Why I Prefer Lyft to Uber
Lyft and Uber are attempting to displace a $100 Billion industry. The Tariff movement service (see taxi) is antiquated and needs updating. Both companies are growing quickly and are attempting to dethrone the incumbents. Although Lyft and Uber are similar services and compete for the same market I prefer Lyft to Uber for one reason. But, I’ll get into that in a second.
Some background on those unfamiliar with San Francisco. In 2010, it was impossible to hail a cab. It would literally take an hour. During that era I remember walking to a hotel just so the doorman could hail me a cab. It seems I wasn’t the only one frustrated from the Bay Area taxi problem. Uber’s initial idea was “cracking the horrible taxi problem in San Francisco.”
Public transport in San Francisco is unlike public transportation in any other metropolis. San Francisco’s 800,000 citizens use two forms of public transport: buses and the BART. Bay Area Rapid Transport can get you close to your destination, but not close enough. Upon exiting the BART station you still have to walk 5 to 30 blocks to reach your destination. And although they can get you closer, buses take too long to get from Point A to Point B.
Uber‘s goal was to displace the incumbent Taxi services by offering a luxurious alternative without the hassle of a personal transaction exchange at the end of the ride.
The original concept:
…his original pitch had me and him splitting the costs of a driver, a Mercedes S Class, and a parking spot in a garage, so that I could use an iPhone app to get around San Francisco on-demand. [source]
Uber always wanted to include a professional driver. This was a key differentiator for them. When using Uber, you don’t get a pissed-off, smoke-scented, foul-mouthed cabbie. With Uber, Jason Statham picks you up. He is a suit-wearing, water-toting, handsome, clean-shaved, skillful driver. A man like this only drives important people. Being driven by a man with these looks and credentials only improves your own status. Uber makes you feel unique. Lots of successful companies have been built on the single idea of making people feel unique. Luxury Brands.
Luxury brands aren’t purchased because of what they do. People don’t drive BMW’s because they are the ultimate driving machine. People using Apple products don’t think different than their peers. People who aren’t born with it, use Maybelline.
Luxury products are purchased due to the status (see marketing) which accompanies them or the empowered feeling (see enlightenment) users get when using the service or owning the product.
Uber is not just a ride. It’s a status symbol. Uber is for passengers who care about status.
Lyft marketed themselves very different than their competitor. Rather than having the luxury experience, you are picked up by a friend. Someone who you can talk to about life. A Lyft driver isn’t your chauffeur, they are someone going the same way you are, someone who noticed you needing a ride and asked, “do you need a lift?” I equate the Lyft experience to that of hitch-hiking during the 1950's. I’m too young to remember what hitchhiking was like — my generation was scared off by the potential dangers of hitching and picking up hitchhikers. But, I feel that it has the same vibe. The same Je Ne Sais Quoi.
I don’t know if this “friend experience” was intentional of the Lyft marketing team or an effect of the early product decisions encompassed in their app. But, what aided the “friend experience” was the suggestion to give your driver a fist bump when first getting in the car. The fist bump changed the experience between riding in a Lyft and riding in an Uber. The fist bump, subconsciously, moved you from the back seat and into the front — a mental change. You were no longer a passive passenger. The driver shifted from a chauffeur into a friend. Someone who we were obligated to communicate with.
The mental shift happened to driver too. By sitting in the front seat the driver had a need to communicate with you. I’ve experimented with this mental change by running tests on the driver. I’ve been picked up by a Lyft driver while wearing headphones and a book opened to a page in my hand and the driver is still compelled to talk with me. I’ve noticed however, this change only happens if I sit in the front seat. If I sit in the back seat, the Lyft driver treats me the same way an Uber driver does. They leave you alone. You are paying them to drive you around.
When I sit in a Lyft I always choose to converse with my driver. After a ‘hello’ and the customary small talk, I ask them is, “Do you do this full time?” Regardless of the answer, my follow-up is, “What do you do when you aren’t driving people around?”
They are often Artists. I’ve met authors, screen writers, painters, sculptors, crafters, and photographers. This is how the drivers identify themselves. I find this awesome. Rather than having to wait tables or do some other job that demands artists to work hours that they don’t choose, Lyft provides them a way to work when they want and create on their own time. The idea that creatives, whose art doesn’t support them, can earn income, when they choose, is empowering. I can’t think of any other historical time when artists could make a living so easily on their own time.
Although I can’t afford paintings (because of the price), I do purchase books, watch independent films, and spend money in other ways which I hope benefit artists. But, I rarely pay the artist directly. Lyft though, is a service I not only require, but something I can use to support artists. Lyft is for artists and those who support creative endeavors.
Note: Uber has a competing service called UberX. Every Lyft driver I talked to works for both services, but chooses Lyft over UberX. The drivers stated that Lyft’s financial model is the preferred of the two.
When I need a ride, I lean towards using Lyft over Uber because I want my money to go to future artists. People who create things that change the way I feel and think.