Only several months after beginning operations in Bali, Uber (and GrabTaxi) has become a target of the local "transport community". After angry Bali taxi drivers protested against Uber and GrabTaxi in january, the provincial government of Bali has stated a ban is in place.
(Of course, things can change quickly here: another ban on Go-jek (which is a similar transport provider, using motorbikes) was lifted after people petitioned against it.)
Ok, one can easily understand frustration in the midst of added competition in an already oversaturated transportation market.
But first we must ask the question:
“Why does Bali need Uber (or GrabTaxi)?”
The answer is simple. The various taxi companies in Bali have bad reputations.
While many of us have a perfectly normal experience in a taxi, most of us have also have had very irritating, if not downright scary experiences.
When you flag a taxi from the street, regardless of what company, the drivers all too frequently try to set a fixed price. What frustrates most of us is that the price given is ridiculously high and we have yet another part of our day that needs to be tirelessly negotiated.
Always ask to use a meter
Taxis here, at least Bluebird, should ALWAYS be using a meter. Personally, I order my Bluebird via their call center and to date have never had an issue with the driver not wanting to use the meter.
(Note: tampered meters are also known to exist, as are evasive and roundabout routes to increase the fare on metered rides.)
Enter Uber (and GrabTaxi)
A simple app-based service that allows customers to book transportation without worrying about pretty much, well, anything:
- The prices are fixed for most destinations.
- Upon arrival to the destination the app calculates a final price (if the journey took longer than initially expected or there were road closures the fair could be increased) and both the driver and customer can see it on their phones.
- Immediately after the trip is completed the app asks about your experience with the driver.
A system of checks and balances… how horrible!
But if only more checks and balances were in place in Bali, (and Southeast Asia for that matter) perhaps corruption wouldn’t constantly be in the media spotlight.
Plain and simple, anything that limits or eliminates the possibility of extortion or opportunism will help Bali to grow and mature. It’s these little experiences that can make someone’s holiday just bitter enough to not return to the island.
It's good for tourists
Friends of mine have loved using Uber in Bali and therefore have easily loved Bali. They can get around efficiently and affordably.
They worry not about negotiating fares to their destinations for buying clothes, souvenirs, and other products that pump the economy full of tourist ‘dollars.’
... and for the drivers as well
If people really like a driver they will inquire about using him for the day. It offers great opportunity to the freelance driver for additional income beyond the threshold and fees of Uber.
Local transportation monopoly
The reaction by the existing "transportation communities" to services like Uber, GrabTaxi, and even GoJek has not been positive.
'Taxi Drop Only'
Way before any of those services came to market I noticed a sign in my neighborhood and many others that stated ‘Taxi Drop Only.’
This meant you could only take a taxi to your home. If you wanted to go somewhere from your home, the local "transport group or community" expected you to use their service, and would not let an empty taxi enter their streets for a pickup.
Transport on drugs
Not so ironically enough, that transport group was ran by the local banjar. All in an attempt to monopolize the transportation needs in the area. I couldn’t help but laughing when their sign went up with the name ’PCP Transport.’
Whatever the reason they chose that name, I always wanted to get in a car driven by someone on PCP. (PCP is a hallucinogenic drug 🙂 )
So, now you know why I write these so-called "communities" in between quotation marks.
But what if Uber, GrabTaxi, Gojek etc... are good for the local people?
Now, with more competition to both the local transport monopolies AND taxis those ‘Taxi Drop Only’ signs are changing to include ‘NO Uber, NO GrabTaxi, NO Gojek, NO GrabBike, DO NOT ENTER.’ It’s pretty crazy actually.
Even crazier to think that nothing, nothing at all, is preventing those drivers from registering as a driver with any of the aforementioned app-based transport services.
Why wouldn’t they want to stop hawking tourists? Why wouldn’t they want a virtually endless influx of business with fixed pricing? Why wouldn’t they like to meet people who might want to hire them for jobs outside of the app as mentioned earlier?
Perhaps with more work coming in those drivers wouldn’t feel so hungry for business.
If you only get one job in a day it should be enough for you to make your living, right? But what if you get 10 jobs in a day? Maybe you will charge a fair market price and make even more than you expected for actually working. Who knows?
Plain and simple, the thing that is driving the ban against these apps is greed. Let’s not allow greed to take over by continuing to use these awesome, convenient, and fair services!
Tips when using Uber
Personally, I will keep using it and would recommend friends to keep using it.
Here are some tips if you plan on doing the same:
- Mainly: never refer to the pickup service as Uber, or mention an 'Uber driver. You can simply say 'driver' or 'my driver is picking me up'.
- Also, don't look at your smartphone and quite obviously be searching for your driver in front of other transportation pickup zones via the app.
I really don't think it's such a big deal.