Lyft is generating a little more revenue for drivers who’ve taken a hit, but the new program will cater to companies and nonprofits instead of individual delivery customers.
The big rideshare and delivery apps traditionally make a lot of money in a normal month, but they've never actually been profitable. (OK, Grubhub was profitable in 2019 according to CNBC, but that is not the industry standard.) And the hopes of profitability and wildly successful 2020 IPOs were extinguished by the COVID-19 cataclysm, particularly for Uber and Lyft, both of which The Information reported has seen their business fall by half, and probably far more in the two weeks since that report dropped. Lyft has just seen fit to put its legions of underutilized drivers back to work, as CNN Business reports that the company is pivoting to deliveries of essential goods, which is essentially good news to income-starved drivers.
But you will not be able to order masks, meals, or groceries from this service. The Verge clarifies that “approved partners, which include government agencies, local nonprofits, businesses, and health care organizations, can schedule customer deliveries through an online portal that will then be picked up by Lyft drivers” and that “Recipients will include seniors and people with compromised immune systems” or “low-income individuals and families that lack access to reliable transportation.” So it sounds like you have to already be enrolled in some sort of Meals on Wheels type program to receive these deliveries.
The pilot launched today, and San Francisco is included in it. But no cities in the East Bay, South Bay, or North are named in the 11-city program — though registered Lyft drivers there may be eligible for the delivery work.
“Today, we’re launching Essential Deliveries, a new pilot initiative where government agencies, local non-profits, businesses and healthcare organizations can request on-demand delivery of meals, groceries, life-sustaining medical supplies, hygiene products and home necessities — all delivered by Lyft drivers,” the company said in their official announcement today. “This new service lets these partners meet requests for deliveries while providing new ways for drivers to earn and directly benefit communities. Lyft drivers and organizations that opt into delivery rides are made aware that these deliveries are contact-free, and drivers will currently be paid similarly to Standard rides."
The announcement comes as restaurant delivery companies just had their fees capped here in San Francisco, which throws that model into financial chaos should other major cities follow suit. Lyft is shrewdly sidestepping that debate while cultivating their “We’re Woke” nice guy image.
But there is no mention of health precautions for the drivers, other than that the deliveries will be “contact-free.” Lyft does not say anything about providing masks, sanitizer, or distancing guidance, which likely means that Lyft is not providing masks, sanitizer, or distancing guidance. Gig drivers remain uniquely vulnerable to coronavirus, although we can’t knock Lyft for initiating a program designed to serve other populations that are even more uniquely vulnerable to coronavirus.
Image: Austin Distel via Unsplash