The troubles with the kali peeli experiment of #OlaCabs

I have been using the kali peeli service of Ola Cabs since it was launched last year, and the experience had been quite good leading up to January this year. However, the last few weeks have been pretty bad:

  • There have been instances where the booking gets accepted by a driver, only to be cancelled in a few seconds\minutes. This can be especially problematic if you’ve exited the application as there is no notification.
  • Many a times the drivers accept and even call up confirming they’ll arrive in a few minutes. However, on checking the app after those few minutes have elapsed show the trip completion page with the rating option. I promptly leave a 1 star rating of course.
  • I even found a guy with 2 mobiles, and he pretty much logged out of one and logged in through the other as I got into the cab.

I’ve been through up to 6 attempts at trying to book a kali peeli before giving up on some days. All this makes me wonder whether the kali peeli experiment is drawing to a close. Based on my conversations with the some of the drivers over the last few months (some of who wondered why Ola was paying them), the kali peeli option seems to have been a marketing and potentially recruitment exercise by Ola. It was good while it lasted I guess.

An observation on the non kali peeli side of things

I’ve also used the regular Ola service (mostly mini) over this period too, and discovered a loophole in the prepaid wallet which possibly applies to other services like Uber and Meru as well. The way I discovered it was also pretty interesting.

I had availed the 100% cashback wallet topup offer and booked an Ola mini for a return trip from an event in Vashi. I had spoken to the driver a couple of times to provide him with directions as usual, and he confirmed that he had reached. I got in the elevator with my family, and stopped at one of the floors on the way down where an elderly gentle man tried to get in with his suitcase, but the lift doors wouldn’t close. So he got off and set down the stairs. The doors didn’t close even then, and we ended up taking the stairs as well. As we made our way to the gate where the cab was waiting, I called him and as we exited the gate, we found the cab pushing off in the opposite direction though I had told him to come towards the gate.

I called the driver again and he told me that someone had already boarded the cab and told him that he was one of our friends who had to go to the airport and he’d also booked a cab for the airport. After a lot of heated arguments between the driver, the so called “friend” and me, it finally emerged that it was the same elderly gentleman who’d caused us to climb down the stairs, taken off with our cab and refused to get off. Luckily the driver managed to get him off before they went to a long way and returned to take us.

Since Ola is metered completely on the mobile with no intermediate readings, it was impossible to reset the meter (at least the driver and I didn’t know how), and the entire amount ended up getting deducted from my wallet. The saving grace was that it was possibly only a km or so extra, and I offset some of it from the toll payment made by the driver in cash.

Now, think of a situation where Ola recruits the unscrupulous kali peeli drivers who’ve been exploiting the system as I noted earlier, and they take joy rides with your Ola money. Not very pretty, is it? I’m sure they’ve built in some measures to guard against this kind of behaviour.