I am a passionate Uber user. I have always used it in Singapore and when I travel in Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, Shanghai, London, anywhere I am on business. I am therefore very disappointed that Uber has called it a day and decided that 23% of Grab is better than competing. This is very bad news for consumers in Singapore. Here are five reasons why:
1. The Grab App is not user-friendly compared with Uber
My experience (and that of many others that I have talked to) of using the Grab app is that it is not user friendly compared with the Uber one. For example, it didn’t know where I was even when I put my address in and kept asking me to pay in cash when I had loaded my credit card up to use and asked to use that payment method. It also claimed drivers were near when they were 10 minutes away. I could list a dozen more things I don’t like about it and others said the same when I asked about it. The Uber app is simple to use and navigate.
2. Grab drivers don’t know where they are going compared to Uber ones
I was on a date at Level 33 one Sunday and my date misguidedly took a Grab to get to me. She had alloted plenty of time to arrive. The driver then took her on a tourist trek up and down every road to and from Marina Bay Financial Centre and around the CBD and down to Bugis that you could possibly imagine. You couldn’t make it up! My date even showed me on her phone with video and screen grabs where she was and where the driver was going. Which was literally up and down the roads unable to see the largest and most easily identifiable buildings in Singapore.
She gave me a running commentary of how angry the driver was getting with the Grab GPS and his inability to be able to find what are three very large buildings on the edge of the CBD that really do stand out.
My date was 30 minutes late. A journey that should have taken her 30 minutes took one hour. My date will never take Grab again. The driver, like many Grab drivers, was not Singaporean. I rarely met a non-Singaporean Uber driver. They were all homegrown and it was a pleasure to chat with them. Many were females which I have not experienced with Grab.
3. Grab pricing is out of this world expensive compared to Uber
So when the Grab/Uber deal got announced, I thought that I should try Grab again as I hadn’t used it for a while as it was so unreliable. My first experience was double the fare of my last Uber and Comfort from the same place. I cancelled and booked a Comfort cab. My second experience, the same thing happened. I used SMRT instead. Grab claims that they are not using monopolistic pricing but my experience says that they are. No more discounts, no more promotions, a surge price on every booking. They are now a monopoly and are using it to charge Singaporeans more than what they were being charged under Uber.
4. Grab customer service is nothing like Uber
Uber customer service is fantastic.
You complain about your driver instantly. Uber comes back to you immediately.
You got cancelled for no reason. You go to the app and receive a $6 refund.
Grab customer service is appalling by comparison. Friends of mine who have had problems and complained have gotten nowhere with them. That was when they were competing. Now, Grab has a monopoly meaning their customer service will resemble that of SingTel or StarHub. A monopoly's view of customer experience is vastly different to that of a challenger or competitor.
5. UberEats worked - I wouldn’t trust GrabEats
Another negative side effect of the takeover/merger is the disappearance of Uber Eats. I gave up using Deliveroo as it kept telling the drivers my address was literally on the Nicoll Highway, literally, on a bridge! Even though my address was plain to see the drivers ignored that and blindly followed the GPS to the middle of Nicoll Highway and were surprised to not find my condo there….on a main road with nothing around it but water! So I switched to UberEats and they got every delivery right and on time. Will I use the about-to-be launched GrabEats? Based on their track record of Grab Taxi, um, no. Food Panda it is for me!
And for every Singaporean who's been led to think that Grab is Singaporean, they are not. They are not “homegrown” as many people say. They are as “homegrown” as Uber or Deliveroo! I await and will support the genuine Singaporean competitors to come to the frey such as Ryde that take on Grab’s monopoly. In the meantime it’s back to Comfort and SMRT.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Chris Reed has 25 years of senior marketing experience on both the client and agency side in the UK and now in Asia Pacific. He is the CEO and founder of Black Marketing.