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A D.C. homeowner says a Lyft driver she hailed just after 10 p.m. on Sunday refused to show up at her door because of her location.
Fairlawn resident Elizabeth Hearn, 36, says she ordered a car through the rideshare company for a friend who had come over for dinner, but soon after got a text from the driver, Chinedu, saying “I don’t pick up from SE, sorry.” Hearn, who is white, notes that while multiple rideshare drivers have accepted, then cancelled pickups on her without explanation, last night was the first time a driver told her to cancel the ride and gave something of a reason—”a small yet insultingly annoying incident.” She adds that residents who live east of the Anacostia River frequently face such discrimination, and not just for transportation-related services.
“I was very angry,” Hearn writes in an email to City Desk. “This is the kind of ridiculousness that my neighborhood deals with daily. And for this to be done so blatantly and his dismissive ‘Go ahead’ when I told him I’d be reporting him to the company, it was just too much. He felt he could just disregard me as a customer based on my address—that people from my neighborhood weren’t important or powerful enough to impact him.”
Below is a screenshot Hearn sent of her texts with the driver:
City Desk has reached out to Lyft and will update this post with their comment.
Hearn says she complained to the company, which “emailed back some standard ‘this is unacceptable’ language” and offered her a $10 credit. “They were empathetic via email, but I’d prefer to know what actions are being taken on their end,” she says, adding that Lyft hasn’t informed her about potential discipline. “And more than just this driver, I’d like them to issue some kind of message to all their drivers about how these discriminatory practices are illegal. The information being shared currently (with any cabbie, Uber, or Lyft driver) is clearly not enough.”
When Chinedu declined to come to Hearn’s home, the resident says she ordered another Lyft, which appeared to be nearby on the app. This driver also cancelled the pick-up, Hearn says; a third Lyft driver finally accepted the request and drove her friend to her destination. “It wasn’t my most stellar night with Lyft,” says Hearn, who’s lived in Ward 8 for about a year and a half.
“Capitol Hill can get anything and everything to its doorstep,” she says in a follow-up phone interview. “I’m not discounting the problems Ward 8 has in terms of violence and the series of shootings that occurred over the summer, and the drug incidents that happen daily. That’s definitely something our councilmembers should be planning to address. But denying services is not the legal way of handling it.”
Update 4:05 p.m.: Lyft spokesperson Alexandra LaManna provided the following statement on behalf of the company: “Lyft does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community. Pending a further investigation, the driver’s access to the Lyft platform has been suspended.“
Illustration by Lauren Heneghan