Grab's cutting of grace waiting time for ride-hailing bookings draws commuters’ ire, but drivers cheer move
- Grab announced that it will reduce the grace waiting period for ride-hailing bookings from five to three minutes
- Some commuters were unhappy with the change, with one asking his employees to stop using Grab
- However, drivers welcomed the news and called on commuters to be more responsible and “manage their time well”
SINGAPORE — Grab Singapore's announcement this week to reduce the grace waiting period for ride-hailing bookings has triggered an outcry among commuters, with some saying that they will boycott the company.
However, private-hire drivers lauded the move, saying that they have come across passengers who make them wait for as long as 10 minutes after they have arrived at the pick-up point.
From July 18, users will automatically have to pay a S$3 penalty for every five-minute block if they keep their assigned driver waiting for more than three minutes, Grab announced on Monday (July 11). This grace period is shortened from five minutes previously.
Grab told TODAY that the company felt "it is timely" to make the change because it wants to help its drivers capture "new demand trends by spending their time on the roads more productively" and save on fuel costs from not having their engines idling while waiting.
As part of the change, Grab is refining controls on its backend so that its private-hire drivers can only mark that they have arrived when they are at the pick-up point or very close to it.
Small business owner Oo Gin Lee, 52, however, felt that the shortened grace period was too much, posting on Facebook that he has asked his employees to stop using Grab for work-related transport paid for by the company, and to switch to other alternatives.
“It probably won’t make a big dent on Grab's business, but it's a matter of principle. I won’t support a company that I feel doesn't really care about its ultimate customers,” he wrote.
Mr Oo, who runs a public relations business with around four to six staff members, has an office in Tanjong Pagar. He told TODAY that Grab needs to better explain the rationale for its move and how it verifies a driver's exact location so that drivers will not abuse the system since they get to keep all the penalty fees.
“How do we know that they have arrived? Is it the GPS (global positioning system) that determines that?” he asked.
“People are not convinced. And that's why people are not happy. I think the consumers of Singapore are very fair people," he added.
"If the current system is not working, you have to work harder to convince people and not just shove it down people's throat.”
Mr Oo also said that before the three minutes are up, drivers should at least call commuters before the late fees are incurred.
TODAY has also reached out to ask Grab how it is refining its controls as well as any measures it has in place to prevent errant practices by its drivers.
Another Grab user who is not happy with the change is retired security officer Rajasuran Eliyathamby, 68, who lives in Ang Mo Kio.
Due to a nerve problem that he has been suffering from for about three to four years, he is unable to walk fast.
As the public housing block where he lives is wide and has several pick up points, he sometimes have trouble finding the driver of a ride he has booked.
“Not knowing for sure where the vehicle would stop, I would call the driver to go to where I am, but the driver would often be unreachable,” he said.
“If they (the drivers) turn up late, they are not being penalised but if we are late, we get penalised. That is disadvantageous, especially to people like me who cannot move quickly.”
He added that, sometimes, due to connectivity issues, the mobile applications do not accurately reflect how far away the driver is, adding to further confusion.
“Grab should resolve these glitches before introducing such stiff measures,” he said.
Healthcare executive S Bhuvaneswari, 30, also has similar experiences booking ride-hailing rides from her home. She lives in a public housing block on Tampines Street 21 and there are three car parks surrounding her block.
“Even after I key the exact car park where I am waiting in the app, vehicles would often wait at the other car parks and then mark that they have arrived," she said.
Sometimes, by the time she walks over to the vehicle, the waiting time would have exceeded five minutes.
Some Grab drivers do show empathy and understanding, but they would tell her that they are unable to waive the fee that is imposed by Grab, she added.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAY
Grab drivers who spoke with TODAY said that the onus has to be on commuters to indicate clearly their exact pick-up location and to ensure that they are there on time.
A driver, who gave his name as just "Louis", said that the change is beneficial to drivers “because every second is money”.
The new rule will deter irresponsible passengers from wasting the drivers' time and “helps (the commuters) have a sense of urgency”, he added.
He also said that commuters should "manage their time better" or try to book a ride only when they are at the pick-up point.
Mr Gavin Goh, 44, a Grab driver for the past 10 years, said that in his experience, most commuters do come on time and that passengers who exceed the grace waiting time are often hailing rides from condominiums.
“I had waited up to 10 minutes for one. Many of them expect us to pick them up from the basement, without specifying details. We wait at the guard house and then they would text us to go to their specific location,” he said.
Agreeing, Mr Bear Gunashagran, 41, who has been a Grab driver for about four years, said that he does not mind waiting for up to five minutes in car parks of public housing estates if there is minimal traffic.
However, for pick-ups from commercial buildings, shopping centres and condominiums, drivers sometimes cannot wait for long.
“Either security officers or surveillance cameras are present to prevent long waiting periods," he explained.
Mr Rahman, a part-time Grab driver who declines to give his full name, said that some places such as taxi stands do not allow private-hire vehicles to wait “even for a minute”.
The penalty of flouting such regulations falls squarely on the driver, he said, adding that he cannot understand why commuters think that they are entitled to a longer grace period.
"Public buses and trains do not wait for passengers when they are late,” the 34-year-old said.
One Grab driver was of the view that the grace waiting period need not have been reduced. Mr Sugumaran Balasundaram, 48, who has been driving via Grab for the past 10 years, said that having more waiting time allows for more goodwill between passengers and drivers.
“While the new change benefits the driver, I think penalising some commuters may affect their (ride) experience.”