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‘Bad will’ earned under taxi monopoly will hurt cab companies after Uber: marketing expert

The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An SFU marketing professor says B.C. taxi companies could face backlash from disgruntled customers once ride-hailing services like Uber are approved.

Speaking with John Daly on CKNW’s Back on the Beat, Lindsay Meredith said repeated incidents like the one depicted in a viral video of a cab driver refusing to take a passenger from Vancouver to New Westminster because it was “too far” have damaged the industry’s brand.

Back On The Beat: Taxis, ride-hailing and the political games

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“From the marketing standpoint, you’ve already created one massive pile of bad will when you should have had good will,” he said.

“Those customers are now going to be very interested, if for no other reason, to jump ship just to get even with you. Taxi cab fares have been incredibly high in this town and certainly the less than stellar service — put the two together, that’s pretty much a bombshell waiting to go off.”

READ MORE: Vancouver hotel manager blasts taxi vouchers as ‘wasted pieces of paper’ after guests left without a ride

Data from the Passenger Transportation Board, the regulator responsible for B.C.’s taxi industry, shows there were about 300 official complaints filed against cab companies in 2017.

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NDP government announces yet another ridesharing study
NDP government announces yet another ridesharing study

Meredith said B.C.’s long history as a taxi monopoly has allowed the industry to become complacent, but could also end up costing it in the long run.

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“In the end it’s the consumer who basically gets nailed on this one, and in the end it’s the consumers who finally have enough of it and start raising hell with the politicians, who finally cave in,” he said.

“And that’s the kind of scenario you see unfolding right now.”

READ MORE: How to lodge a complaint about taxi service in B.C.

Last fall, B.C.’s NDP government said it was commissioning a new review of the taxi industry in advance of new ride-share regulations, but that the service would not be available before next fall.

Meanwhile, an all party legislative committee launched by the BC Green Party is set to begin hearing testimony next week, including from Uber.

READ MORE: B.C. NDP defends decision to delay ride-hailing services

Meredith said he believes once legislation enables companies like Uber and Lyft to hit the road, it will result in better service for customers whether they opt for cabs or ride-hailing.

“Once you get a whole Uber fleet out there, I’ve got a feeling the wait times for taxis are going to drop significantly,” he said.

“And I’ve got a feeling you’re not going to have no-shows where taxi cab drivers are saying, ‘Sorry buddy, I don’t do night shift going out to Surrey.'”

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The ride-hailing all-party committee will begin hearing speakers on Monday at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver.