(This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.)
A week ago, the unthinkable happened: my wife, carrying the only set of keys between us, left them in the back seat of an Uber. We discovered this only after we arrived at our apartment several hours later and weren’t able to open the door. While my wife wiped sweat from her brow and tried to find an inexpensive locksmith, I went through the dicey process of attempting to find out where her keys were.
One of the most frequent questions I see asked on Uber-related message boards and on social media is what to do about lost items left in the back of an Uber or Lyft. Unlike taxis or other forms of public transit, there isn’t a home office that you can go to at the end of the day to see if anyone has turned anything in. Your only recourse is to contact the driver directly and see if they have your lost item and are willing to return it.
To contact your driver, you can either report a lost item using the app or (in the likely case that you’ve lost your phone) via the ride-share company’s website.
Second step is to hope your driver actually responds. An on-duty driver probably isn’t going to get back to you right away no matter how much you want them to, since they’re dealing with other passengers, so you might want to wait until later. Even then, for whatever reason, be it dishonesty, laziness, or something else, a good percentage of drivers will just ignore attempts to contact them. (Our Uber driver never got back in touch with us about my wife’s keys.) Unfortunately if this happens your odds of getting your lost item back are slim to none. Don’t expect the companies to be much help in this matter, either. Unless you have solid proof that a driver has possession of something you lost (and let’s be real, you don’t) and are willing to get the police involved, your recovery efforts have hit an impasse.
But let’s be positive and say that your driver has found your missing item and is willing to talk to you. Arrange a time and place to meet up. Most people will want the driver to simply meet them where they live or work, which is fine. You should also mention that you’re willing to compensate the driver for his or her time and effort. This isn’t a bribe, as some people have called it, but a recognition that driving twenty miles out of your way costs money. What, you didn’t think your Uber driver lived around the corner from you, did you? I’ve had to deal with three missing cell phones, and two of them required a thirty-minute drive one-way to return. The third one would have needed a two-hour drive, so my passenger and I mutually decided to mail it back to her. Yes, mailing lost items is also an option, but you should be willing to pay for it yourself (Lyft will actually assist with shipping costs).
Ultimately, the best advice I can give about lost items is don’t lose them. Check your seats before jumping out of the car, and make sure that the contents of your pockets are secure. It can save you a lot of time, headaches, and money. Seriously, do you know how much it costs to call a locksmith on a Sunday?
Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!