Last week, Việt Nam News invited readers’ opinions on the rising competition betwen app-based motorbike taxi services and the traditional xe ôm service. Here are some of the readers’ responses.
Baku Takahashi, Japanese, Hà Nội
App-based motorbike taxis are definitely better. You do not need to look for drivers; you do not need to negotiate the price; prices are reasonable; bikes and helmets are cleaner; service is better; and the company is there to troubleshoot if any. So why not?
I have been in Việt Nam for 10 years, and I’ve long wondered why these motorbike taxis can’t organise themselves to provide safer and more convenient services to their customers. Typical "traditional" motorbike taxis on the street are dirty with high risk of overcharge. Sometimes they ask for a price that is 10 times more than the normal, and this could happen even after agreeing on the price before the ride (they often do this to tourists). When customers face some problems, there are no windows to handle their complaints. Many people are sick of wasting time for negotiation and being cheated. This frustration is clearly reflected in the recent trend of shifting from conventional motorbike taxis to app-based ones.
What conventional motorbike taxi drivers have to do now is not to demonstrate or strike, but rather to improve their own services. They are not losing jobs/income because of app-based motorbikes per se, but because of their poor services and dirty image that they have accumulated over time. They need to organise themselves into some sort of association or cooperative, establish their set of service standards, and regulate their drivers and services. If they have a common uniform with a clearly indicated pre-defined price system and good customer care - and probably also motorbike taxi stands in some strategic locations such as train/bus stations (metro is coming soon!), shopping areas, and tourist attractions - the customers would come back, and conventional motorbike drivers’ income will increase eventually.
Conventional motorbike taxi drivers need to look inside to improve their services now rather than pointing fingers to others, i.e., app-based motorbike taxis.
Minh Nguyễn, Vietnamese
I’ve ridden with both GrabBike and traditional xe ôms. I don’t care much about competition, but it’s 2016 now, and I think technology is developing in accordance with customers’ needs. If there is a convenient "tool" that provides good services and charges reasonably, I will definitely use it. And it’s natural that other “services” like xe ôm and traditional taxis get kicked out of the game.
I wonder why the traditional xe ôm drivers didn’t register to become Grabbike drivers to get a steady source of passengers.
The Grab company even pays taxes like a real business. Xe ôm drivers don’t.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Hà Nội
Taxi drivers often give poor service or try to negotiate the fare.
A tourist can jump on any ride, but locals know to call their regular guy. The new tech generation worldwide is using services like Uber. Governments need to stay out of this battle and let competition reign. Governments should stick to issuing licences and doing proper vehicle and driver inspections.
City hall back home issues taxi licences and some cost thousands of dollars, but there are ‘ghost’ (unofficial) taxis or the driver of the taxi is actually his ‘friend’ or ‘uncle.’ With Uber and other companies you can check the ID of the driver and have a set start and end location, plus the fare is prearranged. That system is much more reliable and safe.
Philip Sanderson, English, Hà Nội
The most important distinction for me is that the app-based motorbike taxi services provide a helmet for the passenger. This is not the case with traditional xe ôm drivers, who may also have started their day at the bia hơi. Being a foreigner, I have a slightly less relaxed attitude to such matters.
The other obvious advantage is being able to book a motorbike for when you need it. In my experience, I am hassled by xe ôm drivers when I am clearly happy walking somewhere, yet there is never one to be found when I actually require their services.
However, despite the above, I am slightly reticent about taking business away from someone who is trying to support themselves and their families, especially in favour of yet another international company - one that is most probably taking a substantial cut from drivers’ earnings.
In conclusion, should I ever require the needs of a taxi service, which is very rarely, I would probably use Grab Taxi or whatever, but feel terribly guilty about doing so. — VNS