GrabTaxi suspends driver who got into alleged dispute with passenger over $5 discount

A photo of GrabCar driver Mr Winson Tong, posted on Facebook by Ms Adeline A. Lok.
A photo of GrabCar driver Mr Winson Tong, posted on Facebook by Ms Adeline A. Lok. PHOTO: ADELINE A. LOK

SINGAPORE - A GrabCar driver who was involved in an alleged dispute with a female passenger in the early hours of Wednesday (July 29) morning has been suspended by GrabTaxi, pending the company's investigations. 

In a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday night that has since been shared over 3,700 times, 29-year-old Ms Adeline Lok recounted how she booked a cab on GrabCar, via the GrabTaxi mobile app, at around 4am to take advantage of the company's SG50 promotion.

GrabCar is an alternative service offered by GrabTaxi using private cars, instead of cabs. The promotion gives passengers a $5 discount off their fare.

But after boarding, she claimed that the driver, Mr Winson Tong, said he had not received an SMS confirmation of the discount and would have to charge her the full fare.

Despite her protests, Ms Lok, who is self-employed, said the 35-year-old driver gave her two choices - pay the full fare at the end of her trip or alight from his vehicle.

"In the midst of us arguing, he got us out of the KPE (Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway) and stopped by the side of Geylang, telling me to get off," she wrote.

She refused and subsequently called the police, while Mr Tong continued "hurling insults and threats in both English and Hokkien" at her.

The police said it was alerted to a dispute at Lorong 9 Geylang at 4.06am but no assistance was required when it arrived at the scene.

Ms Lok noted that Mr Tong changed his tune in the presence of the police and "acted meek". She added that she had filed a negative review of the driver and had tried to lodge a complaint with GrabTaxi.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, GrabTaxi said it had suspended Mr Tong on July 29. "We have requested for the passenger's video recordings of the incident to assist us in our further assessment," said its spokesman. 

But Mr Tong, speaking to citizen journalism website Stomp, disputed his passenger's account of the events that took place.

He claimed that she was unable to provide proof that she was eligible to receive the discount even though she had keyed in the promotion code.

In a separate interview, Mr Tong, who has been with GrabCar for two weeks, also said that he had experienced four cases the past week when he was unable to claim the $5 discounts he gave to passengers from GrabTaxi and had to pay the $20 out of his own pocket. 

"When I called the GrabCar operator to check if they could verify Ms Lok's promotion, she said she was unable to due to a technical fault," he said. 

The GrabTaxi spokesman, however, said "there was no reason" why Mr Tong had to pay for the discounts himself if he had provided the correct discount. 

"For all discounted rides, we provide instructions to drivers on the amount of discount to passengers via the driver app, and they get reimbursed the following week."

While Mr Tong claimed he gave Ms Lok the alternative to alight instead of paying the fare, it was Ms Lok who started shouting insults at him.

"I was naturally provoked and I scolded her out of anger. I know I shouldn't have done that on hindsight, but she was being very rude," he said.

Mr Tong also said he had dropped her off at an area which was brightly-lit and had a row of durian stalls and coffee shops open.

Ms Lok told The Straits Times that she does not intend to pursue the matter further as her only intention was for GrabTaxi to handle the driver's misconduct. 

It is understood that she was offered some compensation by GrabTaxi.