Like most people in this country, I use my two God-given feet to get around most of the time. Yes, despite all that congestion using your nether limbs to get around is still the most popular type of transport. Sometimes however you need a ride and the Friday before last I found myself in a similar situation. I had gone shopping and figured out late in the process that I couldn’t carry the bags. Like any sensible nerd, I pulled out my phone, opened the Vaya App and decided to order a ride from the shops to my home. It had been a while and the interface looked different but I did manage to send the request.
This was during the peak of peak hour and judging from the app most of the cars were far away. The closest cars were like 10 minutes away based on traffic. This is a major weakness with these ride-sharing apps I have soon come to learn. When you want someone to take you from your neighbourhood shopping centre to your home you are likely to struggle to find a ride because the journey from where most of the rides are, to your shopping centre is likely to be longer than the ride you want to take.
The mystery driver who never was
I moved closer to the main road in a bid to boost my chances of getting a ride, opened the Vaya App and tried again. After a minute of requesting the app informed me someone had accepted the request and a driver was on the way. I looked at the map and something was off.
I live in Southerton and the driver who had accepted the ride was somewhere near the Baines Hospital area. It didn’t make sense that this person and accepted my request and it didn’t take long for my scepticism to be confirmed. The driver seemed to be getting further and further away despite the app dutifully reporting a driver was on the way.
A few moments later the driver called. They had made a mistake, they said. They had just dropped someone in Southerton and for some reason, I could never understand had accepted the ride. They told me I could go ahead and cancel it. Which I promptly did.
Eventually, I called a friend who was coming from work who braved the traffic and drove me home. As far as I was concerned that was the end of it. Then a few days later I opened the promotional tab in my Gmail and there was an invoice from Vaya asking me to pay for the trip!
Suddenly I remembered something else, I hadn’t used Vaya since 2018 and my last trip had gone similarly. I was at Mbare Musika with loads of fruits and vegetables and wanted a ride. After requesting a guy from Waterfalls had accepted the ride even though the ride was much shorter than the distance he wanted to travel to me. Again, this person had no intention of ever coming to me. He just stood there while I waited for 15 minutes while he just sat there in Waterfalls and ignored my chats.
I quickly DMed Vaya through their Twitter page and they asked for details of the ride-a ride that I never took. Oddly the invoice I got in my inbox was in RTGS even though I had selected USD as the preferred method of payment. Their support was friendly and courteous. I dutifully attached the screenshot and they told me they had escalated the issue.
To this day I am waiting for the issue to be resolved. The whole situation has revealed a major flaw in ride-sharing apps to me. Apparently making customers pay for cancellations is customary in Western countries and it also happens with apps like Uber. But what if in my case it’s the driver’s fault? How do you resolve that?