SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Lyft is digging itself out of a public relations mess after angry drivers claim the ride-sharing company failed to deliver a $1,000 bonus advertised to new recruits and those referring them.

In an effort to grow its driver community and compete with internationally expanding rival Uber, Lyft launched the promotional campaign Feb. 27. It promised new drivers — and in some cities, their referrers — a $1,000 sign-up bonus if they passed a DMV and background check, and completed their first ride by March 5.

Turns out the new referral deal “brought the biggest wave of applicants in Lyft history,” according to an email sent out by Lyft to its drivers and applicants. The email went on to say the new people who signed up for the promotion may not all qualify for the bonus.

People on ride-sharing forums and Facebook began calling the whole promotion a trick to sign up as many Lyft drivers as possible without have to pay the bonuses.

“So it looks like Lyft has totally just screwed over everyone,” said one post. “They tricked tens of thousands of new drivers into signing up and made it impossible to qualify for the terms of their promotion.”

Then late Thursday night, Lyft co-founder John Zimmer sent an email to drivers apologizing, stating that the company “learned a lesson this week” and would extend the deadline to March 12.

Zimmer added, “We owe it to the driver community and our passengers to make sure our approval process is rigorous and complete. All elements of our safety process are imperative and can take time — that means some applications haven’t been approved yet even though the applicant’s DMV and background checks are in. We know this can be frustrating.”

It’s a relief for some drivers, but others say the message is confusing and doesn’t explain exactly what the extension covers.

Before Zimmer’s email, a group of drivers were threatening to strike at Lift headquarters in San Francisco Thursday, while others threatened lawsuits. As Lyft tries to do damage control, many new drives who applied will be anxiously waiting in the passenger seat until March 12.

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