The introduction of transport Apps has made life easier for all of us. They are convenient and budget-friendly. Much more efficient than random “tuks”. At the moment PickMe and Uber are the most popular taxi-hailing apps in Sri Lanka. (Unlike Uber which operates only in Colombo and its suburbs, PickMe operates in Negombo, Pilliyandala, and Kandy also. Negombo and Kandy are very popular tourist destinations.) I use their tuks and cabs daily because I don’t own a car. For the past twelve years, I’ve used them to commute between home and work regularly and every other time I need a ride. From my travels with them, I’ve learned some lessons. These lessons later became my ground rules for using their services. In this blog post, I wish to share those ground rules with you.
Don’t Discuss Politics with PickMe/Uber Drivers
There’s nothing wrong with engaging in casual conversation with your driver. However, it’s unwise to disclose your political alliances to a stranger. Criticizing the government with a stranger is not a risk you should entertain. We are careful not to disclose our political alliances to random “tuk” drivers in the street. On the other hand, we let our political alliances be known to PickMe and Uber Drivers because we trust them. I am not implying the current Government is using taxi drivers to spy on us. I am saying any government can use Taxi drivers to spy on us.
Plan Your Trip ahead of time to avoid Surprises
Surprise! PickMe and Uber both have drivers who take the hire and cancel 15-30 minutes later. I have been in situations with as many as three drivers cancelling the hires in a row after confirming. On some occasions 15 or 30 minutes after confirming the hire they call and ask “ලොකේෂන් හරිද මහත්තයා?” (Is the location correct Sir?) Then they ask “කොහාටද යන්න තියෙන්නෙ?” (where’s the destination?) and cancel the hire. It’s very inconvenient if you are already late for an appointment. Planning your trip ahead of time is the best workaround for such situations. I always get ready one hour before departure. That way I have time to order another and reach my destination on time.
Get onboard the vehicle in less than 10 Minutes
We Sri Lankans often exhaust even the simplest luxuries like a metered taxi. Several drivers have told me, passengers, sometimes take 15-20 minutes to get on board. Time is money especially when you drive a taxi to make a living. If your hire is a short distance that driver could miss another hire while he waits for you to get on board. To rub salt in the wound, the drivers say passengers then urge them to drive faster endangering the lives of everyone on board. Next time you order a taxi please be sure that you are ready to get on board within ten minutes after the driver arrives.
Reduce the number of stops during the Trip
Remember, you are paying the taxi company for their driver to take you from one place to the other. Not to take you shopping. In a short-distance hire, one or two stops are tolerable but anything more than that isn’t fair. Every time your driver stops chances are high, he will be late for his next hire or miss it entirely. Although PickMe compensates their drivers for waiting, on a per-minute basis it’s not worth the wait. Uber doesn’t compensate drivers for waiting at all. Most of these men are the breadwinners of their families. They have to maintain the vehicle. Some of them have to pay the finance company at the end of the month. As passengers let us not be self-centered.
Address your frustrations with the Company
On 14th November 2019, a “tuk” driver from Uber assaulted and severely injured a passenger over a cancellation fee dispute [Source: EconomyNext]. On February 10th, 2020 another driver stabbed the passenger with a knife because he refused to pay in cash. [Source: News Hub]. While there are many good drivers in PickMe and Uber there are a few mentally retards also. Since you have absolutely no way of knowing when you will run into one of them always take your complaints directly to the respective company. You can do this through the app itself now.
Don’t forget to give the driver a 5 Star Rating
PickMe and Uber drivers depend on good ratings to stay on the platform. This is why some drivers verbally request a five-star rating. They are kicked out if their ranking slips below a certain threshold. In Sri Lanka, we don’t tip the drivers at all. So, the least we can do is give the driver a five-star rating. It costs you only three seconds of your time. By the way, did you know in Uber drivers can rate their passengers? Uber will warn you if your rating goes down below the predetermined level. If you don’t heed the warnings the company will ban you for good.
Consider using a Cashless Payment Method
PickMe has several cashless payment options built into the app. Passengers can pay with their PickMe Points, Touch, QR Code, or credit/debit card. A credit or Debit card is the only cashless payment method supported in the Uber app. You should strongly consider cashless payments because physical cash is a host for bacteria. At this age of COVID-19, physical cash increases your chances of catching an infection. Drivers might fuss about it but your health is worth all the fuss.
When late travel with a male Companion
On January 4th, 2017 an Uber rescued a 16-year-old girl from two female pimps when he alerted the police [Source: DECAN Chronicle]. In the meantime, Uber passengers have reported over 3,000 sexual assaults in the year 2018 [Source: Daily Mirror]. There are many decent PickMe and Uber Drivers. However, there is a handful of sadistic perverts also on both networks. Gladly there are no reports of sexual assaults by PickMe and Uber drivers in Colombo. Nevertheless, it is advisable to travel with a male companion if you are a female passenger travelling late in night.
I remember my father used to tell me about how inconvenient it was for them to travel by train or bus. At the time, those were the only modes of transportation available. Taxis were scarce and costly. We should be grateful that we have luxuries that our forefathers did not. These services are far from perfect, but then again, nothing is. However, by following a few ground rules, we can improve the quality of our ride. [Photos by Mayur Roshen from SR Photography]
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