Just because you’re a rideshare passenger doesn’t necessarily mean your driver knows where they’re going.
That’s how my family got an unplanned sightseeing trip of some San Francisco landmarks this past Sunday night.
A Bay Bridge Detour
My family spent this past weekend enjoying a fantastic visit to Walnut Creek, California. We visited family we hadn’t seen since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re not familiar with Walnut Creek, it’s about 17 miles northeast of Oakland.
Oakland is the closest major-ish airport to Walnut Creek. We opted to take Southwest this trip because it offered the best flight selection from our home airport (Hollywood Burbank/BUR).
We left for the airport around dinnertime Sunday. I ordered us a Lyft for several reasons:
- I already burned through July’s Uber Cash deposits from The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card
- The Lyft Pink subscription that comes with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives me a 15% discount on rides
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve awards 10X on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
- I earn bonus Delta SkyMiles on Lyft airport rides
I specifically selected Oakland International Airport and Southwest Airlines on the Lyft app.
Our driver — whom we’ll call “Bob” (not his real name) — picked us up at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house. He asked where we were traveling. We said Los Angeles. His reply? “Oh, I’m sorry,” before a hearty chuckle. (We get that a lot when we visit the Bay Area.) Then he said something like, “Where’d you rather go? LAX or SFO?” Another chuckle for whatever that punchline was all about.
“Just Oakland, please,” I said.
(Bob was actually a pretty decent conversationalist after that.)
My wife and daughter spent most of the ride playing games on a tablet. I was busy on my phone, monitoring our flight and catching up on baseball scores. I glanced up every so often to see where we were and gaze at some of the sights.
A few minutes later, we slowed for a toll booth. That’s weird, I thought. We’ve never taken a toll booth going to OAK. Only when crossing the — oh, no! We’re going into the city!
Yep. We were starting to cross the Bay Bridge. At 7:00 PM on a Sunday night. Just like thousands of other people were.
“Bob, are you going to SFO?” I asked.
“Yeah. That’s where you’re going, isn’t it?” (Maybe he had his weird LAX-SFO joke on the brain.)
“No. Oakland!” I said.
Traffic was at a standstill (fantastic!) so he had a minute to check his dash-mounted phone.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’ve never done this.”
We eventually crawled to a mid-point known as Treasure Island and were able to turn around. (Spoiler alert: this Treasure Island doesn’t have any gold or pirates. Lame.)
Bob decided to play tour guide, apparently thinking that would make things better.
“So that’s Alcatraz over there,” he said, pointing out the infamous island of incarceration.
“Oh, yeah!” my wife said in a light voice, trying to lighten the mood. I pointed out downtown San Francisco and “all the tall buildings” to our daughter.
We eventually got to Oakland. Bob apologized up and down. We made our flight (largely because it was delayed by Southwest mechanical problems…) and got home several hours later.
Bob said he’d email Lyft to get a price adjustment. I submitted a claim to Lyft and will see how it plays out.
Why Didn’t Bob Just Follow the Navigation?
I wonder the same thing.
Had Bob followed the Lyft app’s navigation instead of doing his own thing, this entire problem would’ve been avoided. He’d have earned five stars and gotten a tip. He received neither.
Why — and How — to Pay Attention
First of all, it’s easy to get distracted during car rides — especially by electronics. We’ve all been there.
So first things first: look up from your devices every now and then. Pay attention to where you’re going.
Next: When you’re not familiar with a city, follow along on a navigation app separate from your rideshare app. For example, open Google Maps on your mobile phone Punch in your destination and track your ride. See if your rideshare driver is taking a good route — or even headed in the right direction. (Looking at you, Bob.)
Between business and family trips, I’ve been to the Bay Area about two dozen times in the past 15 years. So I have a general idea of where things are. But if I were a stranger to the city and didn’t know my way around, we could’ve easily ended up at SFO.
Your rideshare driver may forget your destination or not know where they’re going — despite having all that information almost literally at their fingertips. Even though it’s easy to get distracted and zone out when someone else is driving, it’s important to pay attention during rides — so you end up at the correct destination.
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