Russian Taxi Company ‘Russifies’ Drivers’ Names As Foreign-Sounding Drivers Were Getting Poor Ratings – Perceptual Racial Discrimination?

A taxi company in Russia has been meticulously changing its drivers’ names to sound Russian. Though their intentions for doing this might be noble, it is being widely criticized by people who are referring the tactics as bordering racial discrimination just to suit the customers.

Taxi drivers around the world come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Their names or religions hardly matter as compared to their skills, vehicle, and personal hygiene. However, in Russia, being a good and presentable driver with reliable driving skills isn’t enough. Get Taxi, which operates radio-cabs in Russia, had started realizing that those drivers with non-Slav names were being discriminated against.

The company had developed and released a mobile app that allowed its patrons to order a cab. Upon confirmation of the pick-up, the taxi company updated the details in the order which mentioned the details of the taxi, as well as the name of the driver who would be picking them up. Upon completion of the journey, users of the app and the service were asked to rate the driver who had driven them to their destination, along with feedback on the service rendered.

While this ensured a high sense of reliability and trust factor with the company, the app presented a not-before-envisaged dilemma. The company said drivers with names originating in Asia or the Caucasus had been receiving lower ratings on its booking app than those drivers who had native names, reported The Moscow Times. While the company earlier suspected that the drivers who received lower ratings were at fault, it wasn’t the case in reality and the company thought of conducting a little experiment to positively confirm if the customers had problems with ethnicity, more than any other parameter.

Hence the company “Russified” the drivers’ identities, giving them names that seemed local, apparently with their permission, reported Headline News Today. In the company’s own admission, the move was aimed at “reducing nationalism.” Get Taxi’s owner, Shahar Waiser reaffirmed that all drivers received the same training and possessed equal knowledge. Defending the experiment, Waiser said,

“We don’t want one driver to get a lower rating than another, just because of his name,”

However, the owner later admitted that the plan might have backfired. Social media has indeed been abuzz with the move, claiming that you can’t play with people’s identities just to appease the customers with narrow mindsets. Moscow State University ethnologist Dmitry Oparin wrote,

“This is precisely a case when the customer is not right. If the customer refuses a driver with an ‘exotic’ name, he should proceed on foot.”

Interestingly, Get Taxi might not have been the only company to employ such controversial practices. As reported by prominent Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov, the smartphone app of a rival company allows customers to choose a “Slav driver” at no extra cost.

[Image Credit | Moscow Investment Portal]