Monday, 24 September 2012

Taxi Driver Perspective: Errant Cabbies vs Demanding Passengers

John Andrew informs the following on 23/09/2012:

Hi, I am John Andrew, Just recently knighted as a Cab/Taxi Driver with Comfort Cab these past 6 months. I was serving the Army as a Regular for the past 35 years. After all these years serving the Nation I decided that I shall be my own Boss and at the same time attend to my Charity works, social services as well as Counselling in order to keep my Counselling Psychology Degree current. Well so much about myself and now to write my views and observation on the topic I have chosen to share.

I do agree that we do have reckless, unruly drivers etc. but we Cabbies do too have very highly demanding passengers too. There are passengers (pax) who thinks cabbies should know every "creeks and nooks" in Singapore. I beg to differ. Singapore as we native Singaporeans know for a fact that roads, buildings, places in and around Singapore changes over time and it is tough to keep track of the changes. And the routes that changes over time.

Unlike the Countries I have travelled for e.g Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, New Zealand... These places, roads and buildings remains unchanged. So is it right to say been born in a particular Country or commonly known as natives of one Country, Cabbies should know all the places in Singapore then I must agree to disagree to say the least. Sadly, it isn't the case. And I want to reiterate that when a cabby asked which route you prefer to take does not necessarily means we do not know the way,instead we cabby want to know your preferred to avoid being accused of taking a longer distance.

In these past 4 months, driving a cab in Singapore, please allow me to share my experiences or my encounters with Pax and you be the judge:

a. As far as possible, I will almost always ask my pax after greeting them, "is there any specific route you want me to take". And normally the answer from the Pax would, "Fastest and the Shortest route." No Thank You, No Please, and No Greetings Returned.

b. Most pax especially, the Foreigners, almost always assume (ass u me) that our Cabbies are all out to cheat on them by taking the longest route, checking our taxi meter with ostrich neck movements, and worst still taking out their toy phones and googling the route we are traveling to penalize us for not going the other direction etc. My view on this is, Your shortest route may not be my shortest route. As a cabby, I choose to travel routes that are less congested or faster because I rather pick more passengers at various stops then to be stuck with one pax for long. it does not pack monetary sense.
N.B: I try as often to explain that in Singapore Cabbies who are found flouting the rules or cheating pax in terms of taking longer than perceived routes can be penalized by LTA.

c. Then there are Pax who books a call and at the same time waits on a another Taxi by the by. And the moment a taxi comes along their way they take that taxi and cancels your booking. This has happen many many times with me and I am certain it happens with other cabbies too. Not bearing in mind that usually when a call is made and when take the bookings we have to make u-turns and turns to rush to the callers location only to disappointed with a rude cancellations. And this happens far too often that affects our business as it is becoming too rampant. And most of the time it's a foreigner who abuses the booking system here in Singapore.

d. I have also encountered pax who directs you through a certain route and when they suddenly gets disorientated with the route accuses the Cabbies by remarking, "You take on from here you are the cabby and you should know the routes? Come on excuse me, you bring us to a unknown destination or location and ask us to navigate from there is that fair on us Cabbies.

e. And to make matters worst the insist on paying us less than what is shown on the meter as a discount for taking them for a ride so they claimed. Often we Cabbies will just bite the bullet and receive our dues rather to engage with an argument with these sort of nasty pax or cheapo pax.

f. Then there are pax who expects you to drive fast so that they can reach their location faster because they are late for work or their appointments etc. If we comply we are good Cabby otherwise they rant and vent their grudges and anger on us.

g. How about pax who makes a booking and make you wait 5 to 10 mins but if you make the pax wait 2 to 3 mins they grumble and cry mother and cry father. Looks like damn you do and damn you don't.

h. But having said all of the above, I must admit we do have great pax who are friendly, greets you with please, thank you and above all treats us cabbies with dignity. But to dwelve into these I shall write about it in my next sharing.

Thank you for reading and forgive me if I sound nagging and intolerant due to lack of patience and understanding. God Bless and Have a Blessed Day.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Taxi Driver Perspective: Be a Considerate Passenger

'Sir Nelspruit' informs the following on 13/09/2012:

Let me add some further points/perspective to the 3 written earlier.

d) Passengers Staying in Nearby Locations

Now I'm sure this may have happened to many passengers over the course of their ridership in taxis. That is: when you join a taxi queue and then tell the driver your are going nearby. This happens quite frequently to passengers at Changi Airport returning home to places to Pasir Ris/Tampines. In fact I picked up 1 such passenger last night.
Or you perhaps after a night out in town want to go to Newton or Spize River Valley, or if at Woodlands Checkpoint or the Zoo and want to return home to Woodlands. I think you get my point.

What does happen occasionally, is that you get drivers who moan and groan at your destination, or worse driver erratically and abuse you. Some even threaten to drop you off at the expressway! This is totally unacceptable.

Look, you have a right to buy a house where ever you want, and unless the driver is willing to buy you a home at his expense somewhere further, I don't see what justification is there to abuse a passenger. Anyway he doesn't complain when he gets a fare to Jurong or Town (City centre), why must he complain when he gets Tampines (from the airport).

There is a golden rule - if you queue you don't complain or choose, when you get not so good fares. You don't want to experience this, don't queue up. Like last night, I was in 2 minds should I stay back at the airport for a fare or go somewhere else, say East Coast? Always a possibility I could get Tampines and make my time waiting not so productive. It is a risk I took, and when you gamble, there's always a possibility you might not win. So why should I take my frustration out on the passenger, who is totally innocent and wants to go home? He or she is not asking for a free ride is she?

So remember this, no choosing when lining up, tell the driver if he don't like to face such possibilities, don't queue up, he can put his change shift location and ask normal street fares, but in a queue, pick and go wherever the pax wants. Similarly if I was behind a driver who refuses to pick up a fare (the first in line): I will also not pick the fare, instead tell the fare to take the first one or complain. If the fare does get into my cab, rest assured I will ask the pax for his details so I can register a complain with LTA.
You can't always expect to have your cake and eat it. Don't be bullied by such tactics.

That said, sometimes a bit of understanding is not misplaced. Sometimes during street hire, a driver may ask you for your destination, maybe he or she has a prior appointment with a little bit of time to kill or wants to head to a particular destination for that appointment (could be a family matter as is usually the case). I think in such circumstances a little bit of give and take is fair, because the LTA has this stupid rule that changing shift is purely for that - changing shift, so if the driver's family member has something on that he has to attend, he cannot put changing shift only busy - which is a waste, since he can help some passenger going to that location he is going.

I know that the reason for not allowing this, is because some abuse this and always put changing shift to avoid going to 'unproductive locations' but I think a bit more common sense and a proper case to case study in determining what punishments (if any) should be meted out. But the irony is that a single hirer with no relief can never put changing shift, he can only put busy! So if I am such a driver and want to go home to AMK and stop for the day, I am not allowed to put changing shift because I have no relief! LTA it appears only makes rules to punish but not rules to study and understand the problems on the ground, causing such rules to have to be continously flouted, because it's not practical.

e) Card Payments

It is true that there has been a lot of technology in place to encourage a more cashless society. And it is not misplaced, it is a good idea and saves you the trouble of always drawing money to pay for stuff, some of which may be spur of the moment needs or buys. Imagine having to draw cash every single time - that can be quite a hassle!

However, there are certain things to remember, when you use a card - a) some shops demand a minimum purchase for using it b) you definitely pay more for it and most crucially the following - c) you must have cash in your account to pay for it and d) the system has to be working to accept such payment - your card could be unreadable or the system might be down. So there is always a definite risk in paying by card that such a payment might not be available.

Now taxis are not fixed shops, where you can terminate the purchase by not buying the goods. In taxis you pay for a service like a meal in a restaurant, after the service has been provided. If you did not bring sufficient cash, then things can be sticky and lead to problems both for yourself and the driver.
So if you intend to pay by card, please check before boarding that the system is working in the cab or that the machine can accept your type of card. (Different companies and taxis have different operating systems, so not all cards are acceptable by certain machines).

Of course there are some cabbies who refuse cards for some reason or the other - again fairly or unfairly to the pax's point of view. I am not trying to justify such actions, but I understand why. If I am a hirer (the one who leases the cab), I would have no problems with card payment. Why? Because payment goes directly into my account and the company can deduct the rental from it and I only need to top up the difference if any. It saves me the time to raise the figure and deposit into the bank. Therefore the more passengers paying by card, the better.

But if I am the relief, then it might be so good. Why? Because I have to pay the daily rental and diesel consumption by cash daily (to the hirer) and pocket whatever difference. Therefore as a relief I must have a certain amount of cash 'to roll' daily. Add to the fact that payments made by card after 10pm get deposited the day after (not the next day at 6pm), and payments made after 10pm Thursday only become available at 6pm on Monday (Tuesday if a public holiday is in between), and you can see a problem I will face, if I need cash to pay for my and my family needs on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, not forgetting that I still have to pay the rental and diesel in cash too. This of course if I drive with Comfort, other companies card payment return system (to the driver) might take a few more days longer.

So therein lies a problem that remains up to now. Perhaps it's time for companies to look at this issue better and offer better incentives or rebate for card payments to their drivers, instead of leaving them to drivers to have to choose between offering better service to the passenger or their family needs. Between the 2, I am sure you know which the driver will choose.

In short, by never addressing problems for drivers, companies or the authorities in drawing rules, inevitably make the passengers bear the brunt of whatever flaws they have in their rules, even if these rules are supposed made to 'help passengers or ensure better service'.

Back to my suggestion. I think it's fair if your trip is over $15 and you pay by card, if you're short of cash. But try to have at least $10-15 in cash before boarding a cab. I think it saves the hassle of having to find an ATM along the way. Of course sometimes the system is genuinely down (my cab's system has a mind of it's own, sometimes it's ok, sometimes it accepts only credit card but not NETs - I dunno why and really I don't have the time to drive down and get a full system check and deprive the hours needed to find fares).

Whatever it is (I do realise sometimes some pax have to pay my cards issued by their company for claims), always check before boarding and where possible pay by cash, if you can.

f) Please Do Not Eat in a Cab

You heard the saying - 1 man's meat is another's poison. So try not to consume food in a cab. If you must, ask permission first from the driver. If he allows, well and good, if not, then wait until your destination. Eating in cabs is not allowed, but nobody bothers. There will never be a fine for this - just another 'rule' that has lost its' practicality.

But eating does pose some problems for the driver and the passenger after you. Your crumbs will somehow find its' way into crevices and this will attract cockroaches over time. The smell will linger in cab and future passengers will have to put up with this. Not a very nice thing is it? And the driver has to clean up after you left, especially if you left used tissues and wrappers behind.

And not all food smells nice, I am not a Muslim, but I don't like pork, so the smell of pork in the cab can be quite nauseating to me, what more a Muslim passenger later. The same goes for other meats like beef for instance or fried food. Try leaving fried food in an air-conditioned setting for 20 minutes, the smell of oil will permeate the room.

If you're hungry eat first then board the cab, multi tasking is not appreciated here. I won't pick passengers eating food while hailing for a cab. But I have had some passengers ask me nicely to eat in the cab, and this I do allow, advising them to eat carefully while I drive slower and open the windows.

So a bit of common sense please, imagine if I, stranger, got into your family car and started eating, how would you feel?

Ok that's this for now, perhaps a few more things later on. Please feel free to comment on my pointers and giver your reasons whether you agree or not, thanks.
And thank YOU for providing us with such detailed advice!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Taxi Driver Perspective: Be a Smarter Passenger

'Sir Nelspruit' informs the following on 10/09/2012:

Let me offer some advise, tips and explanations for the taxi passengers.

Now not all of these advise/explanations may sound reasonable, especially if 1 adopts the attitude - Look, the passengers are paying for a service, they deserve to accorded a superior service (where possible) and have every right to demand or have high expectations, - in short - The Customer Is Always Right Policy.
Which on paper, no one can argue, but sometimes the situation on the ground or reality is different, and the passenger has to accede some (to the driver) or forgo some expectations.

The primary duty of the driver is to send the passenger in the shortest/cheapest route to his/her destination, unless otherwise directed. That is the service the customer is paying for, this is the basic requirement, which also includes safety and in relative comfort.
So in order to fulfill/ensure this, here are some things a passenger can do, must understand, expect and sometimes accept.

a) There is almost always no such thing as the Cheapest. Shortest and Fastest route. (There might be some instances but I think it's only like 5% of the time). Here we are assuming normal traffic, not rush hour or when congested.

Fastest normally means taking an expressway, with no traffic lights to worry. And expressways are usually constructed to go around (not into) estates, meaning a loop. So that means going longer distances, as such you will usually pay more, but arrive faster.

Shortest and invariably, cheapest, means you go through normal roads directly to your destination, but you will of course be subject to traffic lights. But if the traffic lights change normally (no congestion at intersections) or if you get a 'green flow' of lights, your fare will almost always be cheaper than going the expressway route . Eg if from Yishun you wanna go to Bishan J8, via the CTE exit AMK Ave 1, you will arrive faster than if you went via Lentor, AMK Ave 6 and 8.

So make up your mind, which you prefer and instruct the driver, and this leads to.....

b) Inform the driver of your destination and instruct him on the route your prefer. Do not assume he will know the route you had intended, unless it's very obvious, say from Clark Quay to Spize River Valley.

Signal your intentions early, don't wait until the last moment or after he's passed the exit or turn off point you wanted. If you go to and from work in a particular way it's better to advise, something I try to ask pax obviously going or coming from work. They are so used to particular route, whether long or short, any deviation can cause anxiety especially if one is running late for work.
Give directions where possible, and if the driver asks for it, please give it instead of being frustrated. Some drivers are new, but some like myself, also don't know the way around certain estates, or only know 1 or maximum 2 ways, which might not be the one you want or it might be much longer.

I know there are some drivers who simply cannot accept being told how or what to do, and they take offence, which is silly and wrong. Unless it's very obvious, then this becomes irritating being reminded where to turn when I already notified you I know the route. But this is a small matter for drivers, but can quite important for passengers. Besides I mean why should you pay more for something you always pay at a certain price day in, day out? I know, I won't be happy about it.

I concede there are definitely some, who will 'act blur' purposely take a longer route in order to gain a few extra dollars. So you should nip this in the bud and give directions. If the driver insists on going his own way ignoring yours or starts to drive erratically, do not get into further arguments, as he's holding the wheel and angry road users inevitably get involved in accidents sooner or later. Instead take a video of this and inform Lee Fong and she'll advise on the steps you need to take. If at any point you feel in danger, call the police, giving your location or intended destination. I'm sure the 999 operator will be able to advise you accordingly.

If the driver just goes the long way or ignores your route, then can still report. Again Lee Fong will advise. However if the driver advises your route might not be such a good idea, say a congestion is ahead / along the way, or he has a better (cheaper or faster) route, it might not be a bad idea to accept his advise.

c) Do not wait too long for a taxi, when there are none available. I think 20-25 mins should be the absolute maximum. Or if after 15-20 mins, still no cab, try booking for one. I mean it's $3.30, which is better, spend that $3.30 or keep waiting for 30 mins or more?

If after calling or IPhone booking, you still can't get through. No point in continuing to wait, call and get more frustrated. Take a bus or train to a location where more taxis are available, or take the bus/train home altogether. Or if you need to take a cab, then wait until the demand subsides.

Waiting at the end of 1 way streets, or the last few taxi-stands in a 1 way street, is not a good idea during the peak of demand, as you'll be served last, if at all.
Unfortunately there is also a CBD surcharge ($3) from 5pm to midnight, meaning that the areas just preceding the zone, might be very hard to procure a cab. If you are waiting at Arab Street, Raffles Hospital, Scotts Road, Keppel Road, Cantoment Road, Outram MRT etc, these are not good locations for catching a cab. Why? Because if the driver drives 500m - 800m more, he will be in the zone and be able to collect that extra $3.

This is wrong you protest, and I accept that, but practically isn't this the obvious thing to do? Isn't it human nature? Another 500m, not even 10 secs, you earn $3, wouldn't you do it if you were in his shoes? You might say you won't but if you drove a cab, and realised that things like rent and diesel have gone up and you need to earn a certain figure to keep your family going, you'd be forced to drive that extra 500m for the $3.

So don't wait just outside the zone for a lengthy period, if there are no cabs available. Walk that 500m, and pay the $3 for saving your time and avoiding getting angry and frustrated. 
Thank you for sharing these pointers!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Taxi Driver Perspective: Not Every Incident Needs to be Reported

'Sir Nelspruit' informs the following on 04/09/2012:

I must admit I have been amused to read your blog and some of the posts.

As a cabby, I realise that yes there are certain incidents that must be lodged and corrective action needs to be taken.

In fact I myself complained against a driver (whose vehicle number incidentally was mentioned in 1 of the complaints made here subsequently). That driver received a 2 week ban and fine from LTA for my complaint.

Yes, genuine complaints should go to LTA as you suggest.

However why my amusement? I think you take things a bit too far and have become over-zealous in your pursuit. Doing so will eventually trivialise the efforts you seek to root out the really bad drivers - those who cheat, overcharge and abuse passengers.

Why I say this? Because you advise every single complainant to refer the matter to LTA. There are certain things like mentioned above that needs drastic enforcement action, but other actions should be done in the appropriate forum (or agency).

You shouldn't be advising complainants who have accidents, near accidents to write to LTA. That is the purview of Traffic Police. Similarly some rude drivers will not be investigated by LTA, that goes to the respective company. In fact LTA has laid the groundwork in dealing with complaints. I'm sure you can retrieve this from their website and post it here.

The issues I mentioned earlier for sure they will investigate but other things are to be done by the respective companies or agencies. But if you advise the public to swamp LTA with every single issue, they will begin to treat some of these with a certain degree of indifference, especially if they realise (I'm sure they should have by now) that these cases were referred by you. These officers are also humans remember and as a former law enforcement officer myself, it's rather to common to suggest - 'Oh here's another complaint send in by that 'complaint queen - teo lee fung'.

I may well be wrong and you can easily say, that it's wrong for them to adopt such an attitude, but as I said, they are humans too, and it's human nature to begin to trivialise things that keep coming for every single thing from 1 source.

And don't forget, LTA is duty bound to hear and investigate both sides. Just because somebody posts something here, doesn't mean it's the whole truth. The driver has a right to defend himself or present a completely different take on what is reported.

I am not taking their side here, but just stating the facts. Some of the complaints here, are rants and you know it. You shouldn't be advising them to write to LTA as such. Disputes over who said what - these are trivial, no matter how the victim sees it. These must be taken up with the company or perhaps a better avenue to shame the driver is to Stomp it or write to the press. I'm sure doing this serves the purpose of the complaint.

Just because a driver goes the wrong way or a slightly longer route does not mean the driver is ill-intentioned to cheat. I have genuinely done this myself sometimes, but I remedy it by offering a fair discount. Anyway I also take cabs and I'm sure you do as well, and it's really very easy to spot if a driver is purposely taking you on a ride. These complaints you can correctly advise to write to LTA as it comes under their purview.

Overcharging, using vulgar language, abusing passenger - these too should go to LTA. But being rude, curt, refusing to help with luggage or some incidents here where driver had a dispute over a $50 note or ran after the pax and shouted - please lah, this one not LTA job.

And you shouldn't brandish all drivers under the same brush. There are good drivers, normal drivers, stiff drivers, slow drivers, 'really blur' drivers as well the bad ones, even those bordering on the criminal side of things. The latter are the ones you should 'sharpen your knives for' or in this case, your pen on.

Of course it's easy as you suggest to dismiss what I say, 'if you can't stand the fire get out of the kitchen' or this is the service industry, it goes with the territory. However the taxi industry here, for drivers that is, is a bit unique. Yes, there is a service to be provided but it's also a self-employment business largely with some guidelines. The primary duty of the driver is to send a passenger from point A to B in the shortest manner, or in a manner requested by the customer.

Let's face it, I can be the best ever driver you meet, super polite, helpful, honest etc, but in the end, big deal. It's not like it's gonna make much difference as long as I take from Point A to B, moreover it's not like you are gonna be taking my cab all the time.
You don't care about the driver as long as he fulfils the primary requirement why you decided to take a cab, to get to your destination. Of course this doesn't mean I can drive crazily or abuse you.

So what I say is this, no need to bother about drivers who appear unfriendly, never smile, are curt. There are always a few like that. But they mustn't cheat and abuse. Some older drivers or middle aged men are like that. These all no need to bother, no need to tip or talk much. Maybe can feedback to the company, that's it. LTA is not gonna suspend them, the company is not gonna fire them (they need to rent their vehicles out remember), nobody is gonna do anything about them, as long as they did the job they were paid to do - send you in the shortest possible way without abusing you.

I am not gonna write about my complaints about passengers because as you say, we are in service industry, we know what comes with the territory. And who can I complain to? Or what purpose does it serve me, as long as the passenger didn't assault me or refuse to pay my fare?

I will be glad to write further if you want and maybe I can offer an insight to some things and maybe even advise. I am not perfect and yes have my faults too, just as I explained to a customer last week, about the route I took. I don't cheat but sometimes I do ask customers for destination before hand, because some days I am tired, and really don't have the energy to go full blast. But I have to drive nonetheless, to earn the minimum for my family and to pay the rental. But I don't do this frequently, although I know it's wrong by law, but that is a risk I feel I have to take sometimes. Just like crossing the road, not everybody is gonna use the crossing, or driving at 60kmh on normal roads, no driver is gonna travel 60kmh on every single road all the time. Sometimes we go 70 or 80, when it's clear to do so. But we do so, knowing that it's risk that if we get caught, we get a fine.

Anyway I wish you well in your endeavours.
Thank you for your considered response at length. We will let the readers make up their minds on whether they should take our advice to report all instances to LTA or heed your recommendation that they ought to practise discretion. Please feel free to submit more of your thoughts - the readers can only benefit from such information.

Inconsiderate Driver SHA4301E Woodlands

Mr Alvin Chia informs the following on 03/09/2012:

Got to complain about this comfort cab driver.
Venue : Woodlands Dr 40 Blk 707
Time : 1805hr (6.05pm)
Car plate : SHA4301E

This Malay driver was parking inbetween 2 loading / unloading lots, for more then 15minutes.
I can't do my unloading! Thus, waited there.
When he's back with 4-5others, I asked him why park in this way?
Answer given was, JUST AWHILE, I was unhappy and said " Should you apologise ?"
The Driver was angry and said I scolded him "Shit", he started to scold all the 4 letters words like "FXXX".....
Rising his voice and scolded for few minutes, until I took out my phone and record his action then he left with his family / guests!
Attached the way he park his cab.....
I think he had spoil the image of taxi driver and comfort!
As usual, we see such ridiculous behaviour from drivers who were doing something silly to begin with. *sigh*