Video: Impossible to get cabs just before midnight in Singapore?

What happens when you get a bunch of bloggers who can’t get cabs just before midnight?

They whip out their cameras and write about it.

This happened after the post-Nexus dinner party where we waited near Bugis Junction for a cab. As you can clearly see in the video, numerous available cabs conveniently drove past us, as they stalled for their midnight surcharge to kick in.

Some of us were outraged by this blatant behavior and Melvin even tried to board one of the cabs but was denied entry by a locked door. Others started noting license plates and even took photos of the cabs waiting at the traffic lights with their camera phones.

You might not be able to tell from the video, but the cab driver in question was seen trying to quickly bid for a reservation on his taxi system, so that his roof LED sign would show either busy or on call.

Should we launch a probe into such irresponsible business practices by greedy cab drivers?

In the end, we managed to hop onto a SMRT cab where Bernard complimented the driver on how only SMRT cabs seem to be available at times when competing cab companies drivers would shun away.

Aside 1: The SMRT cab driver was curious who we were, to which we replied that we were bloggers. At first he didn’t know what a “blog” was until he recalled that they (the cabbies) called it “blong”. I’m just waiting for cab drivers to start their own “blongs” soon. I think their working lives would be as colorful as the passengers they pick up, so it should be a riot!

Aside 2: Renhao blogged his own experience with “Singapore’s Bitch Clown Cab Drivers“…

Aside 3: Well, it’s now on STOMP with plenty of conflicting responses…

23 thoughts on “Video: Impossible to get cabs just before midnight in Singapore?

  1. The video doesn’t show too much, a bit dark. But it’s our collective running commentary really tells the story. So have you sent it up to STOMP yet? We could have a “Don’t mess with bloggers” site to rival STOMP. =P

  2. Kenneth: Bong! I can imagine hearing MrBrown’s podcast about blogs, blongs and bongs now…

    Ben: I’ll try sending it to Straits Times STOMP. Let’s see how citizen journalism works out in Singapore.

  3. Oh my. So many empty taxi’s passing by. It must have been an extremely frustrating time trying to catch one. Ever since taxi fares has increased dramatically, I try to avoid them.

    Personally for me, I’m not fond of taxis since they are one of the most dangerous drivers on the road. I know its not all of them, but most of them change lanes without signalling, and then cut in really dangerously close. It scares me to have a taxi close to me on the road.

    But taxi drivers would refute that they dont earn alot and that the rental charges for taxi’s take away much of their earnings. But its these kind of behaviours that makes one have not much sympathy for them.

  4. Ben: OK, I’ve STOMPed it as I said I would last night. Let’s wait and see if the ST editors actually pick this up.

    Marina: Just as varied as people are, there are exceptionally helpful cabbies, and really selfish ones. Bernard raised a good analogy about how there are older “lao jiao” drivers who know how to beat the system, while the younger ones try to abide by the rules. Some cabbies have mentioned how other cab drivers have been a real embarrassment to them.

  5. haha… that’s so true about evil cab drivers. I remember new paper did an issue about it once, like they captured a bunch of cab drivers hiding somewhere half an hour before midnight, and miraculously, they would come out when midnight arrives. Nowadays, to avoid this, they still have a bit of surcharge before midnight to discourage it, but obviously, it’s not working.

    I remember I was at PS on a public holiday the other day, and there was a long queue waiting for cabs. In the end everyone had to call for their own cabs, and frankly it was much faster to go home by train than waiting. Another conspiracy? heh

  6. The thing I don’t understand is why they purposely hide and why they make noise at travelling short distances. Logically if you make yourself available when other cabs are hiding, you make more money. And when you don’t mind short distances, shouldn’t the boarding charge earn you more in the long run? It’s not like the distance for fare increment falls exponentially the further you go. -.-

    Gonna blog about it.

  7. whysgentrepreneurssuck: I know who you are now. And that’s hilarious. 😛

    MacBigot: Woah, actually cabbie bloggers with attitude to boot. Neato! Maybe Singapore cabbies can learn something from them!

    Renhao: Different companies might have different policies, we have to get the fare breakdown to do a proper analysis of the situation.

  8. Hilarious video 🙂 Especially the part where Melvin went to open the door and moved infront to take a snapshot of the number plate then another guy ran forward to take a second shot.

    In a sense, I can understand why they wanted to do that. If they were to pick the passenger up at 11.55pm and send him to somewhere like Tuas, he loses on two fronts:
    1) He could have picked someone else up at 12am who might also be going to Tuas and earn 1.5times the amount.
    2) He will have difficulty picking up another passenger at > 12.15 am (supposing he drops the passenger off at Tuas at that time) as all the other passengers would have been picked up by the flood of taxis who have been “camping” for a long time.
    3) He might even have to go join the long taxi queues and wait for another 30 mins to get a passenger.

    The one who abides by the rules, loses because the rest of the herd are not following the rules. It is almost as if we see a mutated form of “high school peer pressure” occuring amongst the taxi drivers.

    The law or policies set by the cab companies might not be as effective in curbing the midnight cab problem as it can be difficult getting our complaints through to the cab companies.

    However, I am optimistic that this is set to change as bloggers with our techie cameras and vidcams can do our part in documenting what happened and getting the attention of the relevant authorities.

    Perhaps this is the start of a new revolution in customer service standards in Singapore 🙂

  9. Jiahui,
    The driver can start charging the 1.5 midnight surcharge the moment it hits 12 midnight. If he picks up a passenger at 11:55pm, he loses the surcharge on the initial pick-up fee (I can’t seem to recall the term) and the first five minutes.

    Had the cabby even listened, I would have offered to pay the surcharge anyway!

    I suspect most of them don’t pick Singaporeans because we’re likely to stay further from the city in the heartlands. Foreigners (who are likely to stay in hotels or some uppity Orchard condo) are perfect passengers for them because they can make multiple trips within town. Pub – hotel – pub – hotel …repeat…

    It’s really the attitude that really gets to me.

    Kevin,
    Got a point there about taxi Blonggers. They probably have the most interesting encounters in SG. But I sure won’t appreciate any Live Blogging if I’m sitting in one of those cabs!

    p/s: Last year, I actually met a driver who holds the franchise license to Dunkin Donuts! Beat that! It was an awesome ride and conversation.

  10. To be honest, the proposal by the taxi driver to get rid of special prices during certain hours impressed me. I thought that he actually understood market forces better than the policy makers who come up with all these surcharges.

    Yes, we need to take more pictures to demonstrate how some cab drivers abuse the system.

  11. Cab drivers are to be blamed for their greed of profits, cab companies too are to be blamed for their exorbitant cab rental fees – I would say, especially Comfort. However, the smaller cab companies will have a problem surviving if they go lower than what they are charging now because if you don’t know, the SG government enforces freaking high tax on diesel vehicles, excluding commercial vehicles but including cabs, which is to say, all those vehicles with S right in front that are not diplomat owned. I wonder why they do this when the greenest car of the year is a diesel car. They should carry much of the blame as well.

  12. I don’t blame cab drivers for being greedy – after all, they are simply responding to market forces. It’s the cab companies, and ultimately LTA who have chosen not to act (yet).

    This is a classic case of market failure. Despite having several taxi companies in Singapore, we are faced with a strong incumbent (Comfort) and several upstarts. It is time for the government to act.

  13. BL: That SMRT cabbie seemed to know the “ins and outs” better some top-down policy makers. A good organization should always consider the opinions of people on the ground.

    On a separate note, the STOMP editors sent me this email:
    “Great video. You’re right, it’s really annoying that these cabbies become midnight ghosts and we just can’t find them at all.

    Can you send the video you shot to STOMP, same address and we will develop a story. Yousendit or sendspace are great for sending large files to us.

    Looking forward to getting it.

    Glad you got home in one piece — did you walk 🙂
    The STOMP Team”

  14. If cab drivers keep at raising their earnings in this manner, it won’t take too long before the cab companies (who are tracking their income by the meter) start increasing the rental fee. And since taxi drivers don’t usually have the skill sets to switch jobs, they are pretty much at the mercy of the taxi operators.

    So… buy some stock in Comfort Delgro (at the right price); and the next time a taxi passes you by around midnight, smile 🙂

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