Singapore’s Uber works well, but not in NZ and Australia – AirBNB and Expedia cannot be fully trusted companions…

Your correspondent spent 5 weeks on trip to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand and tried out Uber 12 times and AirBNB 4 times, and Expedia once.

Uber in Singapore is an unqualified success – we had nothing to complain about because Uber operates under strict guidelines in Singapore. They were courteous drivers and the fare was a little lower than an ordinary taxi. This is not surprising since the government in Singapore regulates traffic strictly and expects transport service suppliers to follow the law.

In Australia and New Zealand things were very different. Most of the drivers had a poor understanding of English and in one case an inability to read his GPS correctly – we got our money back within the hour after being dropped off at the wrong address. They were clearly cheaper than ordinary taxis and the difference was quite significant some 20% to 30%! This was explained by the news articles that Uber attempts to operate as a car sharing service application rather than taxi company – this means that they do not have to pay their drivers like the normal taxis. Each Uber driver is left with their net income after Uber has deducted their share from the daily fares and after the driver has paid for gas, car maintenance, insurance and taxes… 

The main media channel, ABC News, reported recently: “Australians driving for Uber’s most popular low-cost service, Uber X, are earning about half the statutory minimum wage for transport workers, according to a new report. The union-backed Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work has calculated that the average income of the ride-sharing service’s drivers working in six Australian cities is less than $15 (€9) an hour.”

However, Australia and New Zealand are pretty laid back liberal countries so cheaper fares will probably continue for some time… unlike in Finland where Uber has pulled out after it several unfavourable court decisions.

Our experience in Australia and New Zealand with AirBNB was nothing more than untrustworthy. The advertisements promising luxury homes were nonsense except in one case. Most of the time we were lodged in basements, or dusty, untidy apartments, or in places with no kitchen to wash dishes even though you could cook a meal and coffee! Taking dirty plates, cups an glasses to the bathroom is not our idea of fun… 

The worst part of AirBNB is that if you complain you may end up having a bad reputation on the system. My wife complained of traffic noise to the owner who replied, “I lived there for 3 years and heard nothing.” Well, that was nonsense because your correspondent is deaf in one ear and he heard the noise quite clearly at 07.00am when traffic started to pile up outside. Who wants to have a bad name on a shared network, because there is very little you can do to defend your reputation later when you are refused a booking because you are seen as a problem customer. The next luxury apartment clients will also suffer the same rotten way in that apartment. 

And then there was the AirBNB owner who told us to explain to the neighbours, if asked, that we are friends of the owner because others tenants in the building had complained about AirBNB guests in the apartment. That is an invitation to lie which is dishonest… If there are complaints why should we be put at risk from disturbed neighbours?

AirBNB, with one exception, was not able to offer us anything better than a hotel for the same price without all the hassle we experienced. We will probably never use their services again. Your correspondent has used their services in China, UK and Italy and nothing from these past experiences was that great either.

Expedia was the worst of the other two contracting parties. I had just arrived in Auckland tired and looking forward to a shower and a nap! I took an Uber from the airport to the apartment building and called the owner. He told me “Sorry, it has been booked 5 times over by Expedia and they have informed all the clients by email.” He then cut the line. and the following series of separate phone calls occurred over the next 4 hours: 

First call: After 5 minutes in shock we managed to find a 800 telephone number for Expedia. The phone rang and we entered the number 3 for “Bookings”, then the number 2 for “Problems” and then a real person from the US came online and asked about my problem. He then said that he would pass me over to “Relocations”. That was another 5 minute wait, and a nice gentleman from the Philippines asked me again about my problem. He promised to find me a mother apartment and I was told to hold the line. !0 minutes passed and the line went dead. 

Second call: I redialed the first 800 number, and repeated the same complaints as the first call. This time we were offered a room in a nice apartment but before he could give us any details the line went dead…

Third call: Again a repeat of the above, but we were not offered any apartment. This time we gave them out phone number just in case we were cut off, but even though they had my mobile telephone number and even though they promised to call back, nobody called, after the line failed once more.

Fourth call: One more call to Expedia and again nobody was following our case so the same amount of time was spent explaining. This time we are offered three awful places. All of them were much cheaper than what we had already paid even though they claimed they were equal to what we had reserved. During this call another Expedia client arrived and expected have the same apartment as we had reserved! We were told to wait again, and the line was cut.

Fifth call: Finally somebody started to listen and take our position more seriously and we were actually offered a decent room. The only thing was that it took 4 hours of our time just when we were tired after a long trip. 

We will never use their service again…

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