I’ve recently returned to India after a three year sojourn in the UK – my home. Moving from Northern Ireland to India is a culture shock regardless, however, with my experiences of living in Mumbai, I’ve found expat life in Bangalore relatively shock free! There is, however, one area of life that is simply driving (pun intended) me mad – taxis.
I was pleasantly surprised when I returned to discover that most of the taxi firms had either web or smartphone app booking systems. When I left India in 2010, I didn’t own a smartphone and apps were underdeveloped, so this was a real step in the future I felt – and in the Indian Silicon Valley, I thought that these systems would be slick. They’re not.
It doesn’t matter what firm you’re dealing with, if you were to give them your longitude & latitude down to then inches of your location, 20-30 minutes before your expected pick up time you get ‘the call.’ You know the call I’m talking about… where the driver calls you to say “where are you?”
This phenomenon is only exacerbated by the fact that when you get into the damn taxi, your full address is there, on the screen that the driver is using!
To be honest, though, when it works like that, and the driver shows up on time, you’ve had a Bangalorean ‘grade A’ taxi experience. I’ve witnessed four different cab companies get their basic model wrong – they haven’t shown up for the fare. I don’t quite know what goes on, but a no-taxi show, in a normal market, would guarantee you would lose my business. Yet they almost all seem to do it!
I’ve stood on the Hosur Road waiting for a pre-booked taxi which hasn’t shown up, three times in the last four weeks – from two different firms. The chaser calls to the Call Centre are a mix between hilarious and infuriating. In my most recent taxi disaster (which took 75 minutes of roadside viewing to resolve) I was variously told 15 minutes (twice), 10 minutes, five minutes, two minutes, 500 yards away before going back to three minutes and then back to five minutes! My complaint hasn’t been followed up by the company – their three business day service level for managing complaints is now up to day seven. They even had the nerve to email me thanking me for liking their service so much!
All of this has been frustrating, but it hasn’t half challenged my patience levels and in a way, helped me be a more patient person! Part of the expat life in Bangalore, I guess. My expectation of Bangalorean taxi firms is that they will a) get my location wrong in some way b) turn up late c) never have any sodding change at all to provide me when I offer to pay my fare. This week I’ve had 1tentaxi fares to pay and two have had change. I’ve seen drivers running down the street to gather enough change to ensure I’m not getting over charged… which in a way is kind of amusing, but it is also very strange and annoying when you’re trying to get home at the end of a long day at the office.
There is of course hope in all of this… I hope that it’ll get better.