When I suggested we deploy an Uber-style solution to the countryside to help stimulate a rural social life, I was really quick to point out the importance of having a trustworthy taxi driver. It’s the morning after St. Patrick’s Day night and I have a rant about taxis in Dublin. Specifically, I have a rant about MyTaxi that I want to share.
What Happened With MyTaxi On St. Patrick’s Night?
In short, a taxi driver undermined the whole MyTaxi service because he didn’t want to pay the rather hefty 12% commission that comes with accepting MyTaxi jobs versus the 0% commission he would pay for someone flagging him down on the street.
Time for more detail.
Best Laid Plans
My plans for St. Patrick’s Day this year were a bit more ambitious than usual. My apartment overlooks the parade route, so after some drinks and enjoying the parade, I was heading over to the 3Arena for a charity comedy gig before grabbing the Luas down to Fibber McGees for a music gig. Given I’ve been living in the capital for five years now, this was the most ambitious Paddy’s Day plans I’d made here yet.
Surprisingly everything went swimmingly until getting the Luas back out from the 3Arena. It was jammers, so we decided to get a taxi. I didn’t have any cash on me (as is par for the course) so I fired up MyTaxi. Not a taxi to be had, but it was a busy area at the time so I got over it. Fortunately, someone I was with spotted a taxi and flagged him down. We were sorted. But I still wanted to pay. Thankfully, he was a MyTaxi driver with loads of branding all over the car, leaving me confident I’d be able to use the Pay With MyTaxi feature.
This is where my rant begins. I apologise in advance if this all seems petty.
Resisting An Argument
Just as we set off on the taxi, I asked the driver if it would be ok with him for me to use the Pay With MyTaxi feature.
This system is really simple. You flag a taxi on the street, check if they are a MyTaxi driver and then find them in the app in order to pay with your saved card rather than cash.
Great idea right? I’d only used it once and it worked perfectly. This time, however, the taxi driver laughed and said no. Yup, he actually laughed. After he laughed, he explained the joke I missed.
“This thing is a joke tonight” the driver said, pointing at his phone which showed the MyTaxi interface. “Why should I pay a 12% commission to these guys tonight when everyone is on the street looking for a taxi?”
he was only looking at this from his pocket and not from the experience of his passengers
I won’t lie. I was a bit triggered by this. Mainly because I have a lot of experience in customer-centric retail spheres and he was only looking at this from his pocket and not from the experience of his passengers. We had a great night so far and one of the party travelling with me, fortunately, had cash which meant I could resist the argument.
Still, it left a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve been thinking about it since. There are two ways of looking at this.
The Taxi Driver Was Wrong
That taxi driver was spinning around in a Toyota Prius that was dressed head to toe in MyTaxi branding. This naturally led to my assuming that using the Pay With MyTaxi functionality would be absolutely no problem. Technically, you are supposed to mention it to the driver at the start of your journey and we were driving about one minute before I realised that, mentioned it and found out it would not be an option.
This taxi driver was looking at this scenario from his own financial benefit only. He didn’t want to lose 12% of the fare by letting me use MyTaxi to pay for the journey. Let’s do the maths.
My trip cost €12 which means he would have received €10.56 instead of €12 should I have paid with the MyTaxi app. So he got himself an extra €1.44 by insisting we pay cash.
I know. If you look after the pennies the pounds look after themselves, but I doubt very much many people bother to use Pay With MyTaxi feature, so with this being a potential once-off on his night, would it really have been that big a deal?
Are You Busy Tonight?
There’s one more important point to bring up here. Instead of asking my taxi driver the classic “are you busy tonight” or making a joke about people always asking that, a few years ago I started asking them what they thought about MyTaxi (formerly Hailo).
The majority of them seem to be fairly happy with it as the service means they can pick up fares on quiet nights rather than sitting around waiting for someone to flag them down. Some did mention the commission or the delay for payments, but even so, most said the whole thing compliments their days work with a few extra fares a day.
So for a driver to have all the MyTaxi branding reject a customer wanting to use the MyTaxi app to pay for a ride because it was a busy night where he didn’t need the app, is at the very least bad form. You can’t just sign up for something and offer a service when the going is good.
Well, actually you can given this is exactly what happened, but as I said, it’s bad form.
Would you believe Dublin taxi drivers and me have previous on this.
Why Would You Book On MyTaxi?
In a past life, an employer had a MyTaxi account. This was brilliant because they simply gave employees access to the company account and you could be whizzed around Dublin without having to worry about expensing back taxis receipts as the company paid for the trip on the spot. Brilliant way of doing things.
That was until I booked a cab to collect me outside Croke Park.
The driver I booked through MyTaxi pulled up outside and I jumped in. “Where are you off to?” asked the driver. “You should be able to see the exact address there in the MyTaxi app” says I.
The driver actually got quite agressive here.
“Why the fuck would you book using this bloody app here”, the driver said out of nowhere. “You can easily hail down a taxi, but because you’ve booked through this bloody app I won’t see a penny of this for a week or two”.
I was taken aback by him giving out to me considering, in my eyes, I was giving him money for the service he provides to everyone on a daily basis. I explained that it was a business account which meant I wouldn’t be out of pocket (nor could I afford to be) for getting a taxi across town. He gave an auld audible “tut” before silently dropping me to my destination.
Personally, as a customer, these are the two standout negative experiences I’ve had in five years with taxis in Dublin. While both surround MyTaxi, I would say both situations were, in the very least, partially the fault of the taxi driver and not MyTaxi.
That doesn’t mean I think they are totally innocent here.
MyTaxi Is Wrong
In both scenarios that I’ve given here, I can totally see why the taxi drivers were less than pleased to be dealing with a MyTaxi customer and not a regular cash-paying customer.
- They would lose 12% of the fare
- They would have to wait a week or two to be paid
As a customer, to be quite honest, I couldn’t care less about these two points. Last night, I had no cash on me so MyTaxi was the only option and in the second example I gave, I couldn’t afford to cover a taxi myself. If I taxi driver has all the MyTaxi livery on his car, as far as I’m concerned he should be accepting the MyTaxi app as a payment method.
At the same time, I can see where he was coming from. St. Patrick’s Day and night is like shooting fish in a barrel for taxi drivers. Everyone needs to get somewhere and they’re often happy to pay a taxi driver to make it happen that little bit easier. Why would you want to hand over 12% to someone when you don’t have to?
12% does seem like a massive commission. Here are some more maths to put it into some sort of context. To get a taxi from my gaff to the airport costs €30 according to the Transport for Ireland fare calculator. On a fare like this, MyTaxi would make €3.60 and the driver would make €26.40.
MyTaxi probably made around €3.6 million on people going to the airport alone in 2018. 12% commission means big money but this is how these services work. Food delivery services like JustEat and Deliveroo work on the very same idea of connecting customer and service provider while taking a slice of the pie along the way. JustEat charges 13% commission on every order you make with a restaurant with the chipper generally being somewhat happy with the thought that they might not have got that order at all if they weren’t on the JustEat app.
It’ll Take More Than Another Rebrand
The app, which started out in Ireland as Hailo, became MyTaxi in 2017 but will again rebrand later this year to FREE NOW. People used to say “I’ll Hailo a taxi” and now they reluctantly say I’ll MyTaxi a cab, but FREE NOW just seems a ridiculous name for the taxi app. With focus on this rebrand, my fears are even stronger that the company is more focused on what their parent company, Daimler, wants rather than their own drivers and customers want.
MyTaxi has had it hard over the past few years, struggling to find enough drivers to meet demand while also fighting off competitors such as Lynk, Uber and, more recently, Flag. It’s a balancing act, but I fear that unless MyTaxi can get all their drivers on-board with some reduced commissions or helping them see the overall benefits, taxi drivers will resent the service and even worse, resent customers who are innocently using the platform for convenience.
Taxi apps are, in general, great. You’re never stuck without cash, if you lose something you can find it, you know the driver has been vetted, you can share your ride details and if you lose something in the cab, you can contact the driver the next day. It’s safer and I love it for that. So for the next few months, I’m going to focus on using Lynk, which has been created by Dublin taxi drivers which means they must be happy enough for people to use that, right?
The people at MyTaxi have since been in touch with me to highlight that Pay With My Taxi is commission-free and that while they do their best to make this clear to drivers, this one must have slipped the net.