Simple lessons in life are a wonderful thing when adhered to and then relayed to others. From the moment of our birth until the day that we shuffle off our mortal coil and embark on our journey to meet the choir invisible we are learning, absorbing and applying millions of different pieces of information in the vain hope that some of it, in some way, enriches our lives or prevents us from repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This principle, for some inexplicable reason, seems to hit the buffers where the licensed London taxi industry is concerned.
This week Duncan Bannatyne became the taxi industry's latest cause celebre when he was attacked via social network for using Uber in Miami.
Disregarding the rights and wrongs of Uber on a worldwide basis for a moment, anybody who has ever spent more than one day in Miami will know that the taxi service is patchy at best, this therefore means that Uber have a fairly strong platform in the area. In fact in a number of areas around the world Uber is actually a step up from some local taxi industrys. Embarrassingly, when engaging with Dragons Den presenter and multi-millionaire businessman Bannatyne, some social media users started attacking him for not using a licensed London taxi, after being seemingly unaware that he was in Miami. As if this wasn't bad enough, some then started attcking him for using Uber despite the major issues surrounding the taxi service in the city. It didn't stop there though, one social media user then amazingly criticised Bannatyne for using a company that allegedly pays no tax globally and uses UK tax-payers money to prop up Uber drivers in Miami, even Ubers most vociferous critics would agree that this is manifestly incorrect.
After spending around 5 minutes initially laughing at what had been written on social media surrounding the issue.....and then cringeing at some of the unbelievable comments, two things became apparent, firstly, nobody had initially read Duncan Bannatynes tweets properly, secondly, and more worryingly, even when those who werre attacking Bannatyne were corrected, they were still attacking the man.
There are a multitude of reasons as to why this course of action is fundamentally wrong and highly damaging to the industry. Obviously there is nothing wrong with dialogue, discussion and banter, the right of freedom of speech is important, however with right comes responsibility, if the latter cannot be exercised then the former becomes negated.
The licensed London taxi industry is widely recognised as consistently the best service in the world, nothing beats it, its the benchmark for taxi services around the world to aspire to. This is the complete opposite where the industrys public relations are concerned, sadly this side of the trade is very poor. There are over 23000 licensed taxi drivers in London and every single one is a representative of the trade, not the unions or organisation, the drivers, they make or break the industry. Customers enter a taxi for one reason, to get from A to B safely and professionally, the moment that a driver deviates from that in some way it denegrates that professionalism, this spreads via word of mouth and via social media and the industry then gets a proverbial pasting.
By attacking Duncan Bannatyne or any other individual for using Uber or any other private hire company professionalism becomes compromised, it puts people off, it also turns supporters against the industry, Duncan Bannatyne is in fact by hos own admission a London taxi supporter, or at least was. People do not like being told what to do, who they should buy from, who they should use to provide a service, people are entitled to exercise their right to choose. Aggressive diatribes do nothing more than cause people to recoil rather than promote. Therefore the individuals who do this are in fact inadvertantly letting the trade down with their quite frankly bizarre behaviour. Charm wins potential customers hearts and minds, not abuse, cajoling and bullying.
There is a time and a place for shooting from the lip and those that choose to do so need to be far more discerning to prevent more public relations disasters. Sometimes less is more.