rants, raves and randomness
There has been a hot topic on my news feed about an Ateneo student, Mark Buraga, and a cab driver. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is :
(Side note : I realized I cannot embed Facebook videos on wordpress.com??)
As with many trending topics back home, people are so polarized. Are you for the cab driver or Mark Buraga? I myself have gotten into a mild debate on FB with a friend about another incident some time ago involving the same characters : a jeepney driver and a passenger.
In the jeepney driver vs passenger scenario, I argued in support of the passenger. Predictably, in this case, I support Mark Buraga. But not only because the driver was behaving rather offensively – but because I think it’s ultimately the service providers’ responsibility to make sure transactions go smoothly.
My friend argued that as passengers, we have to be “propesyonal” by bringing loose change. I disagree – although I try to be the best customer I can be.
I mean think about this : whenever I go home, the first thing I do is go to a money changer. The money changer doesn’t change all my money to small bills, syempre. As a consequence, the next next transaction will have to be accommodating. After all, even if I tried to, shops will not break my bills. Bawal magpapalit signs are posted everywhere.
So after trying (unsuccessfully), the next step is to go to a shop/restaurant that will accommodate me and my large bills. What else can I do? As Nelly Furtado’s song goes… All I can do is try!
Personally, I always make sure I have loose change when taking the cab, simply because I hate it when drivers take the liberty of not giving me change “kasi walang panukli“. But sometimes, you cannot avoid situations when all you have left are 1000 or 500 peso bills. Do I have to go to great lengths to get myself a cab or buy food or get some sort of service in exchange for money? As a cab passenger, I am not getting paid for taking a cab. I am the customer. And as a paying customer, I want to get my money’s worth. And my money’s worth includes convenience.
If you are the only driver in the whole wide universe (term courtesy of Eraserheads), then fine, you can provide the shittiest service and we’ll still line up to get in your cab. But you’re not. There are others like you. There are also bus drivers, jeepney drivers, airport cab drivers, pedicab drivers, whole array of choices.
Capitalism is the economy of minimum scarcity because its basic principle is to leave everybody free to choose.
Buck, Hart. The Essence of Capitalism. September 1, 1955. < fee.org/freeman/detail/the-essence-of-capitalism >
I can choose not to choose you. And if you give consistently bad service, others like me can choose not to choose you.
Given freedom to choose between alternatives as the single basic premise, all the institutions and gadgets of capitalism are then free to grow out of it all by themselves.
Buck, Hart. The Essence of Capitalism. September 1, 1955. < fee.org/freeman/detail/the-essence-of-capitalism >
I was once browsing in Ho Chi Minh City. Before buying clothes, I like to try them on and see how they fit. But apparently, one lady vendor has had enough of people trying clothes on and not buying. It’s additional work for her, for no additional pay. So she told me in broken English, “You can only try them on if you’re going to buy.”
Well, I told her that’s not how it works. Then I remembered I was in Vietnam. So I shut it, and moved to another stall who was more consumer friendly. I chose not to choose her stall. And her stall remained empty. And if it keeps going on like that, they’d be forced to close or replace her. Maybe they already have. Too bad for her.
Back home, things are not quite different. Some people still have the sari-sari store mentality. When I buy at a sari-sari store, (some) tinderas are overbearing and arrogant and act like you owe them big time for making your life convenient. There is no professionalism whatsoever : they talk to you in a condescending tone while making you wait forever. It always feels like you are asking them for a favor and you owe them your utang na loob. Similarly, (some) cab drivers act like you owe them them your life -and that you should pay extra for the inconvenience they are experiencing (“Pakidagdagan. Umuulan kasi e” or “Matrapik“). They take it out on you. For some unknown reasons, it’s your fault. Ikaw pa ang kailangan makisama sa binabayaran mo.
Pero sa palagay ko, as a driver, it is in your best interest to provide the best possible service ever. Why ? Because you want to be chosen over your competitors, the other drivers. Remember, you are not the sole driver in the whole wide universe. And taxis are the not the only means of transportation. Same principle applies to tindahan, restaurants, hotels, cellphone, computer makers and just about everybody else who wants to make money by selling their goods or services. Think about this : we, as customers, are not going to inconvenience ourselves to obtain a service from you. If you’re too inconvenient, then we’d take another cab.Or go to a convenience store. Gone are the days when you are the only tindahan in the village. We don’t owe you our business. Because as a paying customer, I don’t have to put up with your shit! As a tourist, I can just visit another country altogether – too bad for you.
I am not saying that service providers should give in to customers all the time – put up with a customer’s shit.
Nevertheless, there is a certain level of “professionalism” demanded of service providers. That is why, at work (where we are getting paid), there are SLAs, quotas, deadlines and targets. We are constantly being measured and monitored – so we meet the “standard”. And if we can’t do our job well, we’ll be fired and replaced by someone who does. Too bad for us.
Here, you can go to any convenience stores and pay them $100 (10,000 Yen) to buy a gum – they understand that as professionals, they have to have sukli. When my husband was working for a bar, he had to have at least 300 USD for change. This was SOP : The money was provided by the bar and was given to the next guy on duty. No one will ever berate a customer and say, “Wala ho kasi maaga pa.” Or : “Kayo kasi ang unang customer.“. Like that’s OUR fault? In the same way, if you take a cab, you can pay either by credit card or train card (yep, the one you load and tap) or cash. They go to great lengths to make it more convenient for customers-THE ONES PAYING. Aside from that, the service is also topnotch – they will give you your change to the last cent with a receipt (Pilipinas : Wala ng papel e. Naubusan.). Cab drivers know they are competing against trains, which are cheaper and not subject to road congestion. So they raise the bar and make sure your experience is comfortable and worth the last Yen. Because it is in their best interest to give you a positive experience. It is in accordance with the principle that as a commercial entity wanting your money, they have to adjust to what the customers want. Not the other way around. Which is why customer service is generally very high here, and relatively low back home.
But don’t take my word for it.
But why bother, you may ask. Hindi ba pwedeng pwede na?
No, unfortunately, half-assing is not an option in a real competitive market economy. Remember you are not the only cab driver in the whole wide universe.
On the other hand, if customers have a positive experience, they will do business with the same commercial establishments again. Same cab. Same tindahan. Suki. And suki (repeat customers) are good.
According to our analysis, 25% to 40% of the total revenues of the most stable businesses in the SumAll network come from returning customers. Even better, steady customers help businesses weather lean economic times; businesses with 40% repeat customers generated nearly 50% more revenue than similar businesses with only a 10% repeat customers.
Uzunianm, Mark. The Importance of Repeat Customers. April 5, 2013.< blog. sumall. com/ journal/ the- importance- of- repeat-customers-2 .html >
And if the cycle goes on, bad businesses will be eliminated, and the good businesses will remain. If you want to keep up, you have to change, adjust, improve and sometimes, innovate. Bottom line is, you have to remain competitive.
Unfortunately, these natural* market forces don’t really work back home. I mean, hello, slow internet? Ridiculously high bank interest rates?
One reason is that, there is only one cab driver back home. Monopoly. And people are forced to put up with this cab driver’s shit.
Or some businesses can pull some strings to stay on top. Look at Citibank and HSBC above, they are both commercial banks that want to make money. But one can increase its interest rate quite high (at 5.5% per annum minimum) while another can’t – restrained by the laws of the land.
But let’s not talk about that. It’s complicated. Let’s look at Uber.
You would think that politicians would be grateful there was a safer alternative for their constituents – the commuters – given the current state of public transportation in Manila. But the politicians are the first to meddle. Instead of taking the side of consumers/passengers, they are against them. And instead of making their services more attractive by buying new cars or training their drivers so they can be at par with Uber, cab driver associations want the easy way out. They whine, bitch and complain. For not being chosen by the customers who use their freedom to NOT choose them. After all, customers want the best value for their money – and that includes convenience. And customer service.
What next, Airbnb?
I am not saying that markets should be completely free of government intervention.
In reality, a market economy does not exist separate from government – it is very much a product of government rules and regulations.
Capitalism Requires Government. < www. government isgood .com/ articles. php?aid=13 >
But how much government intervention is good? And how much is bad?
The most obvious, and accepted as necessary by some, way the government creates monopolies is by granting exclusive franchises to industries deemed “public utilities.” Some common examples have been energy providers (gas and electric), telephone service providers, and cable tv. The rationalization used is that certain industries, due to high fixed costs, economies of scale, and land usage limitations, are better served by having a single provider. The conclusion is that government should choose a single provider and protect them from competition while at the same time heavily regulating the selected monopoly to prevent monopoly pricing and pass the savings of the increased efficiency on to the customer. However, history does not seem to support this theory. Many industries that claim they are “public utilities” were competitive in the past or became competitive after time spent with protected monopoly status and the customer did not see great advantage in the monopoly years, especially when taxes used to subsidize the utilities are taken into account and other government intervention is not present in the competitive years.
In conclusion, monopolies, oligopolies, unnaturally high market concentrations all stem from government intervention into the free market placing various barriers to the entry and exit of competing businesses. This is done in the guise of regulating or promoting capitalism but is actually within a system of corporatism, the alliance of big business and big government. Big business works with big government to “socialize costs in exchange for a share of profits.”Big business also likes big government because “it has a competitive advantage over small business in doing business with it and negotiating favors. Big government, in turn, likes big business because it is manageable; it does what it is told.” This alliance has distorted our markets and increased the power of both partners at the expense of competition, consumers, and citizens.
Manier, Damien. DamienManier.com. March 29, 2010. Monopoly and Competition: Government Intervention and its Effects on the Free Market. < damienmanier.com/ 2010-03-29/ monopoly_ and _competition/ >
It is because the market forces are being tampered with – to benefit the big business and the big government – that rude drivers are still plying the roads of Manila.
Left to the mercy of customers, the likes of him would have been gone. Long gone.
*I am not sure if natural is the proper term. I am not an economist.