A new trend, seemingly to lure passengers to get into combis quickly, has found its way into the combi industry in Gaborone.
Combi operators who scramble for passengers at bus stops have come up with a new strategy, whereby conductors stationed at the bus stops operate but from outside the combis.
Noticing that most passengers, always glancing at their watches, usually do not want to get into a combi that has too few passengers in it, the drivers and conductors devised a way to fool the people by allowing a number of conductors to get into the combi and sit in there like any other prospective passengers.
When an unsuspecting passenger comes by, they think the kombi is more than half full and would be taking off soon then hurriedly jump into the combi as one of the conductors quietly slides out, opening another space for the next prospective passenger who happens by.
This is repeated until real passengers fill up the combi then the decoy conductors go into another empty combi and bait the passengers all over again.
A female combi driver on the Broadhurst route who drives alone without a conductor is pleased with the results she has so far noticed with the newly introduced system. She said that the ‘conductors’ usually do not ask for much pay, P3 or P4, to act as decoy passengers depending on how loaded the combi gets, apparently not more than P10 is awarded them at stops.
“There is a level of agreement between the driver and the conductor. There are a lot of combis and certain conductors align themselves to certain routes and combis and can, therefore, only bring in passengers for that particular combi and route,” she revealed.
The ‘conductors’ are young men who have discovered a way of making easy money by luring people into a combi and are not legal conductors per se.
One such decoy, who works the stops, said it takes skill to do the job, to appear like a passenger and carefully slide out of the combi at the right time.
“It’s not only about talking and begging people to get into the kombi; it includes one having the acumen to do it,” he said, adding that because a lot of them (conductors) are stationed at the bus stops, sometimes they have to collaborate to trick people into riding the combi.
The tricking part involves a few of the ‘conductors’ pretending to be passengers and sitting comfortably in the combi, this apparently occurs when the combi is empty and because most people do not want to get into an empty kombi since it would mean them sitting there until the trickling passengers fill up the combi.
“Most people fall for it and I get my pay,” he said laughing.
At times, the decoys can’t get off the combi and, when this happens, they would get off at the next stop together or would get off at consecutive stops to avoid arousing suspicion and they get their P3 as they get off yet passengers do not realize this as they simply dismiss it as a passenger being given their change.
But why would one waste their time stationed at a bus stop only to be paid a mere P3? It would seem as if it’s small pay, but on average they make P50 or even more a day.
While some drivers cooperate with the ‘conductors’ (because it is way cheaper than having a real conductor working from inside the combi), some disapprove of this practice and prefer having their conductors operating from within.
One driver, who declined to be named, said the ‘stop conductors’ can easily turn against you and load another combi at your expense, depending on what they would be gaining from the other combi.
“For a pula more than you pay them, they easily service the other route and you are left stranded. It’s always better if you have your own guy who you have worked with over time because at least he would not betray you,” said the driver, who admitted to having been ganged upon once, hence his fear.
He also claimed that at times, these decoys don’t deserve to be paid anything because the passengers come on their own.
“A passenger would come on their own and these guys would still demand payment,” he said.
A passenger identifying himself as Leshomo Leshomo said he thought the new trend existed at the bus rank only but was not worried about being fooled like this because the participants are not hurting anyone. “Though it is not a proper job that a man should tell his kids about, they are sort of making a decent living,” he said.
The trend apparently was first noticed at the BBS Mall from where it spread to ‘prominent’ stops around town, including the Main Mall and the UB area next to the Mosque.