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!

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