Humans are deceptively self-contradictory

Feb 9, 2015

Amazon’s office happens to be pretty far from my place of residence. The distance via the shortest route is about 24 kilometers, the distance via the fastest route is 28 kilometers, and during non-peak hours it takes a car about 45 minutes to cover that distance on Bangalore’s roads. During peak hours, it typically takes more than twice as a long.

To help its employees commute easily, Amazon runs a cab service. It contracts several cab vendors to provide cabs around the clock, and cabs do drops and pickups once an hour almost throughout the day. However, Amazon is typically very strict about the punctuality of the cabs it hires, and if a driver is even five minutes late there’s a good chance that he will not be given any passengers, meaning the time and gas he spent reaching the Amazon office would be wasted.

Recently, a startup called Ola cabs (a much cheaper Uber clone) started offering cab drivers a much better return on their investment. The driver gets to keep a large portion what he makes from ferrying passengers, and he also gets a bonus every day based on milestones hit with respect to number of passengers ferried. It’s not unusual for a cab driver to make around Rs. 60000 a month, which is quite high (it’s 4/5th of what I was making each month in my first job, which happened to be a rather well-paying one). Additionally, the drivers can work flexible hours, and typically get a ride within 5 minutes of signing into the service. Naturally, a large number of cab drivers decided to leave their vendors and join Ola, and several more continue to do so each day. This has caused a severe shortage of cabs for Amazon and other tech companies in Bangalore. Goldman Sachs, for instance, was forced to discontinue a similar cab service that they were running for their employees.

Previously, employees would simply walk out and be able to catch a cab home. Now, we are required to book a cab at least an hour in advance of our departure. If one happens to miss one’s booked cab, it’s nearly impossible to get one on the spot and you’d end up having to wait around for another hour to get a cab in the next window. All employees are aware of this and keep discussing it all the time. And so it astounds me that the moment my cab-mates reach our cab, they egg the driver to leave without waiting for the rest of us, just so that they can save ten minutes on the ride home. They know that there’s a cab shortage, they know what missing one’s cab entails, they themselves have missed their cab on a couple of occasions, and despite this they still continue to engage in this contradictory behavior.

It simply boggles my mind.