A probe by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has disclosed the operation of a group of unscrupulous GrabBike drivers at a major bus station in Ho Chi Minh City.
The paper's correspondents came to the Mien Dong (Eastern) Bus Station in Binh Thanh District on the early mornings of February 20 and 21 to investigate the situation.
Despite a large number of drivers in GrabBike uniform at three gates of the venue, passengers still encountered immense difficulty as they tried to book a ride.
At around 3:00 am on February 20, a reporter booked a journey from the bus station to Tuoi Tre headquarters in Phu Nhuan District.
While the regular fare is only VND20,000 (US$0.88), the price at that time was VND65,000 ($2.86) due to “high demand.”
Upon the journalist agreeing to the cost, no driver was found.
The journalist had to retry the process for a dozen times before eventually finding himself a driver.
As the Grab application was showing, the driver was Hoang Dinh Tan, who rode a Yamaha Sirius with license plate number 63P1-04.896.
However, Tan did not contact his passenger, forcing the customer to call him instead.
The driver did not answer the call, repeatedly, before sending a text message saying, “I have picked up another passenger as I was unable to reach you.”
After spotting multiple GrabBike drivers with their signature green jackets, the reporter approached one and sought for help.
The driver, around 30, said he would help book a ride with his phone, before stating that the fare was VND99,000 ($4.35).
He seemed to lose his cool when the reporter asked about the price difference compared to that on his phone, which was only VND65,000.
“You have asked too much. You can either go with me or continue booking a ride until forever,” the driver grumbled.
A similar situation also happened at the bus station the following morning.
Han Phuong, a local resident, was unable to book a ride to her home on Ung Van Khiem Street in Binh Thanh District.
“I have accepted the increased fare of VND50,000 [$2.2], although it only costs VND16,000 [$0.7] on normal days,” Phuong said.
She eventually traveled with a conventional motorbike taxi driver, who also charged VND50,000 for such journey.
A source close to Tuoi Tre stated that the GrabBike drivers in front of the Mien Dong Bus Station belonged to a group of about 15 members run by a man named Hoang.
Another group, also led by Hoang and consisting of five people, operates at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
The two teams have been active for the past four months.
These so-called GrabBike drivers park in front of these facilities but do not turn on the application, preventing passengers from booking a ride via their app.
They forbid other drivers from entering their territory and picking up passengers.
In the end, travelers will have to reach out to these ‘fake’ drivers, who will charge a much higher fare.
“They have earned a lot more than I normally do thanks to such methods. Me and other drivers do not dare to infringe on their territories,” H., a GrabBike driver, said.
Nguyen Trung Thanh, country head for GrabBike and GrabExpress, told Tuoi Tre that rides that are not booked via the Grab app are not considered the firm’s service.
“It is against the rules for a driver to wear our uniform while turning off our application,” Thanh asserted.
Based on the reports of Grab’s quality control units and passengers, certain punishments will be imposed upon violators, he continued.