Free Market

Secret Shopper Hired to Punish Lyft and Uber Actually Prefers Them

Salt Lake City, enforcing its arcane, anti-free-market transportation laws, has been imposing $6,500 fines on Lyft and Uber drivers. City officials argue that its laws are necessary for public safety, which is false.

To help ferret out drivers operating in violation of these laws, Salt Lake City employs secret shoppers to hire drivers and then report them to city officials. Correspondence obtained by Libertas Institute through an open records request includes numerous emails from these secret shoppers.

One such shopper, whose name was redacted, reported the following after her first experience using Lyft in April:

My experience with the Lyft app was a very positive one. I really enjoyed how quickly I was able to get a ride compared to using the three available taxi companies in Salt Lake. Usually, especially on a weekend, it could take 10-20 minutes to just get through to a taxi company (Yellow, City, and Ute) to request a ride. Then, you are waiting another 10-30 minutes for the ride to even show up. With the Lyft app, I was able to secure all rides with a quick click of a button. Then, all rides showed up within 2-5 minutes.

Another aspect of the Lyft app that I enjoyed was being given ALL of the drivers information up front. The app provides the rider with a picture of the driver and their vehicle. It also provides you with the drivers name, the vehicle’s make, model, color, and year, and also the vehicle’s license plate. At times, as a women riding alone, I do not feel comfortable or safe riding in a taxi (especially if it is one that is not part of the three major companies). However, being provided with ALL of the driver’s information (especially the license plate), made me feel comfortable. Being provided with that information up front, I knew that if I ever felt real fear of being in danger, I could easily pass that information along to family members or use it as leverage. With other cab companies, that information is something that you would have to obtain yourself. And, most taxi drivers (at least from my experience) are not very willing for you to ask their name or any other valuable information you might need to feel safe.

Also, being able to request a ride and pay for that ride with my phone was extremely convenient. The receipt was emailed to me and I was given all of the information from the ride, including trip length and time. Some of the time, you can’t even get a regular taxi driver to give you a receipt at all, especially not a detailed one. The Lyft app definitely provides a lot of detail to the rider and I really enjoy that.

If given the opportunity, I would always use the Lyft app over the regular taxi companies. The drivers are friendlier, I felt safer, and the process was about 100x easier and faster.

It’s ironic, of course, that a person hired to punish these services actually prefers them over the city-favored taxi alternative.