t Double Yellow's Musings: <i>Gahmen</i> Strategy to Better Taxi Service
The warped mind of Double Yellow craves for humor everyday. His daily dose comes from The Straits Times, The Sunday Times, Today, Channelnewsasia, etc. He also thinks that because of this preamble, this blog will never get featured in the local media. And of course, please read the Disclaimer before embarking on the journey.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gahmen Strategy to Better Taxi Service

Goodness me! If there is something that will get Singaporeans worked up, it’s fighting for freedom, democracy and free press paying more for better cabby service. If the letters to the editors over the past few days are anything to go by, Singaporeans are up in arms pens when it comes to tipping cabbies for good service.

The soon-to-be saga erupted when one of the local cab companies, SMRT, decided to launch a campaign (we are campaign hub, remember?) to encourage commuters to tip cabbies whom they think gave them good service. Some of the responses were:

Why should we pay extra for politeness?
Preferred route? The fastest and quickest one, obviously...
Don't just sit there, help me load luggage
Separate queue for taxis willing to go east
A generous tip can go a long way
A boycott will teach taxi drivers a lesson
What's next? No small purchases at supermarkets, too?
Thumbs up to short distance queue idea

From here, here and here

One letter writer called for a boycott against taxi drivers....

Maybe, we should boycott taxis for a few months so that taxi drivers will realise they should not abuse the privilege of serving the community.

Funny hor, when we don’t get good service from the gahmen, we never see Singaporeans write in calling for a boycott :) The letter writer also mistakenly thinks that this initiative is by the taxi drivers, when in fact it is by the taxi companies.

I see three players in this game to deliver good service. (1) Taxi Companies (2) Taxi Drivers (3) Commuters. The gahmen strategy, according to my warped brain, is this – to get the Commuters to give $$ to the Taxi Drivers in return for good service and without incurring any loss of revenue for the Taxi Companies. That way, the gahmen achieves a self-win win-win situation.

It can tell the Commuters.... see lah, I ensure you get good service.
It can tell the Taxi Drivers.... see lah, I ensure that you get more money
It can tell the Taxi Companies... see lah, I ensure that you get more revenue

Now all of you vote for me

So its highly unlikely that the gahmen will initiate a campaign with the taxi companies to lower their daily tariffs. It is also unlikely that the gahmen will pay the cabbies out of its own pocket for good service (fare from the Commuter, tip from the gahmen). What is likely though, is that the free ride given to the Commuter by the Taxi Companies for bad service will somehow come from the pocket of the Taxi Driver, via a fine perhaps? Neat and simple eh? :)

Remember hor, I only say likely ok. Never say this is what happened, is happening or will happen :) Just my warped brain working overtime :)


Anonymous chris said...

The life of the poor taxi man is just getting tougher...

6:36 PM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

yeah chris, with plans to introduce more taxis on the road, their take home pay is going to shrink.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many years ago, the govt does away with tipping especially in restaurants, this non-tipping has successfully become part of our culture. Now SMRT is doing the reverse, I do not support tipping at all and will refrain from using SMRT taxis whenever possible until they stop this silly thing. If this tipping campaign succeeded, the bad habit will encroach into all service industries and bring our society backward.

7:58 AM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

hey anon, agree that 'not tipping' is part of Singaporean culture now. Not that it is a good thing, but its embedded pretty well.

Giving cabbies a tip for good service is not such a bad thing except that I think it must be the Taxi Companies who should be rewarding their drivers for delivering good service. They could have a number for customers to call and give them details of the cabby and the Taxi Company upon verifying the ride can credit say 10% of the fare to the cabby.

Of course, this might run into issues where the cabby conspires with the Commuter to get extra cash but that overhead is something that the Taxi Companies would have to bear (although I dont think they are prepared to) if they want a 'good service' culture among Singapore taxis.

Will boycotting SMRT cabs solve the problem? I'm not sure but you as a commuter have every right to make your displeasure felt :)

9:07 AM  
Blogger jenny said...

I don't find tipping a silly thing. In fact, I feel it is an useful incentive to spur good service. Same rationale with a normal desk-bound job. Does that mean that bonuses are not necessary since doing your work should be part of your job?

Granted, basic service should always be part of the package, but tips will go a long way in spurring service personnel to go the extra mile. I'd rather the 10% service charge be done away with and have tipping in place instead. At least those who deserves the extra WILL get the extra.

10:08 PM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

hey jenny, point well-taken :) But the problem you see here is that the cabbies are not paid a 10% service charge today. If we replace the service charge at restaurants with tipping, I can understand but to do so with cabbies basically implies additional cost than what is incurred today.

The question boils down to this - if tipping is going to be introduced to cabbies, who is going to bear the additional cost? My warped brain thinks that the gahmen wants the commuters to bear the cost but going by the responses to the local papers, Singaporeans are very reluctant to do so.

Also, what role does the cab company play in all this? Are they just supported to be a bystanders watching commuters and cabbies slug it out? :) If they lower their daily tariffs, will that not mean a tip and hence an incentive for cabbies to provide better service?

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think tipping is a way better alternative to 10% service charge.

As is, most restaurants hijack the service charge and the employees never get to see it anyway.

Wherever I receive service and am not charged 10%, I give a 10% tip. People are usually surprised by this (including the waiter, but that only goes to show how backward we really are)

Here is a simple way to think of the current situation.

1. Service sucks
2. Current system does not seem to be helping the problem
3. Either you live with the bad service and stop complaining, or live with the alternative systems they try out to improve the service standards
4. Something needs to be done, you may not agree that this is the best way, but it beats not doing anything, because to expect a different outcome when you keep doing the same thing is called insanity.

5:53 PM  
Blogger doubleyellow said...

haha anon, your call to action is well taken :) but like the anon commentor before you said, non-tipping has become ingrained in Singaporean culture.

Hence one way is to go ahead with the tipping option that you prefer, or another way is to implement a service charge that ensures that the extra money goes to the employee. think of it this way....

... is it easier to change Singaporean mindsets about tipping or easier to pass legislation that ensures that employers pass on the service charge to the employees? While one may prefer the former, it brings with it a whole host of other issues. One thing that comes to mind is taxation... how are tips taxed? yes, it is usually only 10 percent of the service provided but it can be exploited to transfer large sums of money from one person to another without incurring any tax costs.

well, i am all for tipping but i think that the costs needs to be passed on to the consumer gradually. A knee jerk campaign will only get the kind of response you see in the papers these days.

7:21 PM  

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