I was in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday night on a long layover between Malaysia Airlines flights. I needed a haircut and wanted a massage, so I hopped on the KLIA Express train to KL Sentral and there picked up an Uber to Bukit Bintang, the thriving heart of KL. The airport does have a 24-hour paid spa, but even factoring in the $20 train ticket, I still came out way ahead.
I got my haircut ($3), 60-minute massage ($15), had a shawarma ($1.25) and then decided to call an Uber back to the railway station. I noticed I was in an area surrounded by red taxi cabs — about a dozen — with drivers standing around chatting.
One noticed I was waiting and offered me a ride. I declined and said that I was using Uber. He became incensed and said, “That’s wrong man. This our livelihood. I suggest you get the Uber somewhere else because if your driver comes here we are are going to hurt you both and destroy his car.”
Honestly, I thought he was joking. I chuckled and said, “Come on now. I’d use you if you accepted credit cards. Do you?”
“Why should we? We better not see that Uber.”
I still did not think he was serious, but I crossed the street (it was a divided road with a center median) and picked up my Uber on the other side, without incident.
We returned to KL Sentral for my train back to the airport without incident.
Then Lucky posted this—
A female tourist was left injured after more than 50 taxi drivers struck the Uber car she was traveling in at KL Sentral yesterday.
According to the China Press, the incident occurred on Monday morning when the Iranian couple, who had recently touched-down in Malaysia, were using the Uber service.
More than 50 taxi drivers, who were “hiding” in KL Sentral, pounced on them as soon as they entered the Uber car.
The couple, along with the Uber driver, were pulled out of the car before the suspects used rocks to break the car window.
The injured female tourist was then taken to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital for treatment.
Folks, this easily could have been me. I was right there. Same spot, one day later.
Will this make me avoid Uber? Not at all — it will make me more likely to use Uber and avoid taxis. I hope the thugs who did this are brought to justice and I am very grateful the same thing did not happen to me. Had I been a little more flippant, perhaps the same thing would have happened to me.
Here’s what I do not get about taxis — there were about 75 cars lined up at KL Sentral waiting for a pickup. Imagine waiting three hours and then getting someone like me who just wanted to go to Bukit Bintang, an 8 Ringitt ($2) ride. Uber isn’t to blame for taxi drivers going out of business — they are to blame for not innovating and adapting to the changing times.
When I am Germany, where Uber is still banned, taxi apps like MyTaxi at least provide an easy way to order a cab and pay by credit card. The thugs in KL would be better served spending their time working on a similar solution rather than resorting to violence and criminality in response to a changing world.