Friday, October 24, 2014

India Taxi booking: checkpoints and precautions to take

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Of late I noticed a few complaints on facebook about non-arrival of taxis causing spoilsport with people’s holiday plans. Two complaints were about Taxi for sure (one by Vishal Srivatsava and another by Srikant Eswaran) and few others on rest of the brands.

Particularly during festive seasons, taxis have high demand, drivers are asked to do multiple back to back trips without rest and often a high profitability demand (say for a long trip) makes operators either re-arrange or at times completely ignore smaller booking (say railway station drop).

If you’re booking tourist taxis in India, here are a list of things that can go wrong and possible preventive/alternate measures.

If you've booked cab for local transport (to reach airport/station) you might be able to manage an alternate transport.But if your entire outstation trip depends on this cab, you should be even more cautious.

Assigning Pickup time
20-30 min delay is deemed standard by Indian practice. When you plan your trip, suggest keeping at least 30 min buffer for possible delays and traffic jams. More if you need to cross popular traffic bottlenecks (like Tin Factory, Bangalore) or peak hours. Better reach 30 min early and wait, than miss train/flight by a few mins.

If everything goes as per plan, then you might arrive very early, but that is more manageable situation than scrambling for options last minute. Carry a book to read.
Booking Confirmation by SMS/App
Most taxi operators now have a system in place that sends a proper booking confirmation, either by SMS or by app.

If the operator can’t send a confirmation and only orally confirms, then you might have bigger risk. Unless the agency office is closer home or you know the operator in person, avoid such operators.
Communication of driver & vehicle details at least 30 min before proposed departure reporting time
Non communication of driver details should be your first sign that something is wrong. If not received in time, check with operator. If no satisfactory answer is given and if you can’t get through to the driver, initiate Plan B (alternate mode of transport)
Get the truth out from driver
When you first talk to driver, ask for his current location and assess for yourself if he/she can reach your pickup point within reasonable time from there. Some apps show cab location in real time, which is good.

It is common for drivers to claim they are just 2 kms from pickup point, when in reality they could be 10-15kms away. If you feel the driver is bluffing, tell him that he can wait there only (2km point from your home)- at this time he is likely to communicate real distance.
Dealing with customer care
Folks manning customer care are used to angry customers and over time become insensitive to the urgency/frustration of the customer. (We call them only when there’s trouble and after listening to complaints and abuses all day for no personal fault of theirs, they get immune to such situations.

Most of the time they are likely to try get rid of you by giving some standard answers (it will be coming shortly etc). You should be smart enough to decide if you want to trust them or stop relying on them and opt for your own Plan B

Bottom line: Do NOT waste your time and energy on customer care. If you get a feeling that they are not being honest, realistic and helpful, start working on Plan B
Having Plan B
What can you do if the cab doesn’t turn up at all?  Below are some options, there could be more. Shortlist whatever is convenient to you and keep your options handy

Option 1: Drive to destination in your own car
Option 2: Hire a call driver to drive your car to destination
Option 3: Hire a self-drive car if available (if you don’t own a car)
Option 4: Check with other cab operators (could be difficult during high demand season)
Option 5: Public transport (helps to pack such that if there’s no cab you can drop one bag and travel light)
Option 6: Friends who might be willing to lend their car
Option 7: Change of destination/travel plans, if cancellation charges (for hotel etc) aren’t too much
Option 8: Re-align your plans to suit cab availability (you may lose a day etc)
Option 9: Can a neighbor/friend drop you off till the station?
Option 10: Is it possible to fly to the destination at reasonable cost instead of taking road?
When cab arrives late
Assess if you still have time to make it to station/airport etc. Most of the train, flight status, location etc can be checked real time. If they are running late, you will know.

See if you can change boarding point (refer next point)

Is there an alternate option if you miss your train/flight?
Select alternate boarding point
Main railway stations/bus stands in the city are often crowded and involves lots of time to locate your bus/train, walk long distance, sometime climb up and down stairs etc.

Where possible, see if you can go to a boarding point in city outskirts. Such stations will have less platforms,  hence easy to move around and less crowd.

Only disadvantage is that train/bus may not wait for long in these stations and you’ll have to be quick.

It might help sending one person from group to origin station in advance (say using public transport) while others board at next station.
Checking if driver had enough sleep
 At times, drivers are forced to do back to back trips without enough rest. If you're about to start a long trip, check if driver is fresh. If not it might be worth delaying your trip by 2 hours and ask driver to sleep properly. This is in safety interest. Or plan such a way that you visit a nearby attraction on the way, while you visit the attraction, driver gets to sleep.
 Factoring interstate permit fee time
At state borders, tourist vehicles need to stop, pay entry permit fee etc. This process can take few hours if there's huge rush. Provide for this in your tour planning.


Paresh Kale said...

Great tips, specially considering Indian scenario

Shrinidhi Hande said...


Athenas Take said...

A very practical and needed post. I loved all the points that you have discussed specially getting the truth out of the driver. A little caution and a buffer time is such an essential in our country. During the rains pre-booking a taxi is must.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks AT

Indrani said...

Yes! Helpful and practical tips.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Indrani