BUSTED! The Cops Showed Up for My First Lyft Ride
What happens when you’re caught using Lyft/Uber in a state where it’s “illegal”? Last night I found out.
Funnily enough it was also my first time using Lyft. I’d just flown into Tampa and wanted to try to get into Bern’s Steakhouse before it closed. Since it was late, I really didn’t want to mess with cabs, and I didn’t want to waste my free Uber ride up to $30 (thank you reader Denise!) on a $15 trip, so I decided maybe it was time I tried Lyft.
I pulled up the app, got a car that was only 5 minutes away and headed to the lobby to wait. My driver shows up and I pop over, pausing just long enough to clarify that with Lyft you do ride in the front seat, and jump in.
10 seconds later someone from the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission was at the driver’s window showing her badge, asking if she was a Lyft driver and asking me if I had hired her. The officer had identified my driver at the airport and then followed her to my hotel to “catch her” breaking the law.
Both my driver and the officer were quick to assure me that I was not in any trouble, and quickly outlined my options. It was illegal for my driver to be operating and it would take her (the officer) about 15 minutes to process all the citations. That these were not criminal offenses, nothing would go on her record. I could wait with the driver, I was free to get a different ride, or she’d even call me a cab (I found that funny).
I’d wondered what happened when drivers were caught, so I decided to stick it out (even if it jeopardized my chance at the Harry Waugh dessert room). My driver, an awesome single mother who was only on her 3rd day as a Lyft driver, and was doing it to support her kids, was incredibly nice and apologetic about the whole thing.
Eventually the officer came back and started handing out citations. $100 for not having the right license, $200 to Lyft for illegally hiring her, another $100 and $500 for two other violations. Up until then she’d been very nice — appreciating how cooperative my driver had been. Then for some reason she started intimidation tactics.
Tonight it was just citations, tomorrow she would be in her office filing the same charges as misdemeanors which meant my driver could be prosecuted on criminal charges if they followed up on it (none had so far). And she started referring to “all your little Lyft friends” and spreading the message that apparently Thursday (today) the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission would have law enforcement status and if Lyft drivers kept running they’d start impounding cars and showing force.
And with that she left. I felt awful for my driver who had been polite and professional through it all, but clearly was a little shaken by that last information. I was also a little worried that the officer would pull her over again once we left because I’d chosen to stay in the car. (Fortunately she didn’t).
As luck had it, after dinner I got the same driver on the way back to the hotel and enjoyed a friendly chat. As a single female out late at night, I definitely felt safer riding with her than any of the random cab drivers I saw parked outside the restaurant. Its a shame this is how Tampa Bay has chosen to spend it’s time protecting its residents.
But if you’re interested in diversifying your Uber usage or want the chance at your own Lyft adventure, feel free to sign up using my code Keri1329. We’ll both get a free ride (up to $20).