Grab Taxi app still has kinks to iron out

Icon for Grab Taxi.
Icon for Grab Taxi. PHOTO: GRABTAXI

I had long alighted from my Grab Taxi ride and was already wolfing down a sandwich at the St Marc's Cafe at Raffles City Shopping Centre. Yet, the Grab Taxi app was telling me the cab is still on its way - "23077 minutes away", it said - to pick me up from my home.

Since leaving The Straits Times to start my own tech public relations firm, which coincided with the scrapping of my Honda Odyssey, I have been hopping into taxis daily to get to my meetings.

I rely mainly on two wonderful taxi apps, Uber and Grab Taxi. My records showed I made 25 trips via Grab Taxi and 10 trips via Uber last month. Uber works better for me but seems to have fewer affiliated cars and taxis on the road. So I find myself using Grab Taxi more often.

But the Grab Taxi system has many kinks that need to be ironed out. The first problem is that the app is buggy. Half the time, the app would show that I have reached my destination when the taxi is still on the road. In some cases, it would show that the driver has yet to pick me up even though I have alighted. This would normally be only a minor annoyance. However, the app would continue to run and sap my phone's battery, and I have to remember to manually close it.

The service level of the drivers also varies, and it feels as if many do not care whether I am giving them a good rating for their service.

The best thing about using a ride-booking app is that you get all your receipts via e-mail, so that it makes it easy to submit transport claims for reimbursement. The Uber system, which accepts only credit card payment, is good in this area. I simply log in to my account page to get a summary of all my rides and how much they cost.

In comparison, my experience with Grab Taxi has been frustrating when it comes to cash payment (the company recently enabled credit card payment but I have not tried it yet).

With cash payment, while I can view the history of my rides on the Grab Taxi app, it does not show the cost of each ride. Instead, a receipt is e-mailed to me after each ride.

That is not all. Of the 25 rides I took, only eight showed the correct fare, while 15 showed the price of my ride as zero. The other two showed nonsensical amounts, such as 33 cents.

Chatting with different Grab Taxi drivers, I discover what is causing the problem: Cab drivers are manually keying the fare amounts into their Grab Taxi apps for the e-receipts.

As you can tell, there is clearly no incentive for drivers to go the extra mile to ensure this process is done properly - nor does there seem to be any deterrent to those who do not. It could also be ignorance. One driver told me there was no such thing as an e-receipt and a few seemed not to know how to punch in the numbers.

From my own experience, Uber drivers are generally more courteous, probably because the number of stars I award them at the end of each trip affects their ratings, which also determines if they get more jobs.

Also, because every trip is paid to Uber via credit card, drivers have to take the necessary steps to end the trip, or it will not get recorded and they will not get paid by Uber.

The big problem with both apps, however, is that I often have problems getting a ride during the morning peak hours, from 8am to 9am. When that happens, I would call the good old 6552-1111 Comfort Delgro taxi-booking line. There is a good chance that there are still some older uncles who have not jumped onto the app bandwagon, and they will be more than happy to be a part of your ride.

• Former tech editor for The Straits Times Oo Gin Lee now runs his own tech public relations practice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline 'Grab Taxi app still has kinks to iron out'. Print Edition | Subscribe