How would you react if the driver from your e-hailing service provider suddenly asked you to take hold of the steering wheel of a moving vehicle while he worked his GPS device?
Would you be comfortable if the driverwas unable to take his eyes off your “luscious lips”; if he enquired whether you would be “home alone later”; or displayed a wanton disregard for the rules of the road?
Safe, affordable, and hassle-free rides would be the kind of experience e-hailing commuters look forward to when they pay to be transported from place to place.
E-hailing has enjoyed worldwide popularity, and the trend of flagging a ride with a few clicks on your mobile phone has grown rapidly in our country.
However, whether e-hailing service providers are doing enough to ensure that their drivers’ all-round efforts remain on the straight and narrow has become a talking point.
While some local riders are satisfied with the experience delivered by the two most popular providers, Uber and Bolt (previously Taxify), others are not.
For those who complain, either on their respective service provider’s app, on social media platforms or other circles, it’s usually about the driver’s performance and conduct.
The common complaints were that some drivers became infuriated when riders paid by card, some male drivers chatted up female passengers and even stored their numbers without permission.
Others complained that the photo of the designated driver, sent by the service provider ahead of the trip, did not match the looks of the person who arrived.
Commuters also complained that some drivers were rude, aggressive, used abusive language and cancelled some trips without warning.
On one occasion, Nompendulo Dlamini flew to Joburg from Durban and hailed an Uber to complete her journey, but it didn’t go as planned.
“The driver stopped at a garage, said he was unable to travel to my destination and demanded cash. He suggested that I get someone to fetch me from the garage after charging me R350.”
Dlamini said her flight had been delayed and had only arrived in Joburg at 1am.
“Here I was, in the dead of night, and in a strange place. Luckily, I was able to call a friend,” she said.
Once Londeka Goge of Pinetown was riding in a Bolt car when the driver made inappropriate comments about her and her lips.
Her response to him was: “You try anything, and we’re both dead.”
However, in August, an Uber driver chided her when she complained about the odour emitted from the eight “isiphandla” (goat skin) bands on his hand.
“The smell was awful. There was still some raw meat on the bands. I took a picture and posted it on Facebook.
“When I asked the driver to cover his hand, he said that as an African, I should understand tradition,” Goge said.
A frequent e-hailing rider, who preferred to be named only as “Cee”, said she has had many “bad” and “scary” experiences with both Uber and Bolt drivers.
“As a single black female entrepreneur who often travels alone, it’s just a mess. Unfortunately, I’m not always able to avoid using the services,” said Cee.
She said she had drivers who asked her, “who is home”, “if I was married”, and some were drunk.
“There were drivers who got nasty and vicious when I refused to share my phone number. Another dropped me in the middle of nowhere because I called him out for being on his phone while driving.”
Cee said she was also verbally abused when she objected to his sexual advances.
“I have complained about some of my experiences. Quite frankly, some of the responses from the service providers were nonsense. They don’t care,” she said.
Nicole Graham, DA councillor and eThekwini caucus leader, had a favourable response when she complained to Uber about the kamikaze tendencies of her driver, last week.
“Uber refunded me R12. It’s only R12, but I appreciate that they have done something.”
Graham’s previous tweet read: “Just dropped my car off for a service and had the weirdest Uber trip. The driver had no intention/ capability of following the GPS.
He just drove whichever way he felt. Went the wrong way twice and when I told him, he just stopped dead on the M41.”
She said afterwards: “The biggest concern is safety. Our roads are dangerous, and you want a driver to drive properly.”