Filipinos were spoiled by Uber

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by Jovidel R. Tabuena

Let’s face it, guys.

For better or for worse, whether we like it or not, we got spoiled by Uber.

As a result, we Filipinos became the worst backseat drivers this side of southeast Asia.

We gave Uber drivers low ratings — not because they took us to our destinations safely and quickly — but because they refused to become the butlers and servants that we wanted them to be. When they failed to open our doors, when they ignored explicit instructions to run past red lights, or worse, when they didn’t share our political beliefs, we wreaked revenge through the most convenient means possible — giving them one-star ratings on the Uber app.

While Uber offered reliable service — and at low fares at that — its ease of use made us impatient and demanding. We declined to meet drivers’ requests half-way — such as crossing the street or walking a block or two to a pickup location — even though these helped make trips faster.

When Uber was still around, the jeepney was no longer the King of the Road — it was dethroned by the self-important Uber rider, always in a rush to get a car but rarely on time to his designated pick-up spot.

Nowadays, for good or ill, the ride-hailing honeymoon is over (at least for the passengers).
Uber has left Southeast Asia — including the Philippines — and operations have been acquired by its rival Grab in April.

And since then, nothing has ever been the same for both Uber loyalist and Grab fan alike.

No longer can anyone enjoy the low fares offered by Uber (unless of course Indonesia’s GoJek can help it. But that’s another tale best told another time).

Fares on Grab — practically the only dependable ride-hailing service in Metro Manila — have reached an all-time high.

Grab’s atrocious rates aren’t helped by the fact that its drivers have regularly rejected trips if fares are low and destinations are inconvenient.

In short, Grab drivers have become no different from that other scourge of Manila’s streets — picky cabdrivers ready and willing to take you anywhere for the price of an arm, a leg, and other vital body parts.

Why did it come to this? How did Grab, a disruptive tool to help ease the hassle of commuting, succumb to the bad habits of old school taxicabs? Has Grab, in fact, abused its predominant position by making fares higher than they usually should?

That’s highly unlikely.

It’s been difficult for passengers to order cars because demand has far outstripped supply, Grab Philippines has said in several reports.

As of this writing, up to 600,000 ride requests are made in a day, sometimes reaching 850,000 during rush hours, a Grab representative said.

With a supply of only 33,000 to 35,000 vehicles, only one out of ten ride requests are immediately fulfilled at first booking, Grab Philippines’ Brian Cu explained in a report. This means more often than not, passengers may have to try and book at least three times before they can get a ride, Cu said.

And when they do succeed in ordering a GrabCar, they may have to brace themselves for another surprise.

Owing to the lack of vehicles, passengers are expected to fork out more money for their trips via fare surges, a situation that will likely continue (or get worse) if the government doesn’t allow Grab to accept more cars.

But wait — didn’t Grab increase its car supply when it acquired Uber?

Not necessarily.

Uber cars that got integrated into Grab’s system hardly made a dent.

After all, demand for ride-hailing services continue to rise then and now, before and after the acquisition.

But it gets better.

The master list of Uber cars and the same list submitted to the Land Transport Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have a discrepancy, according to Cu. Unless the lists are matched, Grab will be unable to gain access to anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 cars that were previously under Uber.

As a result of the discrepancy, some Uber car owners have given up on ride-hailing altogether, choosing to sell their vehicles to anyone with enough cash. This, more or less, has depleted Grab’s potential car supply further.

With this supply lack and an ever-increasing demand that has resulted in fare surges, where does that leave Grab, practically a monopoly? How about its passengers, which, by the way, comprise only three percent of the total commuting population? Shouldn’t the LTFRB upgrade its game of regulating taxis, instead of being preoccupied with Brian Cu’s favorite company? What about the politicians demanding a billions of pesos in refunds from Grab?

It’s anyone’s ball game.

Meanwhile, Grab passengers should just sit back, relax, and enjoy their rides while they still can.

Jovidel R. Tabuena (@_ourdailybrad on Instagram) works part-time, reads books full-time, and is half-asleep most of the time.

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