I tried the Grab Taxi app today and I am fortunate to have met an adorable, wonderful, chatty and insightful cabbie who engaged in a conversation about how the app has helped to make his work easier and smarter, increase his earnings and become a better driver.
He shared about the incentives of using the app, effectiveness of the system, case studies of how cabbies and customers have been banned as a result of abusing the system. He shared enthusiastically how the app has a much lower fallout rate than the Comfort app. He spoke voraciously of his dialogue with Comfort management. At the end of the conversation, he wrapped up the conversation with a humble wish for May Day 2014: that for Comfort to grant birthday leave for their cabbies.
My cabbie is a happy worker and concludes that his company is still one of the best and he hopes they can be better by listening to their cabbies.
This is a recording of a little chat I had with the driver – and below is a transcript of the conversation I had with the cabbie, I hope you will be as delighted as I was writing it!
The conversation is 22 minutes long, the following is a typed excerpt:
Me: But why is this (Grab Taxi app) better than comfort (app)?
Cabbie: First of all, it tells me where you wanna going, where you wanna go. For me, I stay in the east. I wanna go home. Any passenger, I see east side, I pick. Comfort one, no destination. Hallo uncle, auntie, where you wanna go? I tell you, uncle, jurong point. Wah, si liao!! This is the difference.
Me: But how has this app helped you in your work?
Cabbie: Ok. First of all, when we know the destination, easier for us to plan right? So as a taxi driver, we want to maximise our profit and timing. Because the timing, the time is there, how you plan your route that’s all. So for Comfort app is, no destination at all, we don’t know where the passenger going to. If the destination is good, we plan ahead. Ok, second thing is, presently for this Grab Taxi ah, every 20 job that we do it for them ah, you must completed at least 20, then they will pay me $58.
Me: Oh, so that is the commission is it?
Cabbie: Ah, that’s, they call it cash incentive. That’s incentive to me. But, of course, every job I taken from them, I have to pay them 30 cents commission. For every job. Which is cheaper than Comfort. Comfort is 40 cents plus GST.
Me: And, there is no incentive from comfort.
Cabbie: Zero. You can take 1000 job from them, you also get zero.
Me: So, um, before this app came out and after this app came out, do you see a significant change in your earnings?
Cabbie: Yes! Yes! You see, I have one bank account set aside for this Grab Taxi ah, every Wednesday they will bank in this money, this cash incentive to me ah, so far I receive since December up till now ah, close to $1,800 know!
Me: Just based on this app, extra $1,800.
Cabbie: Yes. Extra $1,800.
Me: So that’s about 4 months lah.
Cabbie: Yah. So I parked the money there, I never touch, I park the money there. I told my wife, this one year end whole family go travel, I use the money here. Hahahahah.
Me: But is it because of the bidding system? How does the bidding system work?
Cabbie: Ok the bidding system in fact, whoever nearest the job. For comfort is, whoever faster hand, get the job.
Me: But when I search just now, there are 85 drivers nearby.
Me: So assuming that there are 5 drivers that are 0.2km exactly around my area, so which cab driver will get the job?
Cabbie: Among all the driver who bid for the job, who’s the nearest?
Cabbie: Because for you, you put in your remark – NETS. Ok so maybe not so many drivers bid for your job. Probably about 10. So meaning, I am the one nearest among the 10.
Cabbie: In fact, I just opposite your building only.
Me: What if there is another cab right next to you and also bidding?
Cabbie: He will get it. The GP will measure. The distance very accurate one. Can be something like few inches you know.
Me: Do you think there is a way that cab drivers will abuse the system?
Cabbie: Yes. There are.
Me: How so?
Cabbie: There are drivers abuse the system. And then, they got kicked off.
Cabbie: Hahaha. They got kicked off by the company! Company sometimes will SMS one you know. Ok, the following driver has misuse the app, right, so they are barred from using the app.
Me: In what sense?
Cabbie: I really don’t know. But every week your receive one long list of drivers be barred.
Me: Wow…every week?
Me: So everyone who has signed on to this app will be able to know the list of cab drivers who are banned from using this app.
Cabbie: Yes. Correct. And then, they also telling us that the following passengers will be barred also. Passengers also get barred. You know why? They booked the cab then they MIA. Just like MH370, don’t know where they passenger gone to already. Sometimes, they use the app to book and on the other hand, they use another app to book. Ok, let’s say you use Grab Taxi and at the same time, you use Comfort app. Ok, happen that Comfort cab came in earlier, then you take the Comfort cab. I mean that is fair, you must cancel the job. But then, they just leave it there, no cancellation, nothing.
Me: Oh, so do you have to call the cab driver to cancel or do you just cancel?
Cabbie: When you book the cab, you can see the button for you to do cancellation. So for Grab Taxi is, they want to build a better platform. For driver and passenger. When you take the job, you owns the cab, you must try all your best to pick up this passenger. Alright? If you book a cab, please wait for the cab. The kind of thing. If any of guy don’t follow this rule ah, then they come in, kick the fella out.
Cabbie: I know of one case is…let’s say I take your job. I went to your lobby, you are not there yet. Then one angmoh come to me. “I want to go this place this place”. I say no sorry I am on call, grab taxi call. The ang mo can take out one $50 one you know. Ok this yours, bring me to this place. Then the driver, ok come, take. And then, press cancellation whatever, go. So if you come down, eh where is the driver? So you see, they complain. I went there then the driver not there. So they track. Ok so they find out, somebody *pam pam pam*. Ok so this driver will be barred.
Me: So actually the system is quite sharp ah?
Cabbie: Yes. They have auditor every morning tracking this kind of complain you know.
Me: So do you think with this app right, there will be better customers, better cab drivers?
Cabbie: Yes yes yes yes. You ask correct point already.
Cabbie: That’s why when I on the Comfort app, if both appear at the same time, I will take this one (Grab Taxi) one first. Why? Because I notice ah, from a personal experience, I notice that MIA passengers ah that Grab Taxi app, very much lesser than Comfort. Comfort ah, during the good old days, ok every day I do 12 jobs for them ah, easily got 2 MIA one. Minimum 2. At least 1. Don’t have a day say all the 12 passengers there one know. Minimum have 1 or 2 gone. But so far, this app (Grab Taxi), do have. But very much lesser. So far, up to today, this week, I have already done 17 jobs, I yet to have a passenger never show up.
Cabbie: One time we went for the dialogue with Comfort management, we tell them about the problem. What is your view on Grab Taxi and blah blah blah. Then they ask what’s our feedback, we tell them. You have too much of these kind of MIA passengers. And then, the mentality of the management and the mentality of the Grab Taxi management, different. Because if you go to YouTube ah, you go do some searching ah, you can search for this guy, Anthony Tan. Grab Taxi Anthony Tan. Then you can see a lot of interviews.
Me: He is the founder right?
Cabbie: He is the founder. Alot of interview the mediacorp interview him. One of the chapter I watch, he say a very good thing. He say all the taxi driver are very pissed off when they reached the destination then the passenger not there. We want to build a better platform for the driver. This is his attitude, know. But for Comfort attitude is, every two month they have some kind of magazine ah for cabbie ah, they interview 6 of their top job takers. And then, some stupid questions here and there lah. But one question they ask, all these 6 top job takers ah, is talking about what do you feel about you encounter MIA passenger and 6 of them all say, it’s ok, it is piece and parcel of the job, of the cabbie. I tell the Comfort, you all put it on the paper, so meaning, to you all, your mentality is, if the passenger MIA, suay lor!! You suay that’s all lor. What can we do? We are not going to do anything. This is wrong. This is totally wrong. You have to do something. Of course if you can compensate me, I would be much happy. But I don’t think you can do that right? So, you have to do something about it. Even another app, Easy Taxi, they have this no show fee one, i went there, you not there, Easy will pay me $3.30. They pay me $3.30.
Me: So do you use the app?
Cabbie: The problem is, I have the app but I never on because I tried for a few days, not many passengers. But this (Grab Taxi) is very active. From Monday till now, I already done 17. 3 days.
Me: That’s pretty high is it?
Cabbie: Not pretty high…for those so called whole day driver ah, if they operate alone. One of my friend, he can manage. One week, every week, he can manage 70 jobs. 70 to 80 minimum. So for this Grab Taxi, presently, the incentive is, for every 20 job, the driver will be paid $58. Every 40 job, the driver will be paid $188 dollars. Only two criteria. But for another group of drivers, specially selected, if they hit 60 jobs and above ah, they will be paid $488.
Me: And that’s within how long?
Cabbie: One week. Monday to Sunday. $488 know. One of my friends, every week, he got $488. And they are given special privilege because they are specially recruited from so called their past performance. They say ok this group of drivers, very hardworking, pick them up and then they are given some kind of special privilege by the Grab Taxi. Because Grab Taxi says you work well for the company…you support the company so much…ok we take care of you. We give you this incentive, this incentive. All sorts of funny things.
Me: How did you manage to find out about this app?
Cabbie: Oh, I use it during xxx, through friend recommendation then I went to the airport, happen to bump into their staff, Grab Taxi staff was there and then they say, “You know about Grab Taxi?” I said, “I heard something from that.” They say come come we explain to you. I say ok. From there. And, because of that, I tried to use, can leh, not bad! I start to pull people in already. So for me, I have already pulled about 8.
Me: And do you get incentives from recommending people?
Cabbie: $10. For every recommendation.
Cabbie: And if I pull in 10 and these 10 fella pull in the other friends, that’s why I can see the difference during the December period ah, their job keep repeating. Meaning, nobody take. No taker. Why? Insufficient drivers. They don’t have enough drivers. So the job keep repeating. But nowadays, two times the most. Gone already. So meaning ah, they have a large pool of driver now. At any one time, if you’re at Shenton Way, you use your app to see ah, minimum 120 taxis.
Me: Yah and they don’t stop you know, even though they are not on shift…
Cabbie: Even if you see 120 Grab Taxis ah, you don’t be mistaken that 120 taxis are available know. Because some of them is with passenger. When I ferry passenger to Shenton ah, I will on the app. I see what kind of job come in. So on your screen, there is one more taxi coming in, but actually, I am not available.
Me: So apart from this app helping you to plan the journey ahead for your commuters right, how else do you think it has helped you at work? Do you feel it made you more productive…
Cabbie: More jobs lor. Because you see, last time I depend on this (Comfort app), now I depend on this (Grab Taxi app) and this (Comfort app). So I got more jobs.
Me: So do happen to be part of the National Taxi Association?
Cabbie: So far no…
Cabbie explains how taxi drivers in other operators have to drive for very long hours because they don’t have enough drivers. LTA said cabbies have to clock 250km a day and drivers are not machines, they can’t “drive and drive and drive”. He said they went to LTA website and tried the job matching but fail. The driver gave up and came over to Comfort.
Me: So overall, are you happy with Comfort?
Cabbie: You see, this is my job. Comfort, I rent the taxi from them. I respect their decision but some things they do…they say ok, you got to wear proper attire. I agree. I buy their uniform. I go and buy. $10. Company uniform. I buy. I have about 10.
Me: Is it compulsory?
Cabbie: They say you have to wear proper attire. Ok lah, I buy lor. But then, they say you cannot wear jeans. What’s wrong with wearing jeans? They say you got to wear shoe. Yah I wearing shoe…but you cannot wear jeans. I mean, what’s wrong if I wear jeans? I don’t understand know! They say wearing jeans is not proper attire. Har??? Very strange right?
Me: It is more comfortable for driving right? Cabbie: Yes yes! I feel very strange know…
Cabbie: But among all the taxi companies, Comfort is one of the best. One of the best. This kind of funny ruling cannot wear jeans…but they are still one of the best. It can be better, it can be better. If they can listen to the driver and make some improvement, I myself made several recommendations to them and they say ok ok ok and then end up nothing. Hahah.
Me: How long have you been driving uncle?
Cabbie: 8 years. Hahaha.
Me: Veteran, veteran.
Cabbie: Put it this way lah, it is your job. Do you job properly. That’s all. Happy, happy driver. Don’t ah, ji pin hua, ji pin eh eh eh eh. (dialect).
Cabbie: You so unhappy right? No contract what? Nobody use a gun point at you right? Resign lor!! Mummumumumum.
Cabbie repeats his stance on how nobody forces one to stay in the job.
Me: Uncle, you know Labour Day coming up right?
Me: What is your wish as a worker?
Cabbie: My wish as a cabbie ah, every year, so call birthday of the driver, is an off day.
Me: Oh…birthday leave lah?
Cabbie: Because imagine, it is your birthday, you still got to drive. Don’t drive, can, pay rental. So, what is the difference? We tell Comfort management, yes, one year, they give 3 off day for one whole year, I don’t say too many or too less lah, but can you have one more day extra? Birthday of the driver, let him go off. (Comfort) Oh, ok ok we will consider. We understand. Every day off ah, costing money to the company. Let’s say Comfort manage 18 taxis ah, 18,000 drivers and 1 day extra, meaning ah, 1 day rental of 100 ah, is 1.8 million. We understand that. We understand that it is 1.8 million lesser for their income lah. But be more human being lah.