Peanuts and Drinks: Uber Has Other Lessons to Learn From Japan

LATE NIGHT TAXI — small gestures that mean the world to a (tired) customer

You work late in the office one night, miss the last train, and don’t have a choice but to ride a cab home. The rain has turned into a downpour and you are cursing to your bad luck. You hail a cab, and as it comes to a halt, something magical happens: the pavement side passenger door automatically opens for you. You enter the cab effortlessly despite a dripping umbrella in one hand and the door silently closes after you. The driver is wearing white gloves and after greeting you with a lively “Irasshaimase!” (Welcome!) over the seat covered with lace, he reaches out to the glove compartment and takes out a small tray with just two things on it: free beer and nuts. “Otsukaresama desu! (Good Job!) As it’s the first kind and caring act you’ve encountered on your horrible day so far, you almost start crying. You settle in your seat and enjoy the ride.

It’s these small gestures that make all the difference to an otherwise mundane and (in, say, Uber’s case, purely monetary) transaction between the cab driver and the passenger, thousands of which we see every day around the world thanks to the increasing popularity of taxi-hailing apps. That most inexpensive, least sophisticated and yet meaningful product combination of a free drink (alcoholic or other) and snacks makes you feel like a minor celebrity. The experience proves “customer care” is beyond just a buzzword for the Japanese.  Before you leave the car, you take the driver’s phone number and from that day on, you hail him every time you miss the last train, which is pretty often. Uber (and Didi and Grab), take notice! (Photo: A taxi driver waits for customers on a rainy night in Shinjuku. By Liam Wang)

In the News: Under Pressure, Uber Tries New Approach in Japan 

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