Uber troubles

Shaikha Shuhada Panjeree reveals the various problems being faced by riders of Uber in Dhaka

Person using the Uber app

Uber is the latest hype in transportation services in Dhaka city. For its promised services and offered comfort, people from middle to high income groups have been using the service from last November when Uber started its service in Dhaka.

Despite being new to Dhaka, Uber seemed to be handling everything just right in the beginning. The promo code, discounts, air conditioned good quality cars were enough for riders’ satisfaction. But quite a few issues came up as the service became popular among the Dhaka based commuters.

One of the major problems lie in the cancellation option that is provided for both the riders and driver partners. Uber encourages a minimal number of cancellations from drivers to keep the reliability of the service intact. However, this policy has turned out rather problematic for riders in Dhaka.

Recently Dipa Reza, a rider, had requested an Uber from Bashundhara R/A, while the driver, Hridoy who accepted the request, was at Baridhara. As the rider called up the driver to know how much time it might take him to come to Bashundhara R/A, the driver responded that it will take time and suggested the rider cancel the trip although given that Ms. Reza was willing to wait. Reza further told the driver to cancel the trip himself as he did not want to come. The driver replied that he wouldn’t do that because it will be problematic for him and also demanded that he would come to pick her up only if she pays for the trip starting from the time he accepted the trip not from when she actually would get in. As the rider talked about complaining to Uber authority, the driver told her to go ahead because he ‘knows’ nothing is going to happen to him.

The problem faced by Reza is rather common and almost 60-80 per cent of riders have made such complaints.

Along with cancellations, asking for tips is quite frequent too. Commuters have complained about not getting any cars at all after several requests as the drivers deny to give services when they do not like a particular area or because of the traffic on the road.

Some drivers do not even let the commuters know when they decide not to pick them up, causing the commuters to wait in vain. Allegations of drivers cancelling the trips midway have also been heard; one Sugato Banerjee wrote on Facebook recently, ‘Yesterday afternoon I had a nightmare ride on Uber from Shahbagh to Dhaka International Airport. The driver picked me up from Dhaka Club for the airport but when we reached Mohakhali, he parked his car and forced me to cancel the trip and ask for a new vehicle. He insisted that I get down at Mohakhali crossing and walk down with my luggage to the new vehicle which was parked at Chairman Bari.’ After he protested, Banerjee was finally dropped near the new vehicle. ‘I ended up paying double and reached the airport when the counters for the jet airways flight to Calcutta had already closed. Is this the service one expects from Uber?’, he wrote.

There has also been reports of a driver dropping off a dying patient before the destination because the commuters had not made the destination clear earlier.

Whether there is any way to tamper with Uber charging system is a legitimate question. Many riders could not match the bill with the rate. Jahid Hasan, a rider, had complained that his family had taken a ride from Badda Link Road to Anwara Medial Service and the fare was BDT 280, but when they went back using the same route, with a bit of traffic, the fare came to be BDT 825 which does not make any sense even according to the Uber charging rates.

Most riders complained that Uber drivers do not know how to read the map, another issue the Uber authority should look into. Apart from all these concerns, using slang language and rude behaviours are topping the list of complaints against Uber.

Allegations have been made that most of the Uber drivers have behaved badly with the riders, using slang languages every now and then, even to the point of threatening riders with their supposed political link-ups.

Another post that went viral recently was that of a girl who accused a driver of attacking her at one point of their argument during a ride. The driver had allegedly threatened to kill her and leave the body behind in a dumpster somewhere. Uber had banned the driver later.

Another man reported that his uncle and aunt, an elderly couple, used an Uber car and had asked change for 100 taka so that they could pay the fare. The driver unnecessarily misbehaved with them and being asked why he was being so rude, the driver asked them to leave the area without any arguments or else he can do anything to them if he cannot control his temper.

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According to Uber’s policy, they provide the drivers with a training session to prepare the drivers ready for the most friendly or pleasant customer service. The potency of that training definitely is now under question. A senior official, who handles communication of Uber in East India and Bangladesh, said to New Age Xtra that their training session varies from places to places and it might take hours or days depending on situations. She also informed that they basically check the background and validity of the potential driver partners’ documents in these sessions. But she left it on a vague note when asked if they are provided with any behavioural training from Uber.

Despite New Age Xtra’s request, Uber’s spokesperson has consistently declined to provide any particular statistics on the amount of reported and solved issues.

However, Uber spokesperson has provided New Age Xtra with an official statement which states, ‘We have a stringent process when it comes to onboarding driver partners. To begin with, driver partners must be able to provide valid documents before getting onboard. Post this, we conduct a mandatory soft skill training that enables them to offer riders a great experience. We also take the driver feedback very seriously. We constantly review the ratings given to the riders by the driver. Riders reportedly violating our terms of service may be prevented from using Uber.To ensure rapid response in case of a crisis, our specially-trained incident response teams are available around the clock to handle any urgent safety concerns that arise. Lastly, in case of any unfortunate incidents that occur, Uber has always assisted law enforcement agencies by providing all possible support and cooperation and by sharing useful data to help in their investigations’..

Although Uber does have an office in Dhaka, all of its programme and rules of procedure are conducted from India. In cases of serious complaints a few of the driver partners have been banned.