The week-long Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday in Vietnam that ended in the middle of this week spelled a bonanza for GrabCar drivers in Ho Chi Minh City as people still preferred the ride-hailing app despite its skyrocketed fares.
Grab Vietnam only notified customers that its motorbike taxi (xe om) service, GrabBike, would collect a surcharge for bookings made during the holiday from mid-February. However, passengers were shocked to see the exorbitant fares listed for the private car service, GrabCar, during Tet.
Some complained the fares were increased “on a minute basis,” especially during noon time and late afternoon.
Hung, a resident in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, said he used to travel by Grab to District 1 for only VND100,000 (US$4.4) but the fare on February 17, the second day of the Lunar New Year, tripled to VND299,000 ($13.2).
“So it was nearly VND38,000 [$1.6] per km,” he said.
“I had to take a conventional cab, even though I had to wait longer, as such a three-fold increase was unacceptable.”
|A woman boards a GrabCar at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
On the same day, Thanh, a District 12 resident, wanted to travel to Go Vap District and was quoted a price of VND210,000 ($9.25) for the 11-km ride on her app.
“Even so, I failed to book that ride and in the next attempt, made a few minutes later, the fare jumped to VND270,000 but no driver accepted my booking,” she said.
Thanh then switched to Uber, and turned back to Grab and “finally, we managed to book the ride for VND285,000.”
“It was not easy to hail a taxi or Grab during Tet so we had to accept whatever the fare might be,” she added.
On the other side of the fence, GrabCar drivers were more than happy to work during Tet.
One of them, Tien, made no secret that he made nearly VND10 million ($440) during the first three days of Tet and the morning of the fourth day.
“I was almost glued to my car all day and had no time to eat,” he said.
On the first day of Tet, Tien said he “would receive new booking immediately after dropping a customer off.”
“The icing on the cake is that streets were less crowded during Tet and there were no traffic jams,” he added.
The bonanza for GrabCar drivers like Tien came not only from the surge in the number of bookings, but also the skyrocketed fares.
No GrabCar rides during Tet were priced below VND50,000 ($2.2), and short journeys cost anywhere between VND60,000 and VND80,000.
“A ride from District 9 to the nearby Dong Nai Province normally costs only VND200,000 but the Tet fare was more than VND500,000 [$21],” Tien said happily.
|The interface of the Grab app is seen on a smartphone in this photo taken in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
With Tet proven to be a lucrative time, many GrabCar drivers have canceled or adjusted plans to return to their hometowns for family reunions and celebrations to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
One driver named Viet said he had told his family he would be home on the second day of Tet, but eventually decided to work until the afternoon of the fourth day to enjoy the bonanza in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hien, who works for both Grab and Uber, celebrated Tet in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre and returned to the southern metropolis on the third day of the holiday with big regrets that his chance of earning easy money was gone.
A Grab Vietnam representative told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the Tet fares were higher than normal rates as the app prices are calculated using a flexible real time pricing, based on the supply and demand basis.
Prices will rise when there is high demand against low availability of drivers, and the time and location of the bookings also matter, according to the company.