By Maluchi Chukwuemeka
I joined an Uber Taxi for the first time from my home to the Happenings Boot Camp at Ikoyi last week. Courteous and intelligent driver who spoke well while conversing, lovely clean car with functioning A/C that made me forget about the comfort of my home, and of course the ‘koko’ – a most affordable fee paid at the end of the trip. I arrived my destination with my hair intact and make-up still glowing.
The fare was N400 cheaper than what I was charged a day before by a yellow and black striped taxi where I sweated all the way to my house. Talk about Uber dream service. Nonetheless, this Uber driver shared a story: “Riders are happy, Uber is happy, BUT the drivers are not smiling”. He informed me that the price reduction just occurred a day earlier so as to attract more riders to Uber, and was received well by the riders, but there was no reduction in the fees which the drivers give to Uber. He calmly informed me that Uber needed feedback on its latest decision and intended chatting with its drivers later that day. I dropped off hoping that Uber and its drivers would reach a favourable agreement on fees, as I intended moving around more often and needed the best comfort that I could afford.
A few days later, while updating my newsfeed on the internet, I was greeted with the news of the Uber drivers’ strike. The motivating factor behind any worker performing well most times is money, besides the passion for the job; and if Uber could have just listened to its drivers’ requests for a reduction in fees paid to them by the drivers from 25% to at least 18%, I really don’t think that the strike would have taken place. I requested an Uber cab yesterday, May 10th to a destination in Victoria Island and it was taking the driver almost an hour to get to my house after not calling or picking his calls severally, and when he did pick, he was a good distance away from my home and I just had to cancel the ride as I was running late. I went out under the scorching sun and took a yellow and black striped taxi along the road which charged me way higher than what Uber would have charged for that trip.
There is a saying that goes thus: “when two elephants are fighting, it is the grass that suffers”. My question is, who are the two elephants and who is the grass in this situation? The riders are sure not the grass because we have options which might not be the best, such as the yellow and black striped ‘A/C less’ taxis, or Taxify where the drivers beat up their riders for little provocation (did you read that story?! LOL!). Truth is, riders can patronize any other local entrepreneurial taxi service. Riders will always get around one way or the other.
The drivers on the other hand are under no obligation to remain with one company and could partner with all the other aforementioned taxis and none would be the wiser for it. So, might the grass just be the Almighty American company ‘Uber ‘ who seemingly like the Pharaoh of Egypt has decided to give a hardened heart to the Israelites until the last plague gave Egypt a deathly blow which it never recovered from? In the case of the Israelites, their captivity was for over 400 years, so Egypt couldn’t really complain of not milking them. Uber is barely three years in Nigeria, it has not eaten the good of the land just yet, and shouldn’t make itself an old bride to meet up with Taxify’s price slash by not compensating its drivers who will eventually cross-carpet if the incentives are not right. Uber should note that no transportation business can thrive without drivers being happy because they do the work.
So, Uber, go back to the drawing board and listen intently to the demands of your drivers so that Maluchi can have a ‘happily ever after Nigerian Uber story’ yet again.