One Way of Finding Customers: Pay People to Use Your Service

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
one way of finding customers pay people to use your service

Ride-hailing company Lyft wants you to ditch your car — and hopefully give it up altogether. After rolling out a limited pilot project in Chicago last month, the company has launched a new initiative in 35 American and Canadian cities that compels drivers to leave their car untouched for 30 days.

Lyft hopes to find 2,000 people willing to take part in its “Ditch Your Car” challenge. In exchange, the company will provide credits for a slew of services under its corporate umbrella (ride hailing, bike sharing, but not scooter sharing… yet), as well as credits for transit. What’s stopping these drivers from secretly using their personal vehicles during the month-long experiment? Nothing.

Much like the famous Seinfeld episode about another type of contest, these participants will abide by the honor system. Despite not being profitable, Lyft claims it’s in a healthy enough financial position to try a wider-scale program.

“We’re finally in a point of stability where we can double down on these efforts,” Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer told Bloomberg. “We need to provide a reliable service that is competing with the idea that your car is parked outside your house, which is extremely convenient.”

Ride-hailing alone can’t make up for a lack of personal vehicle, unless you’re willing to shell out heaps of money. To provide an alternative to vehicle ownership, Lyft, as well as other similar companies, would need to offer customers access to a lower tier of transportation. Lyft, as well as Uber, both own bike-sharing fleets. Both want to toss their hat into the electric scooter ring (“disrupting” traffic, literally and figuratively). Still, transit needs to form part of the picture, simply because it means lots of miles for few dollars.

Participants in the Ditch Your Car challenge will symbolically lock their car keys in a Lyft lockbox, then proceed to spend the next 30 days (starting October 8th) becoming a new, car-hating person. Lyft doesn’t come out and say it, but it obviously hopes the challenge moves more future business in its direction.

“There’s enthusiasm to try it,” Zimmer told The Verge. “By making it a movement, by making it an event, people are like, ‘Oh, let me try this experiment.’ Then they realize, ‘Wow, I get all this time back. I’m actually saving money. I’m more relaxed.’”

Yes, there’s plenty of cash to be saved when a ride-hailing company pays for your transportation. As shown in an earlier link, a recent study showed that replacing the same miles travelled in a personal vehicle with ride-hailing trips is a pricey proposition, though adding less comfortable (and convenient) options to the transportation mix brings the price down. Just how much cheaper depends on your choice of personal vehicle and payment plan, as well as your willingness to mingle with the plebs on buses and trains and use your leg muscles to propel yourself down the street. There’s no crumple zones and airbags on a bike.

Undoubtedly, some participants in well-served metro areas might feel compelled to try out a new style of living, but until it becomes too inconvenient and costly to own and drive a personal vehicle, people will continue paying for convenience.

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3 of 7 comments
  • Cicero1 Cicero1 on Sep 27, 2018

    The "flaw" with this model is that unlike Tesla and other electrics they are not using taxpayer money to subsidize this scheme.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Sep 27, 2018

      @cicero: How did Tesla come into this conversation? Seriously, Dude... OFF TOPIC!

  • TMA1 TMA1 on Sep 27, 2018

    DC is currently testing scooters. About in 1 every 3 people riding the things can barely do so without teetering on the brink of collapse.

  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).