April 17, 2017.
Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column by Aziz Hassan
FOR a long time taxis were your choice if your only car was at the workshop.
The ones that picked you up after being called by phone followed all the rules. There’s a surcharge for this over and above the normal fare.
The ones you stopped by the roadside and who immediately agreed to take you to your destination also used the meter. But as in many service sectors, there were bound to be cheats and it’s these blokes who have given the Malaysian taxi service a very bad name that is circulated all over the world via travel websites.
But the perimeters have been altered with the availability of e-hailing services Uber and Grab and at a glance it looks like more and more people will turn to these services.
There are many positives here.
Fares are usually cheaper than those charged by the taxis and are made known to the customer or rider before he confirms a pick-up, the passenger has a choice of telling the driver which route to take. Alternatively the driver uses the Waze or Google map. There is no after midnight surcharge.
However fares can be as much as what you’d pay a taxi depending on what the map shows about traffic conditions or if there is a high demand for a service in your area at a particular time. Or if the service decides to trigger the surge mode.
If you think the fare quoted by Uber is higher than normal, you can always check with Grab or vice-versa. The important thing is you have a choice.
The downside though is you cannot argue with what is shown on your handphone.
Recently I received a message that said my RM5 payment of a few nights ago didn’t work out and this amount was added on to my next fare!
But it was to either Uber or Grab that I had to try out a few weeks ago when my own wheels remained parked at a workshop for repairs.
Most of the drivers did this on a part-time basis, driving one shift of about 5 or 6 hours and usually avoiding peak hour traffic.
One has a small business that the missus is able to take care of while he becomes a fulltime Uber driver. He does split shifts of about five hours each, starting later in the morning, going home in the late afternoon before taking the road again after dinner.
His net income so far? A daily average of at least RM200.
Truly a motley crew, these people who turn to providing the service to supplement their regular income.
In the last few weeks there was an engineer who was retrenched some months ago; a cook who is contracted to work on a ship that services the oil rigs off the peninsular’s northeastern coast and was on shore leave; a motor mechanic; a man who lives in Klang and works during the day in Port Klang whose hours with the Uber service depends on when his regular day shift starts, a man who also has a homestay business and a young man who drives a delivery lorry by day.
Almost all dressed decently except once young man in his Bermuda shorts.
Of the about 30 I have used, only one was negative about almost everything, including the service that has given him an opportunity to make honest money.
This bloke in his 50s was once a taxi driver. He talked about how he left Grab after eight months due to the many complaints (against him) and has been with Uber for about a year. Maybe it’s the bad taxi driver attitude in him……
It is also heartening to see the government encouraging more people to be owner-driver of taxis instead of continuing to be short-changed by the leasing system but for these cabbies, the next challenge is to work out their own fares that can compete with Uber and Grab. Fail to do that and they may struggle to find enough rides.
A report that should not rattle Thailand
A recent report by the World Economic Forum on the travel and tourism competitiveness index for 2017 has placed Singapore tops in the region, followed by Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Those in the industry would find the biennial report a bit of surprise given Thailand’s strong numbers for last year and its projections for this year. Whatever the findings and opinions of the WEF, the statistics in terms of the number of tourists and revenue all favour Thailand so one doesn’t think Thailand would be rattled by the report and Malaysia should feel overwhelmingly excited and start congratulating itself.
There was also a rather interesting news item of the number of tourists Putrajaya expects to host this year. It is 9.2 million of them compared to last year’s 8.9 million.
You often read about the states too talking about the number of tourists they attract each year.
It does make you wonder how they are able to gather the statistics. For one, you don’t need to register yourself on entering one state from another in the peninsular. The same goes for Putrajaya.
There’s no toll plaza to do this and you don’t have to tell anyone at the Putrajaya Corporation that you are in the federal administrative capital as a visitor or tourist, unless of course you are a foreign tourist who stays at an hotel there. A foreigner visiting Putrajaya on his or her own need not tell anyone in authority about his or her presence. Neither do you see officials going around asking people if they are there as visitors or tourists.
The point about making a statement like this is that it makes you look good and that you are doing a good job. In the government sector, usually this helps in securing the next budget you are asking for.
Such a statement is also called a safe statement because no one can turn around to dispute your numbers simply because there are no official references.
No wonder statistics on our tourism sector are always in the millions – if not bigger.