his car. Like, old raggedy multi-colored towels. I get people want to protect their cars, but come on!

  4. I had an Uber driver take me on a wild goose chase through suburban neighborhoods when we should have been on the freeway. This was about 11:00 a.m., and Uber not only wouldn’t refund any of the money they claimed it was “rush hour” and doubled the fare. I’ve only used Lyft from that point on. I really don’t trust Uber any more at all.

  5. Isn’t the price set, so it is only a problem if it takes longer and you are late? We used Uber in Boston and he went another way also but I thought it was to avoid traffic.

  6. A couple trips ago from home to LAX I noticed that the Lyft driver went around LAX, basically I live just north of LAX and he went south past the airport and then drove up north towards the airport. I wasn’t late as I wanted to visit the Alaska lounge before the flight but found it strange that he did take the long war there. I remember that he didn’t use the GPS either, most every other time the driver would use the GPS or even use WAZE to get through traffic faster. I thought about saying something during the drive but again, I wasn’t late and it wasn’t too far out of the normal routes you could take from my area to LAX.
    I’ll have to pay more attention to these things going forward.

  7. You’re lucky as a woman travelling alone that you didn’t wake up to worse. The vetting of the drivers for these companies is a lot less than if they were direct employees. Be careful and ever vigilant (in any situation) as the world seems to be becoming more dangerous, and that danger is creeping into the US.

  8. I had an Uber driver blasting the radio miss the exit on the interstate when returning from the airport. Because of this, the trip was about 10 minutes and 7 miles longer than it should have been. I travel from the airport 3 or 4 times a month. The fare on this trip was exactly the same as on other trips.

  9. I’m confused. Isn’t it usually a set fare with Uber and Lyft? I’ve only used Uber, but they always quote me a fare before I accept. I thought that fare remained the same no matter how long the trip. Last week Uber said my trip to the airport should take 30 minutes. There was a lot of traffic and it took 45 minutes. I was surprised when Uber gave me $5 off because they underestimated the trip time.

    I took Uber home from the airport and I was surprised when the driver left the highway and took an unusual route that required more traffic lights. I didn’t say anything since the fare was the same and I wasn’t in a hurry.

  10. Seeing some ‘ninja’ drivers on Uber lately that will mark you as picked up miles away and start driving to your endpoint. Not sure if they’re spoofing GPS or just driving around. You get charged the partial fare or the cancellation fee depending on how fast you catch it, plus you have to re-call a new driver. Luckily Uber support refunds it pretty quickly after you ask.

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