Interviews about the UberTT departure

Above: Christlyn Moore, Attorney at Law (CM in interview responses) and Jason Baptiste, Businessman (JB). Photos courtesy Moore and Baptiste, respectively. These interviews were conducted for the BitDepth column on the shutdown of Uber TT, Axing the Taxi.

What was your experience with UberTT like as a customer?
CM: I used Uber from February 10 2017. My experience with Uber was a mixed bag. I got clearly psychotic drivers including one who threw me out her car after 50 seconds , unprofessional drivers who asked personal questions, drivers unconcerned about customer safety, or were overly familiar.
On the other hand I also got drivers who were courteous and polite, who went over and beyond to reassure and to assist.
As a customer who used the service at least twice a day ( and as much as five times a day) four days a week, I was more satisfied than dissatisfied.

JB: The drivers were all professional, clean cars, on time and at a price that was a third of what I call the “hotel” taxi services.

Can you describe a particularly good experience that sold you on the service?
CM: There was no one experience that sold me on the service. What did it for me was the convenience of the app, the fact that i could share my whereabouts as the ride progressed, and the fact that it was relatively inexpensive and hassle free. It meant I could leave my car at home and didn’t have to worry about parking. I also didn’t have to worry about driving late at night when I came of a plane at 1 am.

JB: Not particularly. What I found was that I had consistent good service. Good service is often a complaint in Trinidad and Tobago and I was pleasantly surprised.

What are your reasons for championing the service?
CM: Affordability and reliability would encourage me to support the service. Also the app provided a built-in safety element and a forum for customer complaint and redress.

JB: From a business perspective the price was affordable. I always felt safe because I know the driver who is picking me up and his details on my app and I guess Uber as well. When I reconcile my business expenses, it is easy since my receipts are emailed to me at the end of each trip.
When I think of Uber I think of an experience last year with a work colleague who was staying at one of the Port of Spain hotels. He wanted to go to Hakka because he loves the food. But the round trip from the hotel to Hakka and back was US$50. That was more than the cost of the meal. So the next few days he just stayed at the hotel. With Uber that price would probably be TT$50.

What would you be looking for in a service that might replace it in the market?
CM: In addition to the criteria above, i would like to be assured about training. I was convinced that Uber provided no training to drivers. Additionally, with crime in Trinidad I would want the added assurance of a police background check.

JB: Using my credit card was a great convenience to me. I am not sure if the local companies that are replicating Uber’s acceptance of credit cards. Credit card security is really important so it is unlikely that I would want to give my information to local vendors unless I can really understand their security. For cash trips? Sure, on a personal basis.

Based on your experiences as a customer, what would you consider to be absolutely necessary in a local ridesharing service both in terms of legal protection as well as for your own convenience?
CM: Training. Insurance. Background checks. Oversight/regulatory body even if it is a private company. The ability to track my drive offsite.

JB: Insurance coverage, mainly.

Should the Government be more proactive about addressing this evolution in the old PH driver system and move to clarify what’s needed to meet public transportation safety needs and create a framework for these services to evolve?
CM: The PH system represents the economy responding to a failure of the transportation networks and transportation options. Clearly there is a need to regulate this informal PH industry for the protection of consumers. Services like Uber provide a model that the government would do well to pay attention to – if not from a revenue perspective then from a passenger safety and quality control perspective.

JB: Absolutely. The government needs to look at it. The reality is that public transportation is neither sufficient nor reliable enough for the needs of the public.
That is why there was an opportunity for the government to be proactive in their engagement. The press releases from the Ministry of Works and Transport didn’t appear to reflect a collaborative approach.

Have you used local, homegrown ridesharing services apart from UberTT? If so, what was your experience like with them?
CM: I haven’t used the local rideshares though some of the Uber drivers that I rode with also worked for a local service. My partner did use the local service on one occasion and was alarmed by the unprofessional behavior of the driver. But that is not an indictment of that service because I have had similar experiences with Uber. It is a result of a lack of training.

JB: No I have not.