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Eleanor Pringle

Lyft's CEO has apologized for its 'awful' response after a driver accidentally stole a customer's cat

David Risher, CEO of Lyft. (Credit: Courtesy of Lyft)

Lyft's CEO has apologized to a customer whose cat went missing after being accidentally seized by a driver — and was then told he'd be charged $20 to get his beloved pet back.

Millions of X users followed the plight of Palash Pandey this weekend after he used a Lyft taxi to take his black and white cat, Tux, to the vet.

Pandey got out of the vehicle at Banfield Pet Hospital in Austin, Texas, but before he could walk to the passenger side door to retrieve his cat carrier from the footwell, the driver drove off.

On X, Pandey posted screenshots of the unanswered calls and messages he subsequently sent to the Lyft driver, offering the employee extra money for the safe return of his pet.

Hearing nothing back, Pandey turned to Lyft's customer service. He posted screenshots allegedly showing the customer care assistant thanking Pandey for his patience, but warning him he may have to pay a return fee for the driver's "time and effort."

Tux went missing on Friday, September 30, before Pandey posted on Monday, October 2 that Tux had been found by Lyft investigators "very tired, covered in fleas and dehydrated."

A spokesperson from Lyft confirmed the company would be covering all of Tux's veterinary bills.

Pandey did not immediately respond to Fortune's request for comment.

With the customer's thread gaining millions of interactions on X — formerly known as Twitter — Lyft CEO David Risher faced an onslaught of criticism and calls for action.

Risher, who took on the top job in April, wrote on X yesterday he agreed with the furious users slamming the company's communication and return fee policy.

"Our initial response was awful," Risher wrote. "Since then, we've done a lot behind the scenes, but I know we haven't communicated enough. We're very focused on this and will keep the community up to date."

'It's heartbreaking for us too'

With thousands of users questioning how the incident with Tux had even arisen, Risher continued to try and fill the void in communication.

It's not the first time the former Amazon executive has found himself in hot water — just days after taking on the role of CEO at the company, Risher announced hundreds of people were being laid off. Then, he caused a stir with his remaining staff by issuing a return-to-office mandate.

With Tux at large in Austin, Risher — who in a bid to convince Wall Street of his faith in the brand bought $1.1 million worth of Lyft shares — said notifications had been sent to all drivers in the area to be on the lookout for the cat.

As well as thanking customers who had sent tip-offs to the company, Risher added the driver of the vehicle in question hadn't detoured from the GPS route provided to employees between jobs — adding other customers in the vehicle that day had been contacted but had not seen Tux.

The driver was deactivated on the Lyft platform on October 2.

"We’ve been working on this for 24 hours," Risher, a Harvard Business School graduate, posted on Monday night. "Our first response was awful, but we’ve now alerted every driver and rider in the area, and we’re not done. We’ve also spoken to the rider and driver multiple times. It’s heartbreaking for us too— please don’t think we’re taking this lightly."

When Pandey posted that Tux was home safe, Risher responded he was "very sorry" the incident had occurred, adding: "And very glad to see you happily reunited! Hope @lyft can remain a part of your life."

A Lyft spokesperson added to Fortune:"We are focused on ensuring Tux has everything she needs right now, including covering all of her veterinary bills. We’ll continue to work directly with Palash to provide the support that they both need.

"We are actively working with all involved to fully understand the situation — to help prevent it from happening again. We’re evaluating our policies to improve support for our community, including in cases like this."

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