The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, September 15, 2007

SMRT an unfair taxi fare

This is a post for Singaporeans or those who are to visit Singapore.

Like many who live in Singapore, I not infrequently take a taxi. They are often more convenient than other forms of transport and, because they don't stop at regular intervals throughout a journey, like buses or trains (the MRT), they tend to be quicker. Yet, sometimes they don't seem so good.

A few days ago, I booked a cab. My wife made the call and, seeing that there was just no way on Earth that the cab would arrive before 9.30 am, we thought that we would avoid the penal surcharges that are levied for a booking before 9.30 am. For those who are unaware, the standard starting rate for a taxi in Singapore is $2.50. However, if you book a taxi in the morning, there will be surcharges amounting to another $6.00 making the starting rate $8.50. This comprises a "peak rate" of $2 and a booking fee of $4.00. So, it is more than three times more expensive to take a taxi before 9.30 am, if you book, than if you wait until after 9.30 and don't book. At least the starting rate is that much more expensive.

We got into the cab at 9.39 am - well after the watershed of 9.30 am - and journeyed to our destination. I was rather surprised then, when we arrived, to see the "booking fee" of $4.00 added to my bill.

"Why are you charging me this when your cab didn't arrive until 9.39 am?" I read this time from the receipt.

"Ah, that one is the taxi company: they charge you from the time you book."

He pointed at the time on the booking record: 9.27 am.

Great. So, because my wife picked the phone up at 9.27 am we were charged as if we were travelling at that time.

So, in Singapore it is not the time you travel that determines the charges - it is the time you decide to travel that really counts!

Unless it doesn't bother you to be charged three times as much for the same journey, I would suggest waiting until after 9.30 am to make that call - unless you cannot help it. (Though there is a surcharge for calling after that time, too - though less).

I tried to point out the illogicality of charging a customer a rate for a time not travelled at to "customer service" - but they weren't having anything of it. He mumbled about having to charge that rate "otherwise we have no business...ah".

It is funny really - but the customer service rep justified the charge - and its timing - by saying that his company needed to make money out of the customers. He seemed to be supporting the idea that a company should do what it can to exploit its customers if it gets the chance. I nearly laughed - but instead I put the phone down. It was much more satisfying.

Now, I don't normally complain about poor service or exploitation of the customer, here, simply because there is just so much of it. So I generally "suffer in silence" - it is just that that morning I was so surprised to be charged a surcharge for a time I hadn't actually travelled, that I actually picked up the phone and complained: not, of course, that it did any good.

Yet, it was interesting to learn that, here at least, poor behaviour on the part of a company, is justifiable by its employees because of the desire to make as much money from the customer as possible. I wonder how many other companies around the world, providing a public service, like transportation, would publicly espouse that view?

I had this experience with an SMRT taxi. I don't know if the ruling applies to bookings with Comfort or Citicab or Premiere or any of the smaller firms - but I would not be surprised, since they don't really compete with each other, but tend to move in unison, in the market.

The conclusion from this is that you should not book a taxi in Singapore during the peak period - if you want to travel later than that period - because you will be treated as a peak period traveller, from the point of view of the booking surcharges, no matter what time you subsequently travel.

Happy journeying, all.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and nine months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and two months, and Tiarnan, nineteen months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:00 AM 


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