Sunday, December 09, 2007

A tipping we should go

Since I am on the subject, and fare increases have been announced by the biggest operator in town - Comfort Delgro cabs - I like to offer a suggestion. As taxi operators are going to do the metre adjustments in their cabs, why not at the same time remove all surcharges. Many have already made this suggestion and I think it is time we consider alternatives to surcharges.

In place of these surcharges, we should bring back a very service oriented practice - tipping. We should make tipping a regular practice because this rewards the honest, hardworking, friendly and efficient cab driver and 'punishes' the slothful and dishonest ones. For example, if some taxi driver could pick me up in the dead of night and bring me home comfortably and quickly, I will give the driver a big tip. If the driver helps me with the heavy luggage I have, I will show my appreciation over and above what the cab metre suggests that I pay. This is my expression of approval and the premium that I have placed on the taxi driver's service - no need for this surcharge and that surcharge. Anything forced is bound to be resented and any incentive to express generosity goes out the window with it.

I have tipped taxi drivers before, even within the current surcharge-driven regime, but I would consider doing it more often if the understanding between the taxi driver and myself is one of mutual trust and respect with a service-oriented mindset. By all means, continue to run the metre, but let the passenger decide if a reward over and above what is obligatory is deserved. I would say that good taxi drivers may end up taking home more. Best of all, the taxi operator is out of the picture entirely. A good workmen deserves his reward, the bad one deserves only the barest minimum. With the current regime, the good and and bad receive the same rewards. Where is the incentive to excel in this service business?

The government abolished tipping many many years ago because it was felt that the variation in the quantum given wasn't fair. That may have been the right thing to do then, but bringing back this practice should be given serious consideration. When you think about it, the varying quantum in tips is exactly the factor that should drive service providers to give of their best. This is the best and most sustainable practice in the long run without having to invent more and more surcharges that serve only to distort the market, change travel patterns, and disrupt the family hours. Policy makers seem to have no idea how these surcharges are affecting the national birth rates.

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