Driver shows the aftermath of an unruly and abusive Toronto-bound Lyft passenger
Rideshare operators have never had it easy in the Greater Toronto Area, and one Lyft driver is serving up a reminder of just how unpleasant life on the road can be when working for the big players in the industry.
Toronto — and by association its suburbs — is known to have some of the worst rideshare passengers in Canada, and while drivers have also been known to do outrageously terrible things behind the wheel, they do so with their jobs on the line.
Passengers rarely have as much at stake, as exhibited in one display on a recent Lyft ride where a driver alleges they faced body-shaming insults and lotion intentionally smeared all over their car's interior.
Earla Phillips, a rideshare driver with Uber and Lyft and a vocal advocate for rideshare drivers' rights in Ontario, picked up a passenger in Ajax on Saturday afternoon who was headed to the Morningside and Sheppard area in Scarborough.
Phillips tells blogTO that "Lyft doesn't allow us to negotiate or enforce mask-wearing nor cancelling for those reasons," claiming drivers are instead threatened with the deactivation of their accounts if they complain.
She accepted a passenger from an account with the name Ashley in the Kingston Road and Highway 2 area of Ajax, and upon picking up the passenger, Phillips told her that she would prefer that the passenger wore a mask. The passenger didn't have one, so Phillips opted to leave all windows down roughly one inch to allow air to circulate.
This wasn't sitting well with the passenger, who, according to Phillips, first asked that her rear passenger window be rolled up, and then asked that all the other windows be rolled up.
It's worth noting that this occurred on Highway 401, and while Phillips understandably wanted to keep the car well-ventilated, it must've been a windy experience for the passenger.
When Phillips refused to roll up the remaining windows all the way, the passenger reportedly challenged her, requiring an explanation from the driver.
"She asks why and I go explain and since I have a plexi-shield it makes it difficult to hear clearly. I explain air circulation because of COVID and she plays dumb. She started filming me and baiting me."
The situation continued to escalate, and at a certain point Phillips told the passenger that she "would be ending the ride as soon as I exit the highway."
Phillips was already exiting the highway when the passenger opened the door of the fast-moving vehicle. In a clip of the incident recorded on an interior dashcam, you can see Phillips' eyes widen upon noticing the danger of the situation.
The passenger denies opening the door, despite it being captured on dashcam, and Phillips then pulls into the Shops at Pickering Ridge, a mall at Brock Road and Highway 401, with the intent of kicking the passenger out.
"I pull into the first driveway above the highway, and I don't even park. Just stopped, turned off the car and ended the ride. Told her it was over and to please leave the vehicle. She refused, so I stepped away to report to Lyft, who told me to call the police. While I am on the line, she reports falsely to Lyft saying I am intoxicated with drugs."
At that point, Phillips had had enough, calling the police as the customer allegedly hurled insults and refused to leave the car.
"All this time, I am repeatedly called a bitch while she holds my car, basically trespassing now and holding me hostage."
OK so rider basically held me hostage by refusing to leave my car. Ehy? Because Ieouldn't close the window... she had no mask. Filmed me the entire time while calling me names like Bitch... called @lyft and filed a complaint pic.twitter.com/S4swiwjqhl— Earla Phillips (@earlwithana) May 21, 2022
During the wait for the police to arrive, the passenger — seemingly in no hurry to get to their destination — is alleged to have feigned leaving the scene only to hop back in Phillips' car in a fake-out taunt.
The passenger would eventually get tired of messing with Phillips, though while walking away, she got a few last verbal jabs in.
Phillips claims this included an attempt at body-shaming her, the passenger "telling me to fix my body while she pulls up her top to show off her six-pack abs," and calling her a "fat f***ing bitch" as she left the scene in a friend's car.
Then the rider fat shames me and wishes me good luck! While her companion uses racist comments.... This is the shit that drivers deal with and get deactivated falsely over! pic.twitter.com/w4yys5LxF8— Earla Phillips (@earlwithana) May 21, 2022
Thinking that was the last of the debacle, Phillips returned to her car, only "to find some product all over the back seats, floor and on the driver's seat."
She took photos and called Lyft, who told her to wait for their email and follow directions about filing documentation for the cleaning claim. Durham Regional Police arrived and took her report, but that was still not the end of the headache.
Passenger files a false complaint of intoxication against me and while we're waiting for the police proceeds to dump a bunch of stuff like lotion all over my seats to prevent me from working pic.twitter.com/S6vRiQv9ym— Earla Phillips (@earlwithana) May 21, 2022
Phillips claims that she was "deactivated by Lyft for the false complaint, although I have been reactivated."
Still, Lyft refuses to compensate her for the cleaning because she didn't send them all of the required documentation within two hours.
"It is not easy to send everything in two hours considering I was what 60 or so kilometres from home, dealing with the police, and couldn't sit on my seat because of the crap she dumped on the seats. Couldn't find a carwash/detailing place right away and had to sit on a plastic bag to go home."
Adding insult to injury, she says that "Lyft refuses to respond to any of my emails."
blogTO reached out to Lyft for their side of the story, giving the company four hours — exactly twice the amount of time they gave Phillips to file her damage claim — though they failed to meet our deadline.
After this article was published, Phillips confirmed to blogTO that Lyft had reached out to settle the incident, telling her that they "dropped the ball," and will cover her $135 cleaning costs.
Eventually, a statement from Lyft followed, a spokesperson for the company stressing that "Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the behaviour described is unacceptable."
"When this incident was reported to us, we reached out to the driver to offer our support. The rider account has been permanently removed from the Lyft community."
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