Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All Hail (the Taxi)

 id=I readily admit this: I don't get it. I just don't get Bratislava's taxis. And it's not that I'm being inordinately thick about this (I think) - I mean, what's there not to get about a taxi? - you flag one down, it takes you to your destination, and you pay the fare. The worse that can happen is that you get to enjoy the scenic route from Point A to Point B, or your driver is unable to make change for the bill you offer.

But here in Bratislava, there is an additional twist: the fares. The fares - rates 1 and 2 - differ depending on whether you call the taxi by phone (rate 2) or flag one down on the street (rate 1). Although to be accurate, you will probably never flag one down on the street because the only time you'll ever see one on the street - i.e., moving - is when it's ferrying a passenger from Point A to Point B (via the scenic route if it's a visitor to the city).

If you call ahead and order a taxi, you will pay about 30% less than if you find one parked by the side of the road. As taxis don't seem to cruise the streets of Bratislava looking to earn money for fares to pick up, you'll find them at several taxi stands dotted about the city - notably at shopping centres, airports, and train stations. So the upshot is, if I walk to a taxi stand, knock on the driver's window, (interrupting
Vladimir's crossword puzzle) and ask Vladimir to take me to the bus station, I will have to pay 30% more than if I called and asked him to come to my door.

So I ask you, dear reader: is it just me?

Over the past month, I have asked several of my classes to try to explain the logic of this situation to my feeble mind - with, surprisingly, no success at all. The best they have come up with is that the 30% should be viewed in the same vein as that fabled glass of water which is half empty or half full. The 30% is a savings which taxi companies offers its customers who patronize them with their custom - custom that (apparently) can only be conveyed by picking up a phone. This should be seen, I've been told, as an incentive to choosing a particular company. With almost 2 dozen taxi companies (including Fun Taxi, Hello Taxi, and Lady Taxi - which makes me think that Lionel Richie had a hand in naming the companies) serving a city that I could stuff into a shoe box, competition is fierce.

All I know is that if I'm standing outside in the pouring rain, I don't give a rat's ass which taxi picks me up, as long as one does.

But here's a thought: level the playing field. The 30% discount isn't a discount (half empty-half empty!) at all - it's the standard rate. Rate 1 is just 30% higher
(half empty-half empty!). Don't penalize those of us on the street who need a cab - or who don't have access to a cellphone. Oh, and perhaps those taxi companies who automatically charge the higher rate for pickups at hotels could revisit that policy as well. And those scenic routes? A ten-minute ride from downtown to a practically-downtown hotel needn't cost 30 euros - given that 30 euros is, for many people, the equivalent of or more than 3 hours' labour in Bratislava.

And that, dear reader, is why I just don't get it.


Yugurta said...

Thanks a lot, dear author, for this quite amazing scene from a trusty point of view, yours of course !
Located in Agadir City, Morroco, I have to say that there's no taxi company at all by here however more than 2500 cabs are at our disposal night and day.
It's just beginning in northern cities like Casablanca and Rabat and I suppose that, there, the phenomenon U're describing would very soon take place just like in Bratislava.
By here, the most used way to get one is simply to flag on down on the street.
However, man can choose to "affiliate" with the same taxi by negociating a monthly fare that suits both of the consumer and the taxi owner (for example, people who work by night have get used to use always the same taxi, not only for fairing reasons).

Cath said...

But do the taxi drivers wear shirts?

Yugurta said...

Blue marine "uniform", jeans allowed but not "tee" shirts...