Bolt’s safety procedures failed me when I needed them most

Today we have to urge you to avoid using Bolt.

On Monday morning I requested a Bolt ride in Johannesburg. During the ride the driver became fed up with my requests regarding the location of the seatbelt and moved to end the ride. Upon exiting the vehicle the driver thought I had slammed the car door and began berating me.

For a good 10 minutes the driver tried to assault me, poke me and threatened me. At one stage he even moved to grab my smartphone.

While I maintain that I didn’t slam the door, and never intended to, the driver would say something different and we could go back and forth on this matter.

What concerns me is how the driver behaved during this altercation. Rather than simply leaving me a bad rating, the driver exited their vehicle and proceeded to poke me with their keys, attempted to hit me, swore at me and threatened to break my phone when I attempted to call the police.

It was only when I bluffed that I was reporting an incident to police rather loudly that the drive left me alone.

While I’m no rugby player, I’m a big man with a booming voice that stands around 1.8m tall. My size and gender grant me certain privileges that I am aware of and it’s concerning that in spite of this, in a public space in broad daylight, a Bolt driver was confident to attempt an assault on a passenger.

What if this incident took place with a woman, at night on a side street with no witnesses? It’s a jarring thought to have and one that I can’t help but circle back to.

After almost a day of tapping up resources we finally found the contact details of Bolt’s press officer in South Africa. We recounted what had happened and were assured a support agent would contact us.

A few minutes later a team leader at Bolt contacted us.

We were informed that the driver had been blocked from using the app by the team leader themselves. An apology was offered and I jumped on the chance to find out more about Bolt’s processes.

As I highlighted to the team leader, the fact that it took a member of the press reaching out to Bolt for comment on a story before any call was made was alarming. We were told that these sorts of calls are made at Bolt’s discretion. Seemingly, an attack on a customer by one of Bolt’s drivers is not a scenario worthy of a phone call then.

What’s more is that we don’t know how long this driver was scooting about town potentially assaulting other passengers in the time it took Bolt to take action.

This is alarming as when I used Bolt’s processes and submitted a query via support my message simply read “Driver attacked and swore at me”. This received a canned response from a bot and then only three hours later did a human on Bolt’s support team respond.

“Hi Brendyn! Thank you for reaching out to Bolt. We are really concerned to hear about the driver attacking you and swearing at you. Are you okay? Bolt takes such matters seriously so we appreciate you reporting this to us. Could please let us know more about what happened leading to the driver attacking you? Looking forward to your response,” read the support message signed by Bolt’s Safety team.

We asked the team leader whether three hours is an acceptable response time and we were told that in an incident such as this, the response from the team should have happened within one hour. Why did I not receive a response within an hour?

“Bolt apologises that your query was not responded as quickly as it should have as there was a high volume of queries not all safety related on the day,” the firm informed us. The firm promises it’s working to resolve these issues faster but provides no clarity on how it intends to do this.

We also enquired about how riders should report safety incidents. Bolt informed us that South Africans should use the app or email southafrica[at]bolt[dot]eu. This is highly problematic because it appears as if all emails whether about assault or salt left in the back seat, get sent to the same email address. Using the in-app support log is also a gamble as if there are a high number of support requests, you have to get in line.

The lack of safety features within Bolt’s app, the fact the safety team let us down so magnificently and Bolt’s days long response time to queries from press paint an alarming picture of the company. At the very least Bolt should allow users to contact a support centre to speak to a human but that would require investment into the South African market, something Bolt is reluctant to do given our experience with the firm thus far.

While Bolt offers competitive rates, you are quite literally taking your life into your own hands when you get into a vehicle associated with the app. In our own anecdotal experience, Bolt vehicles aren’t well maintained, the drivers have a terrible attitude and the support system is woeful.

Between this incident, the days it takes for Bolt to respond and the general impression we have of the service given comments online, we urge you to delete Bolt.

We live in hope that Bolt will improve, but until such time, the risk of the safety team not responding to urgent matters and the failure of the firm’s processes means that anybody could find themselves in a worse situation with a bot responding to your pleas for help.


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