DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Humor, Montreal, Opinion, Public Transit, Wordpress

Uber, Millennials, Jameson Whiskey and Entitlement

A word often used to describe the population cohort referred to as Millennials is entitled. Somehow many of those born around the turn of the millennium, and therefore in their twenties and thirties now, have a sense of entitlement. I must admit I don’t have much interaction with this age group, so I was at a bit of a loss to understand the concept.

Then along came the drive-sharing app called Uber. Essentially a taxi service, Uber uses GPS to put people looking for a lift in touch with drivers willing to take them. No money exchanges hands as the passenger’s credit card is charged automatically. But buyer beware, prices can “surge” if demand is high as many Uber users found out on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago.

So purchasing a taxi license here is akin to securing a mortgage. With tough competition making a living in the taxi industry is difficult at best.

Sounds all fine and dandy doesn’t it? Only one problem. Montreal, like most cities already has a taxi industry. To be a taxi driver here you need a taxi permit. Once paid for and obtained, and assuming you pass the police and background checks, you can legally drive a taxi, whether you own it or rent it from an owner.

To own a taxi is something a little bit more complex. This requires a taxi license. These were originally sold by the government to prospective owners for something in the neighbourhood of $20,000. With such a plethora of cabs on the road, the authorities stopped issuing new licenses, which help create a market-value system. As the ad below from Kijiji shows, current prices are in the $130,000 to $150,000 range (keep in mind, that does not include a car). So purchasing a taxi license here is akin to securing a mortgage. With tough competition making a living in the taxi industry is difficult at best.

Along comes Uber, a source of direct competition with taxis but without the license and other requirements. Whenever I ask an Uber user, or driver for that matter, if they perhaps feel any sense of guilt for undercutting taxis they inevitably sa no. As far as they are concerned they can do what they want when they want: they are entitled to do so.

I had a discussion with a Millennial bartender one day. He was all in favour of Uber and had no problem with the issue of bypassing the license and gouging clients during busy periods. I explained to him that in Quebec bar owners must obtain a liquor permit to be allowed to sell alcohol. The price is significant and varies depending on your establishment. In addition bar and restaurant owners must sell only liquor purchased from the Société des alcools du Québec outlets dedicated to such establishments. The price per bottle is significantly more that a regular consumer would pay, given the mark-up by the restaurant or bar. Run out of Jameson’s on a busy Friday and just nip up the street to the local store to buy one in a pinch and you face sever fines.

(what if) I buy a bottle of whiskey at the regular price, skip the liquor permit altogether, and set up a card-table outside his bar selling shots for $2 instead of the $5 he charges inside. Because to me this is exactly what Uber is doing.

My bartender pal understood the system, no doubt better than do I. So I asked if it would be acceptable for me to concoct a strategy whereby I buy a bottle of whiskey at the regular price, skip the liquor permit altogether, and set up a card-table outside his bar selling shots for $2 instead of the $5 he charges inside. Because to me this is exactly what Uber is doing.

He could not see the parallel. From his point of view taking money out of his pocket by flouting the regulations was a bad thing. Yet he seemed to have no trouble screwing some taxi driver by Using the Uber app on his phone. I guess he was entitled to do so.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
Standard
Daily prompt, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Montreal, Public Transit, Quebec

More Montreal Uber Reaction

Taxi

A few days ago I wrote a witty post about the Uber ride-sharing opting to leave Quebec unless certain regulations were dropped. It seems the government is going to stick to its guns and consider all those taxi drivers who paid a fortune for a license.

imageI have often heard the term entitled used to refer to millennials. I never really understood what was meant until today. In today’s Montreal Gazette there is a letter to the editor that makes it more evident to me. The writer, while not divulging their age, says that the government is more interested in protecting the ‘outdated’ taxi lobby than in welcoming a new entity that young folks like.

Could it be that the government is interested in protecting those citizens who drive taxis and have paid for that right over a group of scofflaws who want to jump the line? Could it be that the letter writer feels entitled to buck the system because he does not like it?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

Standard
DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, News, Opinion, Quebec

Good Riddance to Uber

No_Uber

Yesterday the ride-sharing company Uber announced it will cease operations in Quebec next month unless the government lifts the 35-hour training requirement. For the last year, the company has been operating on a trial basis that expires in October. Obviously, it is no coincidence that the service will call it quits at that time.

When the company first arrived here there was significant backlash from taxi companies and drivers. Quebec is a highly regulated province: from government-controlled liquor sales to restrictions on residential rental units. It has been like this for as long as I can remember.

Taxi licenses here are very expensive. There is a finite number of them and, much like a house, they are sold for whatever the market says is the going price. Like teachers and other professionals, taxi drivers must pass a police background check as well as strict periodic inspections. Uber tried to bypass all this. They tried to jump the line.

Their ‘business model’ does not fit with Quebec‘s regulated taxi system. Having never used Uber I won’t miss them,

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

Standard
Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Montreal, News, Opinion, Wordpress

Montreal Restaurant Owners Want Limits on Competition

kitchen

The Montreal restaurant scene seems to have been shaken, could it be the recent opening of  L’Atelier Montréal de Joël Robuchon at the Casino de Montreal that is getting their goat. Giusseppe Valiante of Canadian Press wrote a piece that appeared over the weekend in various papers regarding not only the sheer number of restaurants in the city, but who can open one.

“I can’t decide tomorrow to practise plumbing, to practise amateur electricity. In Montreal you can apply for a restaurant permit and get it immediately — that’s a problem for me.”

According to the article Montreal has one of the highest per-capita ratios in North America when it comes to restaurants and this is troubling to some who see good restaurants (i.e. their’s) being lost in the shuffle. This has more than a few folks considerably irked including David McMillan, co-owner of Montreal’s Joe Beef . “I can’t decide tomorrow to practise plumbing, to practise amateur electricity. In Montreal you can apply for a restaurant permit and get it immediately — that’s a problem for me.” Of course getting a permit does not in any way guarantee a successful establishment.

Not a very free market approach you might say. Well, his confrere in the gastronomy business Carlos Ferreira was even more direct: “I don’t believe in the free market anymore, We have to protect the good restaurants.” Eatery protectionism? I assume by “good” restaurants he means those he deems to be acceptable, including no doubt his own.

Don’t businesses function on a sort of Darwinian model? Those that succeed stay, those that fail close up and get reopened as something else.

Let me be straight, I am no restaurant critic nor chef. Although I do make a mean toast and peanut butter and can poach eggs with the best of them. What I find odd is that at a time when there is much debate over the Uber ride service coming along and taking work from registered taxi drivers, many people are saying they should lift the regulation on the taxi industry.  Let the chips fall where they may, in other words a free market. (The other side of the coin is to banish Uber but that is easier said than done.) Yet here we have successful restaurateurs calling on the government to limit the number of restaurant permits it issues. More regulation, not less.

If they are concerned about maintaining the “good” restaurants,  then surely any “bad” restaurants will not be around for very long. Don’t businesses function on a sort of Darwinian model? Those that succeed stay, those that fail close up and get reopened as something else.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
Standard
Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, driving, Montreal, News, Opinion, Public Transit, Wordpress

Ottawa City Council Caves to Uber

Taxi

After months of rejection the city councilors of Ottawa on Wednesday voted to allow taxi services such as Uber. There was one dissenting vote among the twenty-four cast. Bravo Eli El-Chantiry.

Unlike many of my friends south of the border, I like regulations. I like big government keeping an eye on things

I have always had a soft spot for taxi drivers. Blame Harry Chapin. It is a tough way to make an average living. Long hours and, in Quebec, very expensive licenses – their price has soared to roughly $200,000 in Montreal, making its market worth roughly $900-million. Taxis are highly regulated by various agencies.

Unlike many of my friends south of the border, I like regulations. I like big government keeping an eye on things. That is why I am a huge fan of the democratic process; we get the government we deserve.

It seems patently unfair to me that men and women who make their living as taxi drivers, who pay the exorbitant fees, who toe the line regarding vehicle standards, who already face fierce competition should have to deal with amateurs working their turf.

It seems patently unfair to me that men and women who make their living as taxi drivers, who pay the exorbitant fees, who toe the line regarding vehicle standards, who already face fierce competition should have to deal with amateurs working their turf.

If I bought a whole whack of cheap ground beef and a barbecue and set up business in front of a McDonald’s selling my wares at a discount price I would soon be hauled off by police. Licensed bar owners pay a heavy tax when they buy liquor to sell on their premises. They pay SOCAN fees that allow them to play recorded music without screwing artists. They pony up thousands of dollars for pay-per-view sports events, much more than private citizens. They are highly regulated.

So next time there is a big UFC bout I think I will set up a table outside a sports bar, get a bucket of ice and some plastic cups. I will drop by the liquor store and pick up a few bottles of hooch at the much lower private citizen price, then stop at the grocery store for some cases of beer. I could play some tunes on a portable stereo and sell my goods without the hassle and expense of regulation. Of course I would soon be hustled off.

After the price gouging debacle of last New Year’s Eve I am surprised there are still some who will use Uber at all.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
Standard
Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Media, Montreal, News, Opinion, Public Relations, Public Transit, Wordpress

Uber Taxi Service Uber-Gouges Clients

Uber: to an extreme or excessive degree
                                Merriam-Webster.com

The Uber taxi alternative has been getting lots of media attention over the last year or so. Most of it positive. That is until the recent New Year’s Eve debacle. Since the first of the month Uber has been in the news not for providing a service, but for uber-gouging its clients.

But some folks found themselves being charged amounts equal to an airfare for a ride home from a downtown bar. This is a despicable uber-abuse of people trying to act responsibly.

Stories abound about New Year’s revellers acting sensibly and, after having a few drinks, opting to take an Uber ride home only to be charged as much as seven times the usual rate. Uber claims that the ‘surge’ pricing is an attempt to induce more drivers to make themselves available to fulfill higher demand.

But some folks found themselves being charged amounts equal to an airfare for a ride home from a downtown bar. This is a despicable uber-abuse of people trying to act responsibly.

I have never been a fan of the Uber concept.  In Montreal we are spoiled by an over abundance of taxis. I imagine many of us have experienced the phenomenon when waving to a friend across the street and having three taxis almost collide rushing to you thinking they are being hailed. Montreal taxis are regulated and owners pay a hefty price to get a taxi license. Uber is unregulated and anyone can sign on to be a driver. Seems to me that’s an attempt to jump the line.

Imagine a corner store selling batteries and bottled water at seven times the usual price during a power outage.

But now, with class action suits pending, the Uber folks have shot themselves in the foot. Basing a business on providing a similar service to regular taxis but at a lower price is one thing. Scalping customers when demand is high is another. Imagine a corner store selling batteries and bottled water at seven times the usual price during a power outage. Of course demand is higher, but does that mean you should gouge customers in the short-term, or provide service at the usual rate – or lower – to keep people on side for years?

Perhaps the best example of price gouging can be found in the travel industry. Airfares and hotel rates balloon during ‘high season’. But even these culprits don’t increase things sevenfold. That is both extreme and excessive, as well as a good incentive to stick with regular taxis.

IKEA gets it right. When it is not raining they sell umbrellas for $10 and when it is raining the price drops to $3. I imagine the increased volume on rainy days results in a profit.

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

Standard
Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, driving, Montreal, News, Wordpress

Montreal Taxi Drivers Must Open Doors for Passengers

It just gets tougher and tougher to be a taxi driver these days. As if navigating never-ending road work detours in an effort to provide good service, after having shelled out over $200,000 to get a taxi permit in the first place was not bad enough, Montreal city council has just passed a law that requires taxi drivers to get out of their cars and open the door for passengers when getting in or out of the taxi! When I heard about this on the morning news I had to check the calendar as I thought it was an April Fool’s Day prank.

When I heard about this on the morning news I had to check the calendar as I thought it was an April Fool’s Day prank.

In addition taxi drivers must dress appropriately and have clean cars; no problem, I can understand that one. But requiring drivers to be running about in traffic to open doors just seems like a waste of time to me. Cabbies have been having a tough time with Uber lately, so a little sprucing up of their cars and the odd bit of politeness may help keep their clientele.

 How many (more) cyclists will be ‘doored’ by taxi drivers adhering to the new rule?

Montreal already has some of the worst traffic conditions in Canada. Old roads being repaired, new construction sites causing detours are but two factors that contribute to drivers’ frustrations. Now add into that mix taxis that can no longer zip over to and pick up a flagging customer then pop back into the flow of traffic but now have to stop, get out and open the door. How many drivers will lose doors, and hopefully not their lives, as they quickly dash around their car? How many (more) cyclists will be ‘doored’ by taxi drivers adhering to the new rule?

I have to believe most fares will open the door and get in before the driver has a chance to do so. Will this result in a fine being levied?

DCS_Grad_2 DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
Standard