Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fair fight?

Guess what Bong, the riding public doesn't give a rat's ass if you and your fellow operators lose money because of Uber. For years we've had to put up with old cabs with leaking LPG tanks and irate drivers who negotiate prices or, worse, refuse certain fares. All this time taxi operators have been collecting a set "boundary" -- rent paid by the driver for using the vehicle -- regardless whether said driver makes money or not. (This is on top of the money he spends on gas).

This feudal policy has resulted in drivers working 24 hours straight, fueled by Cobra yet still barely awake at intersections. Drivers who, as rational agents, have resorted to using what they have (i.e. the scarcity of cabs during rush hour) to get what they need (add-ons to the fare or shorter trips).

Dear passengers, it's not that your taxi driver is greedy; He's like that because he has only a few hours a day to reach his quota. He refuses to take you to / through heavy traffic because it's an opportunity cost for him.

The question is: where were you, taxi operators, when all this was going down? Did your organization do anything to improve the quality of taxis in the metro? Nope. You were happily collecting the cash. And now that there's a solution that filled the gap in the market, you come crying to Congress.

Fair fight?

All this talk of wanting a "fair fight" just falls on unsympathetic commuter ears. Taxi operators have been screwing both drivers and passengers for years, resulting in a deterioration of service and a general mistrust of taxicabs.

And while theoretically taxicabs are accountable for any violations, the entire process for lodging complaints just turns the average commuter off. Meanwhile, the Uber app allows the user to rate drivers and submit comments immediately after the ride. This type of feedback is more useful from a customer service standpoint than an administrative or criminal case. If a driver pisses off enough passengers, he'll eventually get booted out of the system.

Fix the problem

It's like the Metro Manila Film Festival. We sympathize with local film producers who don't want to compete with flashy Hollywood productions but we can't bring ourselves to support another installment of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll." People want quality in general, and we're not getting that from what you're showing us.

So as much as we'd like to help the local taxi industry, the fact that I'm still getting rejected at rush hour and some drivers insist on debating politics or (I swear this is true) practicing a stand-up routine, makes me reach for my phone when I want to get somewhere.

Let the better man win

Limited market

But if you think about it, Uber isn't really a threat. The fact that it requires both a credit card and a smartphone data plan automatically narrows the market. And while upscale office workers and expats have glommed onto it, the general public will still need taxis to take them to the airport. Your tita, (the middle class one) will still fall in line outside Glorietta 3 to get a cab the traditional way. (That, or she calls R&E's landline to make pasundo)

In fact, the number of taxis is way greater than private Uber cars that it doesn't really matter that much. Fix your service and we'll gladly ride cabs again.

If you can't beat 'em

Rumor has it that Basic Taxi has just acquired 60 new sedans to register under Uber. Let's just hope that they treat their drivers the way good Uber partners do. Eventually they'll learn that treating drivers like actual valued employees / partners instead of serfs results in a better experience for everyone.

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