Lyft Comes Through on Ridiculous Surge Pricing - Running with Miles
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Lyft Comes Through on Ridiculous Surge Pricing

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Written by Dustin

While in Columbus a couple of weeks ago, I experienced one of the most ridiculous surge pricing while using any rideshare.

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I have experienced surge pricing from both Lyft and Uber, but nothing compared to what I experienced a couple of weeks ago. While I understand the concept of surge pricing, I also believe there could be a serious problem for surge pricing

Lyft Comes Through on Ridiculous Surge

Surge Pricing

Supply and demand, it pretty much simplifies to that. The more riders needing a ride, the higher the charge to just enter a car. Both Uber and Lyft have their own definitions on their website, but the bottom line it breaks down to supply and demand

Lyft gives a pretty quick explanation of surge pricing when requesting a ride through Lyft.

Uber, I think, gives a much better (more detailed) explanation on their website. Basically, you can pay the extra charge or you can wait.

I understand the idea surge pricing, but that doesn’t mean I like to be taken advantage of. When I was in Columbus a couple of weeks ago, I experienced a surge pricing that was so high, I felt it was more price gouging than an extra fee.

Pricing for the weekend

Last week, I wrote about my stay at the Hyatt Place Columbus/Dublin. This hotel was about 15 miles from the Ohio State Football Stadium, where I saw my Sooner’s play a great game. In order to get to and from the stadium, we needed some a ride. Walking seemed a little unrealistic :-).

While we were in Columbus, we were using Lyft more than Uber, because we were earning both Jetblue and Delta miles for each ride we took. I did price check with Uber, as I wouldn’t actually pay more for a handful of miles. In addition to the extra points, we also had an offer for 50% off up to 10 rides (max of $15).

Each ride was accompanied with a surge pricing, for the all my rides, except one. While there was an increased volume of people, I can’t imagine that at 8 am there was such high demand for a ride. At 25% and 75%, I wasn’t thrilled, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

 

The surge price of 75% was before the game and we took this trip at 10 am. Well before the game was set to begin. I think it was a little high, but we did have a $15 off coupon, so it pretty much eliminated the charge.

 

The 25% charge was an increase charge for our trip back to the airport, around 1 pm.

 

Where I became shocked was after the football game.

Post Game Surge Pricing.

Once the game ended, we made our way out of the stadium and headed toward the main road. There were lots of people walking, although many left before the game was over :-).

After we reached the main road, I pulled out my phone and opened my Lyft App. My jaw dropped when I saw the price to go 14 miles, was over $200! It was only $25 to grab a Lyft to the stadium area. I was beyond frustrated that the price would increase that much! Comparing to Uber, Uber was a little cheaper, but not by much.

We decided to walk away from the stadium, in hopes of seeing the price drop. This dropped initially, but to $160. This was still a crazy amount to pay for a ride we paid $25 for earlier in the day.

After walking around for about an hour, I actually requested an Uber, because it a little cheaper than Lyft. Once I requested the ride, my wait time went from 10 minutes to over 35 minutes. I tried to cancel my ride, and the app froze.

Once  I could reopen the app, I cancelled the ride and was charge $5 for a cancelled ride. After reaching out I was given a $5 credit for my next Uber ride.

There were plenty of Lyfts nearby, but they were slightly more in price. Now it was after midnight and I was becoming more irritated and tired. I finally called a Lyft and it was there in a couple of minutes.

While I selected to accept the surge pricing, when I received my receipt I was charged $100 just to enter the car! That was absolutely absurd. But, it is what it is, right? I’ve never had a surge price that high and I really felt this was price gouging.

Reaching Out to Lyft

While sitting in JFK, waiting for our flight back to Bangor, I emailed Lyft about my dissatisfaction of the high surge pricing:

While I was hoping Lyft would realize their surge pricing was unfairly high, I was hoping for a partial refund, but really expecting a “you accepted the charge email.” Less than 2 hours later, I had a response from Lyft about my ride.

Not only was I happy to see the entire surge pricing being refunded back to my card, I was also shocked they refunded the entire surge pricing amount.

As promised, the credit was back on my card a couple of days later.

My Take on the Refund

While Lyft was under no obligation to refund any portion of the surge pricing to my credit card. I do think they realized their surge pricing was unreasonably high, which is why they refunded the entire amount.

If Lyft felt the charges were justified, I do believe I would have received a different response to my email. Even if they felt they were partially wrong, it could have been a partial refund, instead of a full refund

While I reached out, I’m sure there were plenty who did not, so in the end Lyft probably made out quite well on these charges.

Conclusion

While I am happy I received a $100 refund for the surge pricing fee, I also think it was a bogus charge. While I have no issue with surge pricing, I do have a problem with price gouging. Which is what I think happened after the football game. Lyft knew people would have few options and would pay it.

It is always worth it to reach out when you have an issue. You never know the response you will get and in my example a 3 minute email saved me $100.

What’s the highest surge pricing you’ve seen? Did you reach out for a refund?

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About the author

Dustin

After completing 6 years of pharmacy school, I finally had the time to travel. I started investigating ways to travel for less and when I redeemed my first award flight for my honeymoon, I knew I was hooked! Fast forward a couple of years and places I had never dreamed of visiting like Budapest, Honolulu, Bermuda and many other places where all within my reach, and for little to no money out of my pocket. Now, I have collected well over a million points and miles, and try to help people travel for less on their wallet.

31 Comments

  • Key takeaway: Don’t try to save a few bucks by staying 15 miles away from a football stadium that you know will have 100,000 people leaving simultaneously.

    • Hey Rational Rob,

      I don’t know if I agree. I’ve done this before and never had this issue. Also at 10k for 2 nights was a pretty stellar deal. But I get your point 🙂

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

  • Have seen 8.7x in Charleston, Uber is really bad for surge. Lyft is much better, I rarely even see 2x. In most locales, the break even to take a cab is 2-2.3x so I keep pertinent cab apps on the phone as well.

    • Hey Seb,

      That’s a pretty crazy surge, must be around college football season I assume? I will need to keep a cab app on my phone in the future.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

    • Hey Gary,

      Pretty cool to see you comment on one of my post :-).

      There was a lot of traffic near the stadium, but about 3/4 to a mile away (where we were picked up) it was far less.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

  • “Comparing to Uber, Uber was a little cheaper, but not by much.” Sounds like they were charging the market price.

    Thank God for surge pricing. The alternative is no rides. Surge pricing gets drivers driving, rather than doing something else. It gets riders sharing to use resources more efficiently.

    Why are these surges ‘ridiculous’? Do you mean that you simply haven’t seen them before? What do you know about the range of surge pricing? Have you asked Lyft or Uber? In fact, what you know about demand patterns for ride services probably fits comfortably on a postage stamp, right?

    Check out econ 101 courses in your area.

    • Hey Andrew,

      I would say from experiences at other large events: AFC title game, OU vs Texas in Dallas just a few examples. Those events never had a surge like that. That is what I was comparing it to.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

  • I don’t understand what grounds you complained to Lyft about. Didn’t they quote you the estimated fare? Or did they just suggest that surge pricing was in effect but give you no indication as to how much of a surge it was?

  • You’re very lucky they gave you a credit. If you don’t want to pay that much, don’t try to get a ride after a college football game at the 4th largest sports stadium in the entire world using an app that, in your words, comes down to “supply and demand.” Go eat lunch, or dinner, or walk around campus for awhile.

  • I think there is a difference between thinking their pricing is reasonable, and accepting their pricing based on your needs at the time. This is how markets balance supply and demand. If I am in a department store and really like that Gucci purse but find the $2,000 price tag “absurd” and “unacceptable”, I simply walk away. I don’t buy it, use it, then ask for a refund because of the “absurd” and “unacceptable” price.

  • I also thing it is ridiculous that you complained. They offered a service at a cetain price due to certain market dynamics. You accepted this service and was happy to not have to walk 15mi after midnight. How long would that have taken? What if you were mugged? What if you couldn’t get a nice nights rest? All those were avoided thanks to lyft and you spending $100. You are so out of line complaining. I would of told you to pound sand and block you from ever using the app again. You don’t expect to work for free to what do you expect others to?

    • Hey danTHEman,

      Fair points. I don’t expect to work for free, you’re right, but I also don’t expect an increase in my hourly rate when my volume increases.

      But I see what you are saying, point taken for the future #humblepie

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

      • But if it took you 30 minutes to write a blog post, and you had two offers from competing blogs to write a guest article on their behalf, both offers required the article to be written in no more than 31 minutes from now. Running with Miles offers your normal rate of $15, but OMAAT offers you $115, you have 1 minute to decide, which do you choose? Surely if you have half a brain, you choose OMAAT and the $115. But then, gosh almighty, you spend your 30 minutes writing the offer for OMAAT, Ben gets all benefits associated with the article you wrote, and then he decides not to pay you because $115 is “ridiculous”, “unfair”, “abnormal”, “un-American”, whatever. Please, just think a little more before you write your next article.

  • As a Lyft driver myself you have to understand that the only reason why people drive near a stadium after a game is because there is a surge. Otherwise you would be dealing with drunken idiots and terrible traffic for next to nothing. Your charge was just and fair. You took a 15 mile ride right after a big game. You got away with it this time by shaming Lyft but I rather they just lose your business if you are going to complain about something you knew about going into it.

  • I’m sure this scenario is played out on football Saturdays throughout the country.

    At that point, why not call a taxi? Uber and Lyft are NOT the only transport options. A taxi from 15th & High Street (is this what you meant by main road?) to your hotel would cost about $40 before tip.

    • Hey askmrlee,

      If I had seen a taxi, I would have attempted to grab one. I didn’t see a taxi once I got to High Street or the mile I walked on it.

      Thanks for reading! I appreciate it!
      Dustin

      • That’s because Columbus is not like NYC where cabs just drive around, even on football Saturdays. You need to call them the old fashioned way (614.444.4444) or use an app unless you’re at a downtown or Short North hotel. Depending on where you are, they can be quite responsive.

  • IMHO: Why complain about something you chose, when it wasn’t even the only option?? You could have gotten a taxi, with which you’re getting a steady price that’s literally printed on the window/door.

    The frame of mind with this and other complaints about high Uber/Lyft surges seems to be that since they’re usually cheaper than taxis, they should always be cheaper than taxis. That’s not how it works. It’s a *different* business model, with its own pros and cons, not a *superior* business model that is somehow guaranteed to always be better than the alternative.

    I see it as a similar (not same) concept to the difference between miles that can be redeemed based on the ticket price (Southwest) and those that are “flat-rate” (United). Yeah, if your ticket is super expensive so will your cost be in Southwest points, but you’re not going to fly them and then later demand your points back. Meanwhile United miles can get you those very expensive last-minute flights for the same posted flat-rate on the site (albeit saver vs standard depends on availability, but that’s still only 2 price levels). The point being: know what the business model is of the company you’re dealing with and don’t be upset on the few occasions it works in their favor.

    • Hey Alex,

      Fair question. If I saw a taxi I probably would have taken that route. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a taxi the entire night after the game.

      Thanks for reading I appreciate it!
      Dustin

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