Luring customers with the comfort of booking a cab from their home to availing it at their doorstep and giving out attractive offers, to begin with, the online cab aggregator companies such as Ola and Uber have captured the market easily. With repeated negations from the Taxi drivers and Auto Rikshawalas, the customers were looking for some alternatives, these app-based cab services offered just that. Increased demand established a monopoly of these services over the normal Taxis and Rikshaws. It was then that these apparently “No Refusal” cabs started exploiting their customers. New subtle tricks were developed to hole out money from the customer’s pocket.
In many cases and grievances put forward by the regular customers, it has been noticed that just before a cab is being booked, the company App shows a number of cabs in the customer’s proximity, luring him to book one. As the customer confirms the booking expecting his designated vehicle to arrive at his doorstep in little or no time, the app shows his booked vehicle coming from a considerable distance and the waiting time being way beyond his expectations. Thus, the customer is left with no other option but to cancel his booking – but, that is where the subtle, invisible drainage of money comes to play — upon cancelling his\her booking, a fine is to be imposed upon the customer, burning, even if negligible, a small hole in his pocket. The larger picture, however, is different. These small negotiable amounts range somewhat between Rs 20-40 per customer — once we take in consideration, the number of such cancellations throughout a day throughout the country, or say, even a metro city, is huge!
To cope up with the fast-paced lifestyle in metro cities, new innovative services are cropping up every day. New entrepreneurs with innovative ideas are jumping into the bandwagon to rake bucks. With the rat race picking up momentum every day, people are left with less and less time. Thus, online cab aggregators have deepened their roots into a society grabbling for time and utilised this massive time crunch to its optimum.
Let’s take into consideration the case of refusals. Many a time, mostly during the peak hours, customers are often refused by the drivers in terms that their booking is cancelled or is transferred to another car. If the transferring thing doesn’t sound like a big problem, think about an office goer who books a cab. It probably shows the waiting time to be around 5 minutes. Once transferred to the other vehicle, the waiting time may increase, even to the extent of 20-25 minutes at times. The most common instinct would be to cancel the booking and look for other available options; thus, again welcoming a cancellation fee. At times, the drivers call up the customers, insisting them to cancel the trip wasting the customers’ time and also their money. Citing this, Sayantan Sen Gupta, an accounting professional from Kolkata, says, “Apps charge a fee if you cancel. Why won’t they pay us compensation for our time when the drivers cancel?”
The plight doesn’t stop here. Even after accepting a booking, these apparently ‘safe’ cabs at times refuse to go up to the exact drop location, especially at midnight, when it is most needed – in the metro cities, many working women prefer to commute by these services due to the comfort and security offered. An IT professional from Bengaluru, Subhro Chatterjee, shares his experience: “The drivers refuse to go up till drop locations at night, especially after 12 am. They even ask the customers to book another cab because they don’t want to go.”
The lingering problem, however, is deeper. Many customers are unaware of these tactics exerted by these cab aggregators and others, who are aware, are either in denial or accept such exploitations citing convenience. Paroma Bhowmik, a professional from the film industry says, “According to me, private cab companies have reciprocated to public transportation in a more convenient way compared to the traditional transportation options. As far as the exploitation issues are concerned, it is seldom true. Besides, the other travelling options, namely the local cab and rickshaw services, too are not quite saints themselves. Several times, the fare metre of such services remain tampered and you might have to face the blatant refusal from the drivers themselves. So yes, even if the private cab companies hold such venal tactics, I will still give in to it for the comfort and convenience, as would many I believe.”