Taxis, regulated vs desire-based supply and demand: why it matters
Since the beginning of 2014 there’s been a lot of public debate about what’s happening between taxis and VTCs/minicabs/black cars in France. After five days of strikes by taxis demanding the abolition of all VTCs, after countless articles and media reports on the topic, and after a (temporary?) moratorium put in place by the government blocking all new private chauffeur licenses, nothing has changed at SnapCar except that we’re growing faster than ever.
Yves, my partner in SnapCar, is a key part of the current taxis-VTCs mediation group trying to help the government find solutions to the conflict. He says the mediator has a really hard job: not easy to bring two sides together when one is focused on innovation and the other on regulation.
But while governments mediate and taxi unions strike, the public is deciding what services they want to use. And the public is saying that – certainly – they want to be able to choose.
When I went to the airport this afternoon my chauffeur arrived on time for the booking, welcomed me into his black class E when I arrived, and off we went. Not long into the booking he quietly asked me to confirm to which terminal I was going. I love talking to SnapCar chauffeurs, so after responding to him we chatted the rest of the way.
Clearly a humble family man, he told me that he’s originally from Cambodia and came to France as a child in 1979. He’s been a chauffeur for many years, but I was surprised to find out he’s a former taxi driver who still owns his license.
Despite this, a few months ago he made the decision to stop driving a taxi and instead become a SnapCar chauffeur.
“Weren’t you making enough money driving taxis?” I asked him.
“It wasn’t necessarily that,” he said. “It was more that I was tired of the regulations, and being mistrusted by customers because of their overall impressions of how they might get treated in a taxi.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “as a VTC driver people appreciate the service I provide. In taxis clients were often there because they felt they didn’t have any alternative. But in this car they’re here because they choose to be. They want to be here. It seems like a small thing but it actually makes a big difference.”
When we arrived at the Terminal he came around to open my door and I extended my hand.
“It was really nice to talk to you”, I said (and I meant it). “I hope we’ll have a chance to see each other again soon.”
“It was an honor to meet you, Mr. Ashton”, he said.
I thought about what he’d told me as I walked into the airport: He’s right about people taking SnapCar because they want to. And how that makes the difference. It’s why it doesn’t matter what regulations governments and unions decide to create: people are just going to keep booking.
Because the chauffeurs do for them what my chauffeur gave me today: a great experience. Maybe because – like my chauffeur today – the chauffeurs are also there because they want to be. It is what makes the difference. I met Exhibit A today.
So thank you Mr. Lao. The honor was mine.