On Taxis and Apps

On Taxis and Apps
I blog about saving money, but to be honest, I've ridden my fair share of taxi cabs over the years.

So I know that places like Muntinlupa (near town center and near south station/festival mall) have a horrid taxi line where they just contract the price upfront - at least twice as much as you would normally pay compared to a meter.

Taxi lines in places like Makati are relatively more agreeable. Unless you're headed outside of Makati, in which case they often ask you for a fixed amount in addition to a meter.

One particular day, I agreed to a driver asking an additional Php50.

Apparently it was because he was on Easy Taxi. And usually Easy Taxi app users "bid" something on top of the fare to get a taxi quicker (optional, but apparently it happens).

He kept harping about this passenger waiting in Greenbelt and going to Wack Wack, who was promising and additional Php100 on top of the fare.

I did not want to dwell on the topic, since I already agreed to a steep Php50 and didn't want to add more (nor for the driver to start convincing himself how small that was compared to the possible 100).

So I instead probed him on the Easy Taxi app, pretending I did not know anything at all about it. Which was quite fortunate, since he revealed a truck load of info.

For example, you've probably heard that for Grab Taxi (which he did not have but apparently knew equally well as Easy Taxi), you pay an additional Php70 fee on top of the meter. That's not an optional bid, it's a required fee. For Easy Taxi there is no fee; at least not yet because it's still "on promo".

On Taxis and Apps
But that fee can be well worth it. In either app, you not only "reserve" that taxi for you, you also get a lot of vital info:
  • the Taxi's plate number
  • and a picture of the taxi cab
  • name and picture of the driver
  • his driver's license number

Not only that, you also get the driver's mobile number (the number of the phone running the taxi app). So if you left anything in the cab, it's actually easy to just call the driver and get it back.

(And he's more likely to return it because you've got all his info and it's very easy to report it to the police.)

(And with Grab Taxi, he said it's even possible to choose the type of vehicle that will fetch you - for an additional price.)

It's also beneficial to the driver; they know where passengers are when they need one. They also don't pay anything for the internet on those smartphones (speaking of which, they can have their own or they can buy a smartphone from Easy Taxi or Grab Taxi).

It's almost enough to say that it has (or will) revolutionize the taxi service in the country.

But then again, sometimes technology simply magnifies what you currently have and  doesn't necessarily solve it.

The driver was recounting with glee how, during the Christmas season, passengers were wildly outbiding each other - sometimes as much as Php200 on top of the meter.

You could say that happens anyway during the Christmas season - or any peak holiday/traffic season. But what's different in this case is that taxi drivers can (and do; according to him) sit back and watch passengers outbid each other.

They're still choosing passengers like they normally do, but now they can get paid more for it. Passengers in the meantime, still get passed over in favor of others with more "favorable" routes to the driver. they just don't see it happen.

Everything is pretty much the way it always was with only cosmetic changes.

And thankfully at that point I arrived at my destination and didn't have to hear the driver bring up that plus-100 Wack Wack passenger again. You really couldn't help but realize he wished he had waited five more minutes before picking up a passenger and got the plus-100.

The kicker was that later that night (at around 9pm) a friend informed me that he just got through 3 hours of grueling turtle-racing traffic - along EDSA northbound, going to Kalayan. 3 hours just to get from EDSA Ayala ave. to Kalayaan.

As it happens, that was the exact route the driver was going to have to take if he took on the Wack Wack passenger. I doubt that plus-100 would have been much of a plus in that situation.

If you've read this far though, you're probably wondering what the heck this personal anecdote is doing on a personal finance site.

I wish I could say I got paid to post it, but I didn't.

But it's a decent example of the economic principle of supply and demand. The app didn't really change the big picture because it didn't affect the supply and demand. So everything is still the same as it was. (But it is profiting because it's targeting a specific market: people who have money and can overpay taxis - provided they can find one.)

Mostly though, I like reminders that there is no point worrying about the "what might have been". Which is always important, even when investing. It's better to just make the best possible decision now and keep moving forward. Wishing and worrying doesn't really make you any money.

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photo credit: Jack Snell - USA via photopin cc
photo credit: Jack Snell - USA via photopin cc

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