Grab is heading down a worrying path to become the taxi service it once was meant to replace.
While there have been an increasing number of complaints for Grab fares to be increasingly expensive these days, at least the fares were fixed and users did not have to undergo the hassle of haggling. But even this may soon frustratingly change, as the ride-sharing app has recently (and rather sneakily) announced that it is currently testing a new fare bidding feature.
In what is perhaps a tragically poetic scenario where the company is becoming something it swore not to be, this new — and most certainly unwelcome — feature was first reported by users after receiving notifications of its existence in GrabAcademy, an in-app learning section in the Grab driver-partners app. Perhaps as a pre-emptive (and frankly pathetic) defence to its imminent and inevitable hostility towards the introduction of this feature, Grab has stated in its announcement for this newly introduced fare bidding capability will help create a ‘more transparent and flexible pricing system’ by ‘allowing passengers and drivers to have a mutual agreement’ on the fare.
The ride-sharing company has also been quick to back-track in stating that this fare bidding feature is currently only being conducted in small-scale experiments in selected Malaysian towns. Grab has further described in its launch announcement for this feature to currently be ‘optional’ for both passengers and drivers, with fixed fares for JustGrab and GrabCar to still apparently be retained.
Now as for how it apparently works, it really is not unlike how one haggles for a taxi ride, but just done through the app. The fare bidding for instance starts with a passenger request, where they will suggest a fare that they are willing to pay for the requested ride.
Drivers then will have 15 seconds to accept the fare, or counter offer with a different fare. The counter-offer amount will be shown on the app for the driver to propose. The passenger can then choose their preferred drive based on the offer received, with the driver being notified in 15 to 20 seconds if they have been selected by the passenger for the ride.
Grab has thus far not mentioned when this scheme will be rolled out nationwide, or if it will actually even get past its pilot testing phase. Though given that it will likely make the company even more money, it would not be too surprising to see this totally unwelcome feature be rolled out in the app sometime soon.
Like most money-making schemes too, it only remains to be seen when (and most certainly not if) this feature will be eventually made mandatory. Though it wouldn’t be exactly too cynical to say for Grab to not even need to make it compulsory, as simple economics will dictate for driver’s to simply not feel like picking up users who do not place a higher bid for their ride.
In fact, while the company has previously stated that drivers must first decide to turn on the feature if they want to participate in fare bidding rides, it is explicitly stated by Grab to drivers to turn on that feature to get more riders!
So if that really is the case, what really is the difference between flagging a taxi off from the street? And just speaking more generally regarding the increasingly greedy tactics of this company, is there really no other party that is going to actually give Grab some actual competition in the ride hailing sector anytime soon?