Lost in Manila – The Uber X-perience

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Those that reside in the Manila, Philippines are all too familiar with the frustration involved in hailing a cab especially during peak hours where an all too common cycle is to wait for a cab, hail it down – open the door –announce your destination – be rejected – close the door and repeat.

EDSA's nightmarish traffic only exacerbates hardships for Manila's long suffering commuters
EDSA’s nightmarish traffic only exacerbates hardships for Manila’s long suffering commuters

When a service came along that allows cashless transactions, polite drivers, new cars, safety and security in a city where there have been numerous incidents especially for women traveling alone at night, no haggling on price or asking for the meter and most importantly no rejection. There is no surprise Manileños have initially taken to the service with great enthusiasm.

Uber 4Uber 1Uber 6

The emerging middle class like the status of traveling in a new car when pulling up to the office or a restaurant as opposed to a beaten down taxi, and friendly polite drivers.

Teething Problems

Scratch beneath the surface a little or rather take a daily ride with Uber you will notice it’s often an experience of frustration.

Uber drivers say they can join the company easily and the loose requirements and regulations translate to an unseasoned pool of drivers, at least in comparison to traditional taxi drivers all of which are accustomed to knowing their city intimately. Uber drivers flocking to the congested streets of Manila are not required to know the city, in many cases not familiar with the driving style of Manila where generally the rules of the road conform to your driving style. In almost all cases the driver will rely on the navigation app Waze frequently resulting in the driver getting lost on the way to pick up a passenger, and then being constantly rerouted by the temperamental GPS app and on occasion due to malfunctions, being charged more than double the fare .
Uber 8Uber 3

Uber 7

No office, No Boss

Uber’s recruitment pitch on it’s website is ‘to be your own boss’ as an independent contractor but the reality is it’s created an enterprise of plucky individuals who use a fleet of vehicles and then hire drivers and send them out on to the road much as you would with taxis but without the licensing and regulations involved and schedules that are longer than the 9-5, without the rewards they hoped for or any benefits. This would be fine if being an Uber driver is a second job and primarily used as a complimentary secod income but the lure of being paid to drive, without having to go through the arduous process of being a taxi driver is enough for those who are unemployed or with meagre incomes to dive into headfirst in the hope of a better existence.

On a recent trip i spoke to my driver Roland,  ‘I work 6 days a week, taking an enforced day off due to coding (“number coding implemented by MMDA on select cities to  “address” the traffic situation in Metro Manila), my day begins at 4am and ends at 8pm if i’m lucky and hit a decent quota, if not i’ll work till 10pm. I work these hours because its the only way to make ends meet’ He explained that the car is owned by his cousin, with whom he shares profits equally as he owns the car and is still paying for the loan taken out on the vehicle 4 years later. ‘You are passenger 17 today, on a good day i can get anywhere between 20-25 passengers, I wish Uber would provide incentives like they did initially, maybe i can get a job with GrabTaxi.” he added. He will earn up to 2500 PHP on ‘a good day’, 500 PHP will go to Uber, 700 – 800 PHP on gas, splitting the remaining 1200-1300 PHP equally with his cousin.

‘It still works out better as i previosuly worked as a driver for Pepsi-Cola, from 6am – 7pm, Monday to Saturday and only took home 486 PHP a day, so i consider this still an upgrade as they never paid me for additional hours’
Uber 2

Uber 5
Wanted Uber drivers ads are posted on local recruitment sites, social media and elsewhere in attempt to cash in by providing the driver a share of the profits

A local government official i spoke to said ‘ We were one of the first cities in the world to embrace Uber, but Filipinos have taken advantage of the enterprise and rather than use it as a service attempt to capitalize on it a business opportunity’’ thus reducing its effectiveness as a service and as an alternative to taking a taxi.

Going forward

Despite the challenges faced by Uber in Manila, the support for the service from its citizens has been overwhelming and the opportunities for an expansion of Uber’s services won’t be too far away. Whether it is the motorbike-on-demand service recently launched in Bangkok or any of its other services, it’s been a welcome addition minus the teething problems to ease the daily commute for the long suffering city dwellers but for those like Roland who get no benefits and barely get by, Uber still has a long way to go.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Those that reside in the Manila, Philippines are all too familiar with the frustration involved in hailing a cab especially during peak hours where an all too common cycle is to wait for a cab, hail it down – open the door –announce your destination – be rejected – close the door and repeat.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Those that reside in the Manila, Philippines are all too familiar with the frustration involved in hailing a cab especially during peak hours where an all too common cycle is to wait for a cab, hail it down – open the door –announce your destination – be rejected – close the door and repeat.

EDSA's nightmarish traffic only exacerbates hardships for Manila's long suffering commuters
EDSA’s nightmarish traffic only exacerbates hardships for Manila’s long suffering commuters

When a service came along that allows cashless transactions, polite drivers, new cars, safety and security in a city where there have been numerous incidents especially for women traveling alone at night, no haggling on price or asking for the meter and most importantly no rejection. There is no surprise Manileños have initially taken to the service with great enthusiasm.

Uber 4Uber 1Uber 6

The emerging middle class like the status of traveling in a new car when pulling up to the office or a restaurant as opposed to a beaten down taxi, and friendly polite drivers.

Teething Problems

Scratch beneath the surface a little or rather take a daily ride with Uber you will notice it’s often an experience of frustration.

Uber drivers say they can join the company easily and the loose requirements and regulations translate to an unseasoned pool of drivers, at least in comparison to traditional taxi drivers all of which are accustomed to knowing their city intimately. Uber drivers flocking to the congested streets of Manila are not required to know the city, in many cases not familiar with the driving style of Manila where generally the rules of the road conform to your driving style. In almost all cases the driver will rely on the navigation app Waze frequently resulting in the driver getting lost on the way to pick up a passenger, and then being constantly rerouted by the temperamental GPS app and on occasion due to malfunctions, being charged more than double the fare .
Uber 8Uber 3

Uber 7

No office, No Boss

Uber’s recruitment pitch on it’s website is ‘to be your own boss’ as an independent contractor but the reality is it’s created an enterprise of plucky individuals who use a fleet of vehicles and then hire drivers and send them out on to the road much as you would with taxis but without the licensing and regulations involved and schedules that are longer than the 9-5, without the rewards they hoped for or any benefits. This would be fine if being an Uber driver is a second job and primarily used as a complimentary secod income but the lure of being paid to drive, without having to go through the arduous process of being a taxi driver is enough for those who are unemployed or with meagre incomes to dive into headfirst in the hope of a better existence.

On a recent trip i spoke to my driver Roland,  ‘I work 6 days a week, taking an enforced day off due to coding (“number coding implemented by MMDA on select cities to  “address” the traffic situation in Metro Manila), my day begins at 4am and ends at 8pm if i’m lucky and hit a decent quota, if not i’ll work till 10pm. I work these hours because its the only way to make ends meet’ He explained that the car is owned by his cousin, with whom he shares profits equally as he owns the car and is still paying for the loan taken out on the vehicle 4 years later. ‘You are passenger 17 today, on a good day i can get anywhere between 20-25 passengers, I wish Uber would provide incentives like they did initially, maybe i can get a job with GrabTaxi.” he added. He will earn up to 2500 PHP on ‘a good day’, 500 PHP will go to Uber, 700 – 800 PHP on gas, splitting the remaining 1200-1300 PHP equally with his cousin.

‘It still works out better as i previosuly worked as a driver for Pepsi-Cola, from 6am – 7pm, Monday to Saturday and only took home 486 PHP a day, so i consider this still an upgrade as they never paid me for additional hours’
Uber 2

Uber 5
Wanted Uber drivers ads are posted on local recruitment sites, social media and elsewhere in attempt to cash in by providing the driver a share of the profits

A local government official i spoke to said ‘ We were one of the first cities in the world to embrace Uber, but Filipinos have taken advantage of the enterprise and rather than use it as a service attempt to capitalize on it a business opportunity’’ thus reducing its effectiveness as a service and as an alternative to taking a taxi.

Going forward

Despite the challenges faced by Uber in Manila, the support for the service from its citizens has been overwhelming and the opportunities for an expansion of Uber’s services won’t be too far away. Whether it is the motorbike-on-demand service recently launched in Bangkok or any of its other services, it’s been a welcome addition minus the teething problems to ease the daily commute for the long suffering city dwellers but for those like Roland who get no benefits and barely get by, Uber still has a long way to go.

Do you like this post?
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