Trust in a Taxi


I was out and about in Lusaka with my favorite taxi driver Eddie. I like him because he’s deliriously funny but also because he’s very fair. I don’t have to negotiate prices with him because I trust that he’ll be reasonable.

Why do I trust him? I never really thought about it until he started talking about lost cell phones. The number one thing people accidently leave in taxis is cell phones. An opportunistic taxi driver would just take them and flip them for some quick cash. But Eddie doesn’t.

“I keep the phone on, and I wait for the owner to call it. When I answer their call, I tell them I’ll bring it back to them. You know why I do this?”

Eddie was being uncharacteristically serious. “Why Eddie?”

“Because after that, they’ll never lose trust in me.”

A lot has been said about the short-sighted nature of business in the developing world. Making money is hard to do in a place like Zambia, so it’s difficult to turn down short-term gains when long-term ones are not guaranteed.

I can see why a taxi driver would take a lost phone and cash-in instead of banking on a random customer’s repeat service. I can also see why a farmer would side-sell to a brief-case buyer instead of fulfilling a contract with an unreliable outgrower. These are rational choices.

At the same time, though, one cannot discount the power of realizing benefits after investing in a relationship. It may take a long time to realize those benefits, and they may not be immediately gratifying, but once you do, I’d say it would be hard for anyone to go back.

Cultivating strong relationships is every good business person’s secret weapon. Eddie actively think about this, that’s why he’s my taxi driver of choice. I wonder how many farmers and agri-businesses do?


1 Response to “Trust in a Taxi”

  1. 1 Justin October 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I trust Eddie because he “dances going down down down.. and comes up still dancing.” How can you not trust that??

    just kidding, cool post Thul.

    We revisited our favourite restaurant in Cimwemwe today and found a third restaurant has started next door. When you only make 5000 kwacha (1 dollar) on a giant delicious meal of beans and nsima it seems like an extra competitor could drive you under?? I would love to hear your thoughts on competition as a barrier to business, especially new or innovative business, if you guys have any. Is finding a way to instill trust the way through? It seems to be Eddies strategy in the saturated taxi market. But I had a similar experience with one of our taxi drivers so maybe the secret is out…? Although our friend Stephen figured he did it because he fears God (and encouraged him to continue doing so), not because he wants more business.

    Keep up the great blogging!

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Working to include smallholder farmers in agricultural markets, we know there are no easy answers. This blog is a place to ask "What does it take to make it work?" and to share what we're seeing and learning.
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