Hello guys, I have a personal story to share with you. It’s an extremely important one if you are a frequent user of apps such as Grab or Uber.
On 25 December 2016, after my work had ended during my shift during X’mas eve, in the wee early morning of about 2am, I decided to take on Grabhitch (cos you know 50% off). Within minutes, my booking was accepted, and I received a call directly from the driver. But during the call, these were messages that he had conveyed to me:
1) Firstly, he does not know where Harbourfront Centre taxi stand is, and insisted that I walk to him. He was all the way at the other side of Vivocity (near to St James Powerhouse). Mind you, I have been on my feet for the past 9.5 hours. The thought of walking to St James from Harbourfront is clearly daunting to me at that point of time. Furthermore, isn’t it the driver’s responsibility to pick a passenger up straight from the stated pick up point?
2) Secondly, during the tele-conversation, he also mentioned that he is not driving the stated Mercedes-Benz car (plate number: SJV6527Z) in my booking screen. Instead, he was driving a silver Cheverolet. I didn’t think too much of it but I don’t think that’s the standard grab/uber practice? Correct me if I’m wrong.
Eventually, the driver and I decided to make a compromise, and picked me up at the bus stop in front of Vivocity, which is somewhat far from where I was. But I didn’t want to waste time further as I was so exhausted. As I walked to the car, I saw a dog, which initially I thought was a soft toy. As I got closer, I realised the driver had a REAL LIVING DOG (It was a small chihuahua as I got to know later) with him inside the car! While I was shocked, I didn’t want to kick up a fuss out of it. I really wanted to just get home.
Never in my life have I encountered a taxi/grab/uber driver that brought a dog along to pick up customers. I mean I know it’s Grabhitch but it is just plain unprofessional to do that. I know there are many animal lovers out there who wouldn’t mind this. But I thought it’s just very basic courtesy to at least inform your passenger especially with a muslim-sounding name if he might be okay with it?
So many lines crossed here; safety issues, health related issues, religious and cultural issues etc. Yes, I’m very much Muslim. However, at that point of time, I thought to myself that it’s just a dog, and the driver should probably have the dog well tamed to be comfortable with strangers. But I later realised that the driver is the one that needed taming.
I proceeded to open the back door of the vehicle to take a seat, but was welcomed with some rude remarks from the driver. His exact words,”Eh you no shame ah, not embarrassed ah? This is Grabhitch leh, not Grabcar you know!”. Of course, I was taken aback and was appalled at his comments and barbaric mannerisms of speaking to a customer, but I politely apologised and even sat at the front passenger seat, not wanting any unnecessary confrontation. He then placed dog was onto his lap, and covered it with a blanket.
Upon being seated, I then realised that the driver immediately ended the trip. How did I know this? There’s a notification each time my credit card has been charged via grab. How is this a problem? It is a problem of ethics because even before he delivered his service of completing the trip, I was charged a fee. In short, he was dishonest.
Throughout the entire trip, the driver didn’t stop being obnoxious. He lectured me about the ‘hitch culture’, and remained adamant about how he thought his way of “educating” me about the hitch culture was appropriate. He claimed that as passengers taking the Grabhitch option, it isn’t right to sit at the back and treat the owners of the car as our “cheapest drivers to get to our destination”.
He further said that he was “doing a service to the community by allowing people to sit in his car at a very small fee and helping people reach their destinations”. He added on saying that many people don’t want to perform Grabhitch because of people like me. Like seriously?!! If you want to really give a real hitchhiker’s ride, then don’t expect any payment at all maybe? I’m still paying for your service at the end of the day, so you don’t need to be all high and mighty about having to drive me to a destination which I paid for. And I’ve taken many rides from the Grab app before, and had no problem with me sitting at the passenger seat or the back of the car.
When I asked him if his dog is generally okay with strangers, he defensively lashed back at me and said,”My dog never disturb you, why you so concern about the dog?!! Whether my car got a roof or not, got aircon or not, it’s all not your concern what. Your only concern should be if you reach your destination at the cheapest rate.”. I just kept quiet throughout as I didn’t even want to begin any arguments whatsoever. He also began boasting about how he normally drives a Mercedes. Seriously, I do not care. All I wanted was to have a peaceful ride home!
There were other parts of his character that was utterly shitty, but I was too appalled by it that I couldn’t remember every single bullshit that came out of his mouth. As we were about to approach the carpark of my home, he asked if he could drop me before the gantry. As I was very tired physically and also with the driver, I agreed and he stopped at the block furthest from my home, even if by right he should have dropped me at my block. (It was an additional 5 minutes distance by foot.)
As I was trying to unbuckle the seat belt, the sound I made probably riddled the dog. The DOG THEN JUMPED AND BIT ME! Yes you read correctly, it actually bit me and left a wound on my right arm. The driver did not ordered it to bite me. But it seems a little plotted ah?
I immediately told the driver I’m leaving, opened the door and slammed it shut. He didn’t even apologised or offered to take a look at my arm. I walked away quickly as I wanted to get away from the possible danger – like getting mauled by a ferocious dog.
This all happened in the wee hours of Sunday morning after a tiring day at work. Like I said, all I wanted was to go home and get some sleep. And such luck had to strike me. Nevertheless, I have taken necessary steps to this whole issue and have approached the proper authorities.
The first thing I did was to call up Grab customer service hotline to explain the whole situation to them. They encouraged me to file for a police report, and have been very helpful throughout the whole process, although they mentioned that they are unable to divulge the driver’s details to me, or the other authorities.
I have gone to the doctor at NUH who was very caring and concern while I was consulted by her. She even ensured that I ascertain if the dog is approved by the authorities by allowing me to call the Grab customer service hotline in the room, and patiently waited before making a decision to give me a rabies shot or not. It was not administered as we found that the dog was certified healthy, according to the driver who admitted that there was his dog in his car but denied that it has bitten me. Come on la, the mark is on my arm already. Whatever it is, his pet has already caused harm and injury to me.
I have also gone to the police who have referred my case to Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Officers on both sides had handled the matter professionally and quickly. I even received a phone call from AVA the very afternoon, which was after Sunday and on Christmas.
All in all, everything is pretty much settled. I’m just left with updates so I can make a decision on my next steps. I am posting this so that you are aware of what you may get yourself into when travelling with a stranger, especially if you’re like me who love the convenience of these apps.
Ultimately, this is a story of how my $6 Grabhitch ride became into $123.40 matter as I had incurred $117.40 worth of medical bill, that included a tetanus shot and antibiotics. This story is very much real, and has happened to me. It is no joke. So please be safe.
P.S. Some of you may wonder why I didn’t take immediate action like calling the police at the scene, or at least take pictures of the owner and dog with the vehicle. Even my parents asked me.
Being in a dangerous position, all I could think of is getting myself out of that dangerous situation and far away from it. Imagine if I had confronted the driver in the car, he may have unleashed his dog on me, and may have been dead by then. If I had confronted the driver outside of the vehicle, he may have injured me or I may have injured him. Nobody knows what other implications could have occurred. At least, now I’ve done whatever I did to mitigate any further possible damage.