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Phuket Opinion: Avoiding grief in breaking Phuket's taxi mafia

PHUKET: The recent crackdown on ride-sharing apps Uber and GrabCar should be a welcome sign for customers and supporters of these services here in Phuket. There are countless international examples of such companies successfully disrupting the entrenched interests of existing taxi services and the growing pains that accompany the process.

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The Phuket News

Sunday 19 March 2017, 09:00AM


Uber car and phone. Sheer market forces seem to be breaking the stranglehold on Phuket's taxi mafia better than what Thai officials, incuding police, have ever been able to do. Photo: Mark Warner
Uber car and phone. Sheer market forces seem to be breaking the stranglehold on Phuket's taxi mafia better than what Thai officials, incuding police, have ever been able to do. Photo: Mark Warner

Despite official resistance, ride-sharing services enjoy huge levels of public support for their cheaper pricing, efficiency, convenient service and creation of flexible part-time jobs.

The ongoing reaction of the Thai government and taxi industry to this disruptive use of technology can be likened to the famous “Five Stages of Grief” theory – first expounded by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. She described the series of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients prior to their death as moving through five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Ride-sharing services spell the death of the traditional taxi industry. We can currently see countries including the US, Brazil, India, China and now Thailand progressing through the stages of grief.

But much like death, the march of technology into previously protected industries is an immutable fact of life. We do, after all, live in a capitalist world and if a new entrant to the market can create demand by providing a better, cheaper service – then the market will inevitably incorporate them.

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The reasons that Uber and GrabCar have been quick to attract customers here in Thailand are so obvious they barely need repeating. Thailand’s existing taxi services have been widely criticised as costly, unfriendly, inefficient, dangerous and at times just plain unavailable – as we know only too well in Phuket.

The Thai people’s love of smartphones is well documented and we constantly hear how Phuket is rapidly evolving into a “smart city”. So why don’t we just skip the first four stages and go straight to the inevitable acceptance of this new technology?

Because of Phuket’s taxi mafia! I hear you cry. Well, it may just be that ride-sharing services finally achieve, through sheer market force, what successive governments have so far failed to do – break the taxi mafia’s stranglehold on Phuket.

So we may have to wait a bit longer but it seems the outcome is as inevitable as our own mortality.  

 

 

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BenPendejo | 20 March 2017 - 17:56:20

ozcabman... I guess it just must be me that has issues with taxi scum, but don't forget that the #1 item on the NCPO task list was to break down the criminal taxi mafia, yet even those efforts failed, proving how entrenched this criminal element is.  Go ahead and be a Phuket taxi-lover...they would screw you over just as fast as me, and heaven forbid you should have any conflict with one on th...

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malczx7r | 20 March 2017 - 17:55:07

Ozcabman, fair comment about low season, i understand and yes it's still cheap compared to london.
Calling people scum is not good i agree, it's like some people i know on FB, they refer to other football teams and their fans with the same terminology, i hate that too! Going off topic there a bit!

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ozcabman | 20 March 2017 - 16:47:04

malczx7r....totally agree with you. I am very careful on the roads in Phuket and cringe when I see the way people (including taxis) drive here.

As far as the price of taxis goes in Phuket, I agree that they are much more expensive than the rest of Thailand but they also have a substantial low season to deal with....which is not necessarily the same case in bkk. It is funny how we all expect thi...

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ozcabman | 20 March 2017 - 16:18:16

BenPendejo...."spoken like a cabby"??? But you don't know anything about me.

Funnily enough I have been living in Thailand for quite some time now....including Phuket for a couple of years. In my time here I have caught many taxis and never experienced the problems you speak of. I have however seen a lot of people speaking down to people in the service industries which perhaps you...

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BenPendejo | 20 March 2017 - 11:25:51

@ ozcabman...spoken like a cabby.  And yes, I know several taxi drivers here in Phuket, as I rent villas and look after guests, and I can tell you that one of the worst aspects of hospitality biz has been dealing with Phuket taxi scum.  Like spoiled little children that behave like 10 year old little boys that skipped their meds.  Surly attitudes, impatient to the core, and every one of them carri...

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malczx7r | 20 March 2017 - 10:24:37

ozcabman, the general reason people dislike the taxi's in Phuket is the high price, how can the capital city of a country be 2-3 times cheaper for taxi fares?

Also some taxi guys are ok but in general they are rude, drive badly and have no manners.  I recently had a taxi in bkk and asked the guy for the meter, as he wasn't going to use it, after a short while he said meter is for small ...

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ozcabman | 19 March 2017 - 18:34:13

BenPendejo....exactly the type of taxi hating comments I expected from this article. The same people who speak with such anger (e.g.. taxi scum) are probably the people who speak to taxi drivers like they are their own personal slaves. Do you think there is such a thing as a wealthy taxi driver in the whole world? No, its a low paying job where you deal with the general public who generally make y...

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BenPendejo | 19 March 2017 - 14:39:37

Bring it on... I think.  The problem with Thailand though will be a free-for-all for every car-owning Thai wanting a piece of the action...with low-life taxi scum being replaced by other aggressive sub-standard drivers, not to mention the potential crossfire a rider might be subject to once the gunfights erupt between the self-entitled taxi mafia and the independent drivers.  I still welcome the o...

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ozcabman | 19 March 2017 - 11:26:35

I'm sure this article will bring out all the taxi haters. 

The truth is that traditional taxis have invested heavily in the market. Some of this investment includes paying the government for a public transportation license. The reason uber etc. are cheap is because they don't follow the same laws as existing taxis. At the end of the day there is nothing new about uber. Its just a ...

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