Singapore is not too bad a place, everything seems to work.
No one seems to be able to fix the taxi problem.
For a country like ours, this is such a bloody disgrace!
What is the taxi problem?
Well, you can’t find one when you need one, that’s the number one complaint.
Second, most taxi drivers are assholes – not everyone is a consummate professional like my buddy Gintai. This is what I’m hearing: Most drive like speed demons. They possess too much personal pride, zero humility. They behave like they don’t need the business, they pick and choose passengers, they only wait for bookings. It costs little to become a taxi driver – just pay rental and fuel only, no need to buy a car. Taxi drivers’ training is not vigorous enough. Compared to taxi drivers in London or Tokyo or even Hong Kong, taxi drivers here do not take pride in their work as service providers. Some only drive part-time and use their taxis mainly for their own business. There is no service mindset, they are grouchy, with shitloads of attitude, they can’t subjugate their egos to focus on the needs of their passengers, they can’t wait to out-talk their passengers, they are argumentative, they never apologize for their mistakes, most don’t even say “thank you” blah blah blah. These are not my words, these are verbatim comments I gathered through a straw poll. Many passengers I spoke to think it is ridiculous that taxi drivers here have to be lured and enticed to the roads to drive by offering them all kinds of incentives like peak hour surcharges, midnight charges, extra fare levies for doing airport pickups, etc, etc. This is the only country in the world where you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out all those extra charges imposed on passengers just so that taxi drivers will be persuaded to do what they are supposed to do – to drive!
Yet, none of these carrots seems to work.
The level of nail-biting and hair-pulling exasperation and frustration faced by commuters was and continues to be at an all-time high.
I remember how I once held in my arms, an injured and profusely-bleeding child of a stranger while trying desperately to hail a taxi on the road only to see those few taxis that eventually passed by speeding away when their drivers saw what they saw – a despairing, frenetic man holding a bleeding child; the child’s distraught, panicky, crying mother on the side. (I was going to the supermarket when I saw the stricken woman screaming for help and ended up with her bleeding child in my arms. The little kid had fallen into a monsoon drain and smashed her head.)
Same thing happened when my wife broke her heel once and was hobbling around with crutches and could not drive her own car – each morning, taxi drivers who drove by, saw her and sped off. Others quickly switched on the “Changing Shift” sign.
A neighbor who drives a taxi even declined to help; he lamented (complete with saliva flying all over the place): “I would be driving somewhere in Singapore and if every morning I have to come all the way from wherever I am to your house to pick you and drive you to your place of work, who is going to pay my fare from wherever I am to your house? Moreover, your place of work is near to your house, how much can I earn? And at the end of the day I have to pick you when you are done for the day and drive you home? For so little money?” What a shitty attitude! I understand perfectly where he’s coming from (no pun intended) but as a neighbor, what a douche bag he has proven to be, right? He doesn’t seem hungry enough, that’s the problem, even when we offered to pay for his trip to our house, he rather not do it. Imagine turning down a guaranteed daily return fare for three months? Taxi drivers in other countries would fight to grab the job!
The fact of the matter is that authorities and the taxi companies have basically been sleeping all these years. The transport ministry has done fuck all to solve the taxi dilemma. Who screens potential taxi drivers and who issues taxi driving permits? Whoever it is, are the criteria stringent enough? Who regulates the regulators? Who checks on the Land Transport Authority, for example? If this was North Korea, past transport ministers and CEOs of LTA and taxi companies would have been lined up before Kim Jong-un and reprimanded until they shit bricks. They would consider themselves lucky if they had not being made to face a firing squad and swiftly and expeditiously liquidated! Kim Jong-un, where were you when we needed you?
Tada! *drum roll* Enters Uber and other car-sharing companies out to fill the gap! Upstarts disrupt!
LTA and taxi companies are beginning to wake up from their long slumber.
Roused from their sleep they started to be defensive by becoming offensive.
Trying to one-up the upstarts, they started with scare tactics.
Oh, do you know that a Uber driver in India raped a passenger?
Oh, do you know that Uber drivers are not screened and trained like taxi drivers?
Oh, do you know that insurance may not cover you when you use one of those services?
Oh, do you know that Uber cars are old and some are driven by young adults with dubious backgrounds?
But to many commuters, such car-sharing services are a godsend.
Suddenly, commuters see the end to their taxi woes. Hallelujah, praise Jesus, Buddha and the Dalai Lama, not to mention the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Suddenly, taxi drivers, seeing business dropping, now sign on to be part of the Uber network as well as joining other car-sharing schemes.
Suddenly, taxi drivers start leaving taxi companies altogether to drive for Uber and other car-sharing companies full-time!
Suddenly, taxi companies are left with lots of taxis no one wants to drive. So the phrase “level playing field” is thrown about freely, with the accusation that with car-sharing services there aren’t big companies having to purchase and maintain big fleets. (But aren’t profits worth the risk of doing business?)
Suddenly, the authorities and the taxi companies, with their overpaid CEOs, smug and big-headed till now, realize they’ve been caught with their pants down, not that they care. Many are way too thick-skinned not to be concerned that they are making a fool of themselves taking home that kind of obscene salary. They just luxuriate in that fact and thank their lucky stars for their good fortunes. As a matter of record, taxi operator Comfort reportedly once paid its then CEO Goh Chee Wee $1.43 million annually. That’s beaucoup moolah for running a taxi company that barely fulfills the needs of taxi-using commuters.
Yup, there are brain-damaged retards who take home humongous pay packages for doing next to nothing and you tell me there is no evil in the world?! Ha!
Moral of the story: if you don’t value feedback, if you don’t heed the warning signs, if you’re not serious about fixing problems despite no scarcity of “scholars” and strategists and brilliant people such as those who make up our government, a day will come when your rice bowl will be smashed.
Ok maybe not smashed, but chipped, for sure. Cracked even. And we all know all it takes is one tiny hairline crack for things to completely disintegrate eventually. “Smithereens” is the word that comes to mind.
In any case, you will get your comeuppance.
You will reap what you sow.
Your incompetence will catch up with you.
And one day it’s going to cost you dearly.
And it’s nobody’s fault but your own.
Travel agents, real estate agents, hotel booking aggregators, middlemen of all stripes, and those who make money by acting as go-betweens, have all been disintermediated by out-of-the-box thinkers – rendered redundant and useless. Yup, they have outlived their usefulness.
End-users now connect directly with service providers, thanks largely to technology.
That’s a scary lesson that taxi companies are now learning.
A bit too late, ain’t it?
Serves you right, sleepyheads!