Can’t Win Right Now
By Tim Henares
It must be difficult to be an honest cab driver right now, especially when you find yourself painted with the same brush as your katana-wielding, sleep-spraying, biglang-sakay counterparts. In the middle of this drama between taxi drivers and Grab/Uber, we end up judging both sides too hastily.
Truth be told, while we can debate the merits of Uber and Grab and whether or not their practices are truly evil, as they are generally regarded in other countries, and while we can engage in a discussion about privilege and the fact that a vast majority of Filipinos will never even consider hiring a taxi, much less Grab or Uber when all they can afford is a bus or jeepney, we fail to consider why so many of the practices we hate about cabbies flourish in the first place.
Without condoning any of these horrible practices, here are 8 things most of us don’t realize about taxis…
8. They jumped through a lot of hoops, and then nothing.
That LTFRB accreditation process is anything but easy. Most estimates suggest that the costs of getting one would unofficially total around 100,000 or so, and with an estimated 50,000 or so vehicles from Grab and Uber that do not have this accreditation, you’re talking 5 Billion Pesos of lost revenue for the franchising board. Unofficially.
Taxis jumped through this red tape, and yet, afterwards, nothing. No additional accountability, no special privileges, no nothing. You would think that being accredited by the LTFRB means that you are held to a higher standard and you would be well-supervised, but no, that’s not what happens.
This is the equivalent of being given a diploma for paying your tuition but not really learning a single thing, and the LTFRB cannot be held blameless for this negligence on follow-up, when Grab and Uber clearly have mastered the art of policing their own ranks, as it stands.
7. Their non-NCR counterparts clearly figured things out.
Whether due to lack of traffic (not true in the case of Cebu or Baguio), or simply better local law enforcement, you can see that cabs in, say, Cebu, Davao, or Baguio are considered safe modes of transportation. It only stands to reason that something about the system is broken here in NCR, and whatever that is simply makes it almost a necessity for a good chunk of cab drivers to be the way they notoriously are. What exactly are they doing right there that we keep getting wrong here?
6. They are not called industry disruptors for nothing.
While we want people to adapt to the times or simply go the way of the dodo, it becomes harder to consider when that means people losing work and having no money to feed their families. Driving a taxi is not an easy job, and it’s not like cab drivers are given the power to adapt to compete with their Grab or Uber counterparts, unless they also own the cab they drive (more on that later). More often than not, that power is in the hands of the taxi operators.
5. There is no incentive for good behavior.
Doing the right thing is a thankless job. How many nice cab drivers have we met who are courteous, kind, never refuse a fare, give exact change, yet simply never get tipped precisely because they’re “good people?” I’m sure most of us would have wanted to tip these heavensent cabbies, but really, if we’re taking a cab in the middle of the night after a night out of drinking, do we have a spare 50 or 100 to just hand over as thanks? Probably not.
After all, when we do our job, none of us expect to be given a bonus, right? Well, outside of taking your fare on and dropping you off safe and sound and giving you your proper change, all that niceness was value added, but we tend to just brush that off.
Again, this doesn’t justify cab drivers being rotten and sullen and believing they are entitled to fleecing passengers of their hard-earned money. But if being on their best behavior doesn’t even merit recognition from us, then why bother, when, again, the people supposed to keep an eye on them (read: the LTFRB) are clearly not doing their job?!?
4. The taxi meter system is broken.
Let’s face it: no surge, extremely punishing to the bottomline during traffic hours? The taxi meter system has been broken a long time ago, and it’s not like the cabbies are in any position to change it themselves to something more feasible for everyone involved, especially when they don’t have an app that handles that for them and plays the bad guy so they don’t have to.
3. The traffic situation is off the chain.
Let’s be honest here: there is no agreeable system to pricing at this point because the traffic situation is simply unbearable, period. If traffic moved just fine, the taxi meter system would never be a problem. Instead, we expect traffic to always be horrible, and dread it even more on paydays, Fridays, and rainfall, no matter how minor. Inasmuch as none of this is an excuse for cabbies to extort us of our hard-earned money, they didn’t create that horrible traffic situation themselves, either, and are just as much a victim of it as we are.
2. The boundary system is criminally oppressive.
The average cab driver doesn’t get a salary. That’s right: they don’t have a paycheck for their job. The only way for them to make money is by making more money than their so-called boundary: this is the amount of money they are expected to remit to their operator at the end of their shift, including a full tank of gas when they go back to the garage.
In Uber and Grab, based on our investigation in their FB group, that boundary is 1,000 pesos plus the full tank. For most taxis, that boundary is instead 3,000 pesos, plusʼthe full tank of gas.
In short, a taxi driver has to work three times as hard as an Uber driver to make their boundary, before they can start earning money.
1. Not meeting that boundary has disastrous consequences.
So, let’s say you don’t meet your boundary. You just owe money and make it up next trip, right? Wrong.
A cabbie we interviewed told us outright that their operator cannot and will not accept anything less than the boundary payment, and you would have to actually borrow the money to make up that shortfall.
Here’s the kicker: the people lending you money (and at interest)? The cab operator themselves. How is something that borders on indentured slavery even legal under the watch of the LTFRB? How did we come to this in an age where even a construction worker has a minimum wage to look forward to?
There is no justifying stealing from passengers, deceiving them, and treating them like crap. But neither should there be any justifying stealing from these drivers, deceiving them, and treating them like crap.
In a perfect world, Uber, Grab, and taxis could co-exist and compete with each other because of their respective advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, for as long as these practices remain standard, then so do we incentivize good cabbies to go bad because if they don’t, they end up in crippling debt for doing their frigging job.
What’s your take on the issue? Let us know below!