Kickback’ cabs


Two Queenstown cab companies claim a rival’s incentive scheme smacks of kickbacks. 

New Queenstown firm Wan-a-cab is promoting a “Yellow Cab Cash” scheme that rewards those who
ring up to book a taxi. 

Wan-a-cab owner Kevin Blackledge won’t say if it is aimed at front-line tourism staff who call taxis for guests.
A brochure spells out the deal: “You call … we drive … you earn.” 

Explanatory text adds: “Whenever you book a Yellow Cab, we make a note of who placed the call. When the journey’s completed we record the metered fare and load 10 per cent of the journey’s value on to your Yellow Cab Cash card.” 

Cardholders can spend “Yellow Dollars” on Wan-a-cab rides but the brochure also mentions “ski passes, your favourite restaurants, bars, wine tours and any number of activities from jetboat rides to helicopter scenic flights – anything’s possible”. 

Trips to Queenstown Airport and Coronet Peak attract extra booking rewards – a $35 airport trip earns $5 and a $90 trip to Coronet $10. 

Rivals Queenstown Taxis and Alpine Taxis quickly point out how high these Wan-a-cab prices are. 

Queenstown Taxis charges $28 from town to the airport, Alpine $25. To Coronet, it’s $70 by Queenstown Taxis and $60 by Alpine. 

The Wan-a-cab scheme resembles kickbacks, bosses of these two long-established firms say. 

“I think it compromises the customer,” Queenstown Taxis managing director Dave Wright says. 

Alpine Taxis boss Kevin Gregan: “It’s a kickback directly to the person who’s arranging their transport. And the tourist wouldn’t know anything about that at all.” 

Both taxi bosses say Wan-a-cab’s scheme is a powerful inducement for front-line winter workers, many of whom are young and low-paid. 

“It’s very attractive,” Gregan says. “In an expensive town like Queenstown, any sort of advantage you get will be taken up.” 

Neither rival has loyalty schemes anything like Yellow Cab Cash. 

Queenstown Taxis donates $1 to staff social clubs for each trip booked by hotels and other outlets loyal to the 30-cab firm. Alpine offers frequent users a 10 per cent discount. 

At least two large Queenstown accommodation complexes are known to have been approached about Yellow Cab Cash. 

Blackledge is tight-lipped, repeatedly saying Yellow Cab Cash is “confidential” and none of Mountain Scene’s business: “It’s not for your eyes, it’s not meant for you.” 

Blackledge won’t say whether it’s for tourism front-liners: “It’s for the people I decide to give a Yellow Cabs credit card to.” 

He won’t comment on the kickback description: “You can call it whatever you like.”