Bike Fencing

Some interesting stuff going on in Singapore’s world of bike sharing.

They’re approaching the problem of errant bike-parking by regulating the companies via a licensing regime, which will begin later this year, according to Today.

From what I can make of it, operators must
– be licensed, or face a S$10,000 fine and/or six months in jail
– be responsible for the parking of bikes within designated parking locations, or lose their licence or find their fleet size reduced

Users will also be watched, under a geo fencing scheme that will require them to scan a QR code at the designated parking locations before ending their trip. Failure to do so will mean they’ll be charged continuously — I guess meaning the meter will keep running (not sure how this would work with the flat monthly rates all three operators are currently offering).

Readers have already pointed out potential flaws:
– what happens if there’s no space at the designated area?
– what happens if someone moves the bike after the user has scanned their code?

And Today pointed out in a pieceĀ that there need to be more designated areas to make this work. It’s fine picking up and parking a bike at a subway station or a bus stop, but what about when you’ve pedaled back to your home?

Singapore, as ever, is taking a positive but cautious approach to the sharing economy. I quite agree that companies are so far not incentivised to distribute their bikes with consideration, or to monitor them after they’ve been deployed. So something has to change. But also the usefulness of these bikes is going to decline rapidly if users aren’t able to leave the bikes within a few meters of their home for fear of draining their digital wallets.

More importantly, Singapore needs to consider what more it can do to encourage bike usage — by rapidly expanding its bike paths, by offering guidance to users about how and where they can use the bikes, and generally rewarding their use. As China has found, the more these bikes are used, the more other people feel comfortable using them and the quicker a social code of conduct emerges about their usage.

 

Grab’s Promotion Problems

(updated to include Grab’s response, edits)

Grab, Uber’s rival in Southeast Asia, is putting up an impressive fight against the ridesharing company. Both have deep pockets, and offer incentives to both drivers and riders.

But Grab is either struggling to phrase its promos correctly or something more sinister afoot. Today riders were in uproar when they found that a promotion that offered “$4 off 20 Grab rides next week” turned out to mean, well, not exactly that.

Those complaining that the $4 deal was cut short well before they’d used 20 rides were told that “the Terms and condition stated that the promo [has] limited .. redemptions available”. One Grab employee posted on Facebook that “We have taken your feedback and we will make it more obvious and clearer in our future communications. Stay tuned to our future promotions and happy Grabbing!”

Happy Grabbing indeed. I’ve looked at the terms and conditions and it does indeed say, at the bottom of the promo that ‘limited redemptions available’. But not all of them: see this one on my app below:

 

It’s hard to imagine, though, that this would be at the expense of the clear offer to “enjoy $4 off 20 Grab rides next week” — without any asterisk or weasel wording, at least close to the title.

I’ve reached out to Grab and they offered this:

I do want to assure you that our promos are genuine. There are terms and conditions and in this case, we had shared that the promo was for up to 20 rides, until the promo was fully redeemed (referencing the line on limited redemptions).

I’d like to be open with you on what happened. We could have been clearer on our communications. We had transparently highlighted it was limited redemptions in our eDMs and in-app notification of the promo, however in our notification when passengers had successfully redeemed the ‘4off’, it mentioned it was up to 20 rides without the additional line on limited redemptions. This was an oversight and I apologise for that. 

We’ve unfortunately disappointed some people this time around, and we have to put our hand up that we made a mistake in not repeating that there were limited redemptions. This oversight should not have happened.

I know there are questions asked about whether we had shared that there were limited redemptions – we did make sure to highlight this when we shared this promo. You’ll also see it in the notifications panel in the Grab app.

It’s not the first time I’ve wrestled with Grab’s promotion schemes. While they’re attractive, they clearly cannot be permanent, and at best I find them awkwardly implemented; at worst I find them deliberately awkwardly implemented, designed to fool the rider into believing they’ve been offered something only to find it’s something else. In the words of one Grab rider on Facebook: bait and switch.

Grab assure me that’s not the case, but I’m sure I’m not the only chump who topped up his GrabPay wallet thinking he would be enjoying a week of cheap rides. More fool me.