In the past 4 months I have continued to make almost daily use (twice a day, Mon-Fri) of these alternative taxi services. I still primarily use UBER due to it being slightly cheaper, but I have also used LYFT occasionally (probably average about 5 times a month).
I’ve used LYFT a little more often this month, because they’re running a special where every Monday for the month of August rides are 50% off. So if you find yourself needed a ride someone on the next two Mondays, keep this in mind.
Well, a few months ago I’d heard about another company called SIDECAR, but I didn’t bother looking into it. Until a few weeks ago was I was riding with Lyft, the driver mentioned how she recently applied with Sidecar and was going to drive for both (as I mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve met a lot of drivers who work for both Uber and Lyft, to maximize their profits, so this isn’t a surprise). So I thought I should look into this company.
Sidecar is similar to Uber and Lyft in that the drivers use their own cars, and it’s operated via an app. The main difference is that each driver sets their own rates. So when you open the app and enter your destination, Sidecar will then show you list of available drivers, giving you their name and what kind of car they drive, it will show you how far away each one is (estimating it how much time it would take to pick you up) and what each one will charge to take you from your location to your destination (so you’ll know exactly what you’ll be charged, not just estimate like Uber and Lyft, and Taxis) . You can even filter your search by things like “closest”, or “cheapest”, there’s also “recommended” which goes by the ratings the driver gets. That’s what Sidecar really seems to be basing it’s service on, the ratings that the drivers get. So, theoretically, this gives the drivers even more incentive to do a good job. If they get enough bad ratings, You can also mark various drivers as “favorites”, meaning Sidecar will specifically try to get your that same driver next time you use the app. You can also block drivers that you don’t like, for whatever reason, and you’ll never get them again.
This also goes both way, the driver can rate, favorite, and block the riders. And I believe that if enough drivers block you (I don’t know the exact number), then you can get banned from using the app altogether.
Now, while I’m perfectly happy with Uber and Lyft, I decided I’d download this app too, just so that I’d have it as an extra option. You never know when you may need it. Then I decided I should use it at least once, just so that I’ll be in their system. The first time I tried it was going to be one evening for my ride home. I opened the app, and the I picked the cheapest driver, who would be $10. That’s more that that I usually pay for Uber (last ride home was $7.69) and Lyft (last full-price ride home was $9.50), but still much cheaper than a taxi (around $20). I don’t remember how far away he was, but I guess it wasn’t far. But then for some reason after about a minute, the driver canceled on me. So I tried to request another driver, but the only one available were too far, and I didn’t want to wait.
Over the next few weeks, I tried again like a couple of times a week to use Sidecar, but there were never any nearby drivers, and I didn’t want to wait. Sometimes the closet driver would be like over 40 minutes away. Mostly I tried to use it in the evening for my ride home. At least once I tried it in the morning, but it just said there were no drivers available at all. Now, I realize that I probably shouldn’t count this as a strike against Sidecar, obviously it’s simply not that prevalent in my area yet. Just like Uber and Lyft aren’t everywhere right now. And it takes time to grow.
Well, Friday the 14th I finally was determined to use it, no matter how long I had to wait. So I opened the app and the nearest driver was 27 minutes away, and he charged $14 for the ride. So I requested him and waited. I had stopped to get a large strawberry shake and I had my trusty Kindle on me, to keep myself occupied. Sure enough, the driver showed up within about 25 minutes. It was a dude named Israel in a little BMW. The actual ride was fine, he told me he had previously been a Lyft driver until his other car broke down, so now all he has is his two-seater, which he says Lyft considers too small, so he started driving for Sidecar instead.
The problem was about halfway through the ride both of our apps got screwed up. They froze or something, I was looking at my phone and it was showing that he was still on his way to pick me up, even though the ride had started. We both kept trying to restart the app but it wasn’t working for either of us. So when he dropped me he said he’d get in touch with Sidecar support and was sure it would get fixed. So this was around 6:45pm that Friday. Well, for the rest of the night I kept checking but App still was stuck, it had the ride request and said that Israel was on his way to pick me up. The length of time it would take to pick me up kept changing, depending on where he was in the car at the time. So I was thinking this must suck for him, because he can’t pick up any other rides, until this gets fixed. I tried logging in and how of the app, that didn’t work, I restarted my phone several times, that didn’t work, I then even uninstalled and then reinstalled the app
By 11:25am Saturday, it was still screwed up, so I looked up and sent an email to Sidecar customer support, explaining the situation. I promptly received an automated email response saying that “we’ll get back to you as soon as we can! Your question will be handled in the order it’s been received.”
For the next day and half nothing changed. Every time I checked the app, it was still claiming the Israel was on his way to pick me up. There was no way for me to cancel the ride. I tried going into my profile and removing my card but it said I couldn’t do that while a ride was in progress. FINALLY at 2:26pm, Monday the 17th, I got email of a receipt for my ride. My card had been charged $14. I checked the app, it was back to normal. I immediately deleted my credit card info from the app, and the uninstalled the app from my phone. I will not be using them again.
At 9:31am on Tuesday the 18th, I got an email reply from Sidecar customer service, asking me to confirm my phone number so they could look into my previous email (by comparison, any time I’ve had to email Uber or Lyft with a complaint, it’s replied to and solved usually within a few minutes). Of course I didn’t bother replying to them, since the problem was solved.
Rationally, I know that this is all probably just an coincidental unlucky break. Israel said he’d been driving for Sidecar for 4 months, and had never had this problem. Still, the complications of this experience just left a bad taste in my mouth, so I don’t plan on using Sidecar again.