Another great Singaporean Taxi Driver.
Today, we had another great Singaporean taxi driver experience. It was just the kind of experience that you hope visitors don't run into.
We booked a cab around lunchtime. After about five minutes the phone rang to announce that the cab, SHB 2214 (and one letter I didn't notice...I think a B, on the end, but can't be sure), had arrived. We got our things together and went down after a couple of minutes.
When we got into the cab, my wife noticed that the meter had obviously been running for awhile, since it had clocked beyond the starting point.
"Why has the meter been running, before we got in?", she asked, quietly of the driver who hadn't turned to look at us.
"I can start it when I call you.", he snapped, a little too forcefully.
"No you can't. That's against the rules." I countered, firmly.
"Why you take SO long, huh?", he said, his voice rising even further.
"We sometimes have to wait a long time for a cab.", Syahidah pointed out.
"Never mind sometimes," he began, attacking each word, "I was here early."
"I am not comfortable...", Syahidah began.
"Yes. Let's find another driver who is not such a jerk.", I continued.
We all got out.
I went back home to call another cab. I tried another company, at first -but they had no cabs. So, I had to resort to trying Comfort Delgro again.
The cab booking came through very quickly - as soon as I had put the request in. "SHB 2214..." said the booking service. I recognized his cab number at once. It was very clear what he was doing: he was blocking my desire to get another cab by picking up the booking himself, as soon as it appeared. (I later found out from my wife that he didn't drive away, he just parked up, very near our home, waiting for me to call the cab service.)
This was getting unpleasant. When I called for another cab, he was blocking all other drivers from taking the job, by picking it up himself, despite our argument with him.
I had to call the operator and specifically put in a disrequest for that driver. She cancelled him and gave me another cab. I explained that he had started the meter, in advance, apparently when he called us to say he had arrived. She told me that he wasn't supposed to do that.
In all, it was not a good experience. His actions made us feel harrassed - particularly when he began to interfere with our desire to get another driver. He was rude, aggressive, dishonest - and slightly mad. Sadly, he is not even unique among Singaporean drivers.
I am left to wonder what happens when a complaint is made against a driver. Is anything done, at all? Is there a disciplinary procedure? Observing the number of dishonest or unpleasant drivers on the roads, I rather feel that nothing is being done. As long as the drivers pay the taxi company their daily fee for the cab, I rather think the taxi firm doesn't really care how they behave. At least, there is no evidence of an improvement in taxi driver behaviour over the years.
When I call a cab, I expect an efficient, knowledgeable, polite and helpful driver to turn up. I don't expect a deranged and hostile man to turn up instead.
Would it not be better for the taxi firms to cancel the licenses of all such drivers, once they are identified through customer complaints?
Interestingly, I have never had such unpleasant experiences with taxi drivers in any other country I have visited. By comparison to most nations, Singaporean drivers are just not professional at all. They don't know where they are going - but they sure know how to cheat the customer. It is time for such practices to be outlawed.
As for us: we are gradually being persuaded of the wisdom of having our own car. Then we won't have to bother with irascible, unpleasant, dishonest taxi drivers ever again. At least, that is an answer we can control - and one that doesn't require the taxi firms to think of the customer before their corporate profits (which Singaporean companies just never do.)
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