In recent years, as Uber battled a public relations nightmare, Lyft positioned itself as the ethical choice in rideshare. It noted in its IPO filing, "As a part of our ongoing commitment to social impact and improving the communities we serve, we expect to invest the greater of 1 percent of our profits or $50 million annually toward our social impact efforts."
"It is up to investors to ensure that companies claiming this moniker are truly implementing such practices and not just greenwashing their services," Fugere said.
Driver-organizer Moore had a message for investors who believe their dollars include a conscience: "People who worry about ethical investments and have stock portfolios and don't want to invest in guns or tobacco, why would you want to invest in a poverty pimp?"
She said Uber and Lyft are "Exxon Mobil meets Walmart" and she does not distinguish between the two. "There is no 'better' one."
Campbell, who remains a part-time driver, does not have nearly as negative a view of these companies. He said Lyft has, to its credit, historically had the more driver-friendly image for a reason: It was the first to offer tips, had "power driver" bonuses before Uber and offered other tangible products and services that were more driver-friendly, and all of which forced more competition on improving the experience for drivers. But he also said the overall number of drivers striking this past week impressed him. "I was skeptical, and surprised how organized it was."
The bonus that Lyft offered drivers to coincide with the IPO was nice, and something many drivers asked him about because it was the only way their contributions to the business success could be recognized in the IPO event. But it was the minority of drivers who were eligible.
"Pay for drivers has gone down over the past five years while the companies are bringing in more money and doing more rides than ever and valuations are higher than ever," Campbell said. "The bonus? It's something. I've done a thousand rides for Lyft, someone who has done 10,000 rides is a lot more important.
"They didn't have to do it, but for the most part it won't have a big boost to their image," he said. "Over time, if you ask me if Lyft or Uber are really distinguishing themselves from a driver point of view, it seems like they are becoming more similar than ever. From a cold-hearted business perspective, it won't improve bottom line driver retention."
"People are choosing Lyft," co-founder and president John Zimmer said told CNBC on Friday. "Lyft is focused on consumer transportation, focused on North America, and focused on taking care of our drivers and passengers, and that's paying off."
By Tuesday, Lyft's stock had fallen below its IPO price of $72, though the reason was much more likely to be concerns about valuation and the lack of near-term profits rather than any social concerns. Campbell said when drivers entitled to the IPO bonus asked him about whether they should get in on the deal, his hesitance to recommend the deal was simple and unrelated to his rideshare expertise specifically: It was hard for him to understand how a company losing billions of dollars deserved a valuation in the tens of billions of dollars range.
"We're ready to be held accountable. We're excited," Zimmer told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin in an interview on "Squawk Box" on its first day of trading. Zimmer was referring to the financial performance.
Lyft's mission-driven language has worked on some consumers, who chose Lyft over Uber in recent years and felt that made them part of a virtuous club of riders.
But for investors who are willing to believe there is a similar "ethical" or "goodness" premium about the market's newest publicly traded stock, know this: You might be taken for a ride.