By JO TIMBUONG
ASKING any Malaysian about his or her experiences with taxis usually means a long conversation, most times complete with gestures of upturned hands, head shaking and face palming. Sometimes, just the one, other times, all three.
We have all been frustrated by taxi drivers here in the Klang Valley at some point - some more than others depending on how frequently we need to use their services.
If you are a regular taxi user, you've heard it all from those recalcitrant drivers. Such as "Aiyoh, you want to go P.J. from here? Jam lah. You take another taxi ok?" It becomes more irritating when you hear the same thing from the next seven taxis you hail.
Then there's the "Which part of Seri Petaling? Oh, there. CANNOT." Or you get the "Oh, that part. That one far away ... and no passenger to come back. You pay meter (price), plus RM15?"
A common experience is the taxi that stops when you flag it down on the roadside. You tell the driver where you want to go, but he doesn't want to go there, so he'll say "Sorry boss, on call. Have to pick up passenger now." So why stop in the first place?
Most of us who have suffered such run-ins usually vent to family and friends, and with social media we also have an outlet in Twitter and Facebook.
Now we have yet another place to let off steam ... and get some therapeutic payback on these terrible taximen.
It's a website called TaxiMonger.com. It's the brainchild of self-taught software developer Shafiu Hussain, 29, who is from the Maldives.
On his site, irate Malaysians - and anyone else in the country - can relate their experiences with taxis - both bad and good, mind you. There's even a box on the form to type in the taxi's registration number, and you can rate the level of service you got.
But before you can do that, you need to register with your personal details and set a password for your sign-ins.
The only downside we can see to the site is that it allows you to either vent your anger or record praise.
There is no mechanism to bring bad taxi drivers to book or reward the ones that provide good service.
We would have liked to have a mechanism where vehicle details of unscrupulous taxi drivers are sent to the Ministry of Transport for investigation, and those of the thoughtful, honest drivers be recorded for a reward scheme.
Shafiu said the main purpose of Taximonger now is to shame the dishonest and discourteous taxi drivers while letting the good drivers know that people appreciate them, and to ensure that all the drivers get feedback on their services.
"People are always open to giving and receiving feedback. I'm sure taxi drivers would like feedback from their customers," he said.
Also, anyone who complains on the website is probably very upset about a particular incident, so it's good that these people are able to get it off their chest, instead of letting the anger simmer.
"This platform will do all taxi users a big favour," said Shafiu at TaxiMonger's office in Damansara Heights.
"I want people to share their experiences on the site, have taxi drivers coming to see what customers are saying about their services, and to eventually turn the site into an online taxi booking service," he said.
Yes, that part of the site is still under construction but eventually, people will be able to book a taxi via TaxiMonger.
"And in a following site upgrade, they will be able to see what other people are saying about the taxi driver that confirms their booking, Shafiu said.
TaxiMonger.com was created during the Hack Weekend 2 gathering of software developers last December, where it won The People's Choice award and was named Best Travel App.
So how did Shafiu come to develop the site? "Well, it happened after I had several bad experiences with taxi drivers," he said.
The one he remembers best is when he took a taxi from the Sunway Pyramid shopping centre to the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers, and had to pay RM80 for the one-way trip.
"I found out later that the RM80 would have paid for a taxi ride from Sunway to Genting Highlands, which is a whole lot further away and in another state! I was so angry," he said.
"This was one of the reasons why I got the idea to start TaxiMonger, and I started working on it as soon as I could."
Since then, Shafiu and his wife have met more honest taxi drivers than dishonest ones.
"I guess it's the classic case of one bad apple spoiling the bunch," he said. "That's why I hope my website will help the good taxi drivers get the praise they deserve, and that other taxi drivers will learn from their example."
TaxiMonger.com is a bootstrapping startup and has expanded its reach into nearby countries - Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia.
"I believe there is also a need for taxi passengers in other places to share their experiences," Shafiu said.
TaxiMonger business development executive Nizreen Noordin said visitors to the sites can only post their reviews in English now, but there are plans to add support for local languages once a site gains traction in its particular market.
TaxiMonger is also being developed into a mobile application. The plan is to offer it first for iOS and Android devices, before moving on to BlackBerry and Windows Phone platforms. The mobile app is expected to be available by the end of March.