Is Uber's Recruiting Campaign Hurting Lyft Drivers?

Lyft says Uber’s aggressive pitching can reduce its drivers’ hourly income by nearly 50 percent in some places.

Is Uber's Recruiting Campaign Hurting Lyft Drivers?
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Lyft says Uber’s aggressive recruitment practices are hitting its drivers where it counts — their checkbooks.

Earlier this week, The Verge detailed Operation SLOG, a semicovert campaign to recruit Lyft drivers — by ordering a Lyft appointment and then pitching the drivers on Uber mid-ride.

The recruiters are reportedly issued burner cellphones and a collection of valid credit card numbers, so they can arrange multiple rides without drawing suspicion.

The New York Times explains these rides are often shorter than actual fares, given the topic of discussion — and assuming the Uber recruiter doesn’t cancel the ride outright.

And Lyft says it now has hard data on the damage from Uber’s campaign. In San Francisco, Uber recruitment can drop a Lyft driver’s hourly income by 12 percent. Near the Los Angeles International Airport: 24 percent. In Orange County: 48 percent.

This is just the latest salvo in the on-demand ride war. Uber and Lyft both stand accused of playing the cancellation game — Uber of arranging and immediately cancelling more than 5,500 Lyft rides, and Lyft of doing the same for almost 13,000 Uber trips. Both companies deny the practice.

The goal appears to be disruption of the competitor’s service — but some industry watchers doubt it will have the desired effect. Take Uber’s alleged cancellation spree.

A writer for Vox points out Lyft, the target, has some 60,000 drivers.

“If Uber intended these cancellations as an act of deliberate sabotage, the campaign was way too small to be a major threat, or even a significant nuisance.”

And a Forbes contributor says escalating the practice doesn’t do anyone any good. “Does either company really want a ‘denial of service’ war? Of course not.”

Uber has yet to issue official comment on Lyft’s income findings. In the meantime, Lyft says it’s developed a system to weed Uber recruiters out of its reservations.

This video contains images from Getty Images.