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Confessions of a Metered Cab Driver

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“The call centre, where people call to book a cab, is useless. They can’t get addresses right. They turn Andheri East to Andheri West.”

Marriage season is a good time for us. Lots of long fares. The call centre, where people call to book a cab, is useless. They can’t get addresses right. They turn Andheri East to Andheri West. Once they gave me an address with the first letter of the place missing. It was an entirely different place without the first letter. The customer called me to ask what the hell I was doing there. I explained the situation to him. He gave them a firing while sitting at the back. He told them he wouldn’t pay.

Drivers have constant battles with the call centre.  Once the call centre called me to ask, “Are you free?” I said I was. He cut the line without asking where I was.  A minute later I got a customer pick-up SMS and didn’t even know where the customer was. We’ve told the company about these problems, but it is in denial and keeps making excuses.

Three months ago, there were four people in the call centre who ran a scam. They didn’t use the system to pass on customer inquiries. Instead, they called up the drivers personally and told them about it. Each trip was for between Rs 500 and Rs 800. In return they would get a commission. When we told the cab company that something shady was going on, they wouldn’t listen, but later they caught the people doing it.

If we do business for Rs 1,600-1,700, the profit is Rs 450-500. I pay the company Rs 850 every day. Even on public holidays and days when the car goes for servicing. What is worse is that the company has no minimum requirement from customers. They accept Rs 50 fares. Megacabs, our competitors, have a minimum charge of Rs 100. I spent nine hours yesterday ferrying people for Rs 50 or 60. At the end of it, I had only Rs 700. I wasn’t able to pay back the company.

We pay in full on days when the company’s servers are down. They don’t consider lowering our dues for that day.

A lot depends on luck. Yesterday I had a fare to Ulhasnagar on the outskirts of Mumbai. I waited for passengers there for an hour before leaving. I had almost returned to Mumbai when a call came that there was a pick-up at Ambarnath, which is even further from Ulhasnagar. When people want a cab, they call me directly. No one waits for the call centre to respond.

(This driver has been driving metered taxis for a year and a half)

As told to Rahul Bhatia