Taxi4Sure? TaxiNotSure seems more appropriate

taxinotsureI’m *really* livid. They say one shouldn’t drive when you’re livid, particularly when you are *really* livid. I did try, however, because I was to join a panel discussion Afaqs was conducting in Bangalore.

And it ended badly. Thanks to Taxi4Sure.

The panel was slated to start at 6:30pm. I have been seeing so many recent reports about cab services offering so many services – in auto rickshaw rates, cycle rickshaw rates, pushcart rates etc. that I decided – for the first time beyond airport drop – to trust one of them for within-city travel, to my event venue.

So, I tried Olacabs, this morning, via the app. for a cab at 4:45pm in the evening (the Ride Later option). They didn’t have any and I was glad that they were at least up-front about it. Uber was not an option either.

Then, I tried Taxi4Sure. The booking went through and I was kind of chuffed that this was working after all, unlike what I usually fear. I was happy that I did not have to drive in peak hour Bengaluru traffic.

At 4:15pm, I got the text message from Taxi4Sure with car number and driver’s mobile number. I tried calling him from 4:15pm to 4:35pm, but it was out of reach. The text message also had a link to track the cab, so I tried that and it took me to a tacky looking map in Taxi4Sure’s mobile website where it showed me that the cab was 2.2kms away… or 7 minutes away, according to that map and message. I was relieved, mildly, that even if I’m not able to get through to him, he’s at least close-by.

At 4:40pm I panicked because the map wasn’t refreshing at all. It reminded me of heist movies where the clever hero (or female lead) inserts a customized in-loop video tape in the security camera feed.

At that time, Airtel informed me that the number I was trying was within range and that I could try that number now. I have never quite bothered with this service (I don’t even know I had this activated in my mobile connection), but now, it seemed like a boon. I called the number immediately.

Me: Hello? Venkatesh? Are you near my place?
Venkatesh: Hindi aata?
Me (in Hindi): Do you want directions to my place?
He (in Hindi): I’m at home.
Me: Great – will come down.
He: No, I’m in my home.
Me: Whaaaa?
He: Today off day for me. Not at work.
Me: <in my head> This is why I loved land line phones, I could at least bang the phone down to show my displeasure. In mobile, I just cannot express anything.

Next, I made a panic call to Taxi4Sure’s contact center. They heard me as if I was a small child crying about my lost lollipop and told me that they will assign another driver and that he will reach my place in 15 minutes.

10 excruciating minutes later, no text message of any new cab. I make a panic call again. Could reach the contact center only after 20 minutes.

A guy then tells me, ‘Sir, we will ensure your cab reaches in 25 minutes’. That did it. Without using the words @bigfatphoenix used (he went through far worse, in comparison to my situation), I used polished words to unload my anger on them. The crux was simple: ‘Boss, I know things go wrong, cabs don’t arrive. But at least tell me honestly that. Don’t lead me to believe that a cab is right around the corner… twice’.

If they had confessed that the driver first assigned to me was in his home when I called first, I could have at least tried driving myself to where I wanted to. I wouldn’t – in that livid rage (that had never ended well) – but that was my back-up. At least I would have avoided the peak hour and reached on time.

I still finished all this phone war and started to drive myself, despite my entire family asking me not to, in such a foul mood. The city’s traffic had other plans for me, I guess. The traffic pile up was so, so, so bad barely 2kms away from my place that I was completely stationary for the next 35 minutes!

While I was stuck and not moving even an inch, I got a call from Taxi4Sure, no doubt a result of the last tweet I sent from home just before leaving.

It was a standard script – apologies, we’ll try harder etc. – but you know what? I’d have actually trusted them with a cab next time if they had only accepted that there was no cab anywhere near, the first time I raised the issue in panic.

They blatantly lied to me, not once, but twice. That was completely unacceptable.

First, that darn tracking map in my sms – that was a horribly rude joke on a customer – it looks like a stock image they send just to keep the potential customer engaged.

Next, when I make the call to understand the situation, they promise one more car in 15 minutes.

If I trust them the first time they lied, I’m naive.

If I trusted them the next time they lied, I’m a bloody idiot.

While I was stuck in traffic, a driver called too, saying he was from Taxi4Sure. I was thankfully speaking via hand-sfree, my phone connected to my car audio system via bluetooth. Else, I was sure I would have flung my phone at an imaginary person in front of me. Because the driver cool’ly asks me, ‘Sir, when do you want the cab?’.

Wow. Just wow.

See, I fully understand and anticipate issues in running a complex business like a cab service. I get it – it involves way too many people and way too many processes. But the best way to judge and put our trust in any such service (including e-commerce) is not when they screw up (this is the part that ‘happens’), but how they deal with a screw up.

I really don’t think any business is scripting the response part correctly at this point. A little honesty there would not only seem refreshing, but also save so much hassle on both sides.

I took a u-turn because the traffic just seemed incessantly bad. And I wrote all this in a rage, in 5 minutes flat.

This isn’t how imagined this evening to be and that includes deleting the Taxi4Sure app from my phone. That’s the 2nd taxi service app someone in deleting in a rage in recent times, after Pandodaily’s Sarah Lacy.