Rude Public Taxis or Polite Ubers
Readers across our social platforms responded to our last Uber article with both shock and anger. Some vowed to never use Uber again, while others defiantly protested the conditions of public transportation, from taxis to buses to subways. Other than complaints of cleanliness, most comments revolved around the issues of price, customer service and driver attitudes. Kristiana L., 36, mom of 2, explained her reasons for picking Uber over Didi’s pool of public taxis:
“I chose Uber over Didi because when I downloaded both apps (a while ago), Uber was in English and easy for me to set up, without having to translate anything. I just stuck with it.”
Her experiences continued to validate her choice.
“I have to drop my son off at school before I go to work. When taking public taxis, there would frequently be the situation that the driver would get upset or frustrated if he had to wait while I went inside to bring my son to school. Of course, sometimes there was no problem, but it is just not a battle you want to worry about having every day during rush hour. Uber drivers simply nod their heads and we head to the school.”
She notes that there are disadvantages to Uber, like lack of fapiao and that drivers don’t know their way around as well as city drivers. Also, functional Chinese is a must since drivers always call to coordinate pick up.
Regardless, she points out, “I am really happy with Uber. Some drivers are better than others, but overall, it is just less stressful than taxis. And having kids, you try to minimize stress in any way you can, [especially in another country].”
Uber Drivers Spooked
Prompted by the buzz, another reader came forward with her story. Megan R., 29, from Rochester, New York was in Beijing for a visit with friends in early March. During her stay, her host set up an Uber ride to Solana for a shopping trip.
“The drive was fine. When we arrived, he pointed to the entrance. I got out, then a gentleman in plain clothes got into the front seat. I walked about fifteen feet toward the entrance when a couple of younger officers in uniform greeted me in English.”
They asked for her details and identification. The also took down her host’s phone number since Megan was in town for a short time and chose to go without a phone.
“I’m not scared of the police, and since the guy spoke English, I wasn’t nervous. When the driver was brought out of the car and handcuffed, he looked at me like he wanted help. He looked scared and nervous.”
Although her experience was much less frightening than the previous account, Uber drivers are responding to the crackdown. Community members have reported strange Uber behavior, from hugs to handshakes to star treatment.
“The day after a friend reported a similar incident, my Uber driver treated me to what felt like butler service. He greeted me loudly, then when we arrived at my destination, he got out of the car, opened my door, and shook hands when I got out before he climbed back into the car with a wave. If I hadn’t heard my friend’s story, I’d have thought he’d mistaken me for Mick Jagger,” said Mike Peters, 58, Food Editor at China Daily.
A Language Lyft
With these concerns from women and families in Beijing and the recent Uber arrests, Didi Chuxing’s timing may be perfect in partnering with Lyft and introducing a new service called “Baby Project” (Baobei Jihua).
Xiaoni Chen, a representative at Didi, explained parents can expect to see the new app floating around sometime before June 30 this year, the last day of China’s Q2.
When asked about the concerns of moms shared with our team, Ms. Chen responded that Didi’s current application allows for immediate feedback on driver performance so users are able to avoid drivers who have received poor ratings, while Didi uses this feature for quality control for their private drivers.
Didi’s private driver pool receives training in customer services on site and in person. Their elite hailing services provide a water bottle in the back seat, and a cell phone charge for a few extra RMB.
Many expats who are able to speak putonghua but cannot type and read hanzi were dismayed by the removal of the talk function. Lyft’s new application will be completely in English.
The application will also use both the public and private drivers in Didi’s pool of registered drivers.
Didi’s app in other countries has live translation services between driver and rider, but whether Lyft will also have this function is currently unsure. Ms. Chen said, “Lyft’s product details will not be available until after the launch.”
The First Kid Ride App of the Future
Also in a move to cater to the parent community, Didi announced on Thursday they are to release a service to provide safe commutes for children whose parents are unable to drive them to school, according to a report from AllChinaTech, a content partner of beijingkids.
Drivers must have a clean criminal record and more than ten years of driving experience, and pass a health exam. All drivers will take Didi-provided emergency training in first aid and child psychology.
Cars will be equipped with Britax car seats for children under the age of 12 and first-aid kits, and Didi will purchase insurance for drivers and passengers. Before you get too excited though – these services might only be available to those using the Didi Chinese app, not Lyft.