“The best sellers are different kinds of drinks,” said Yao. “I guess it’s because the weather is getting warmer.”
Yao didn’t expect the snacks to bring him a fortune. “If anything, I wish passengers who wanted something to eat or kill time during the trip can have a better experience,” Yao said.
Most of the snacks and drinks are at supermarket prices, though discounts make some even cheaper.
Ruan Jianyun, another Haibo taxi driver, said many young people liked the service.
“Paying stuff with phone seems to be popular among them,” said Ruan, “but the supports only WeChat now.”
Transforming taxis into convenience stores is not new. Cargo in the US started providing snacks on Uber in 2016. In China, two companies — Mobile Go and GoGo+ — are spreading the business across the country. In Shanghai only Wangwang and Haibo are in the business.
After scanning the Wangwang QR code, passengers are asked to follow its official account but there's no content apart from a payment page.
Haibo said it is “merely testing the water.” The business started in March, but both the taxi firm and Wangwang wanted to keep it in low profile for the present.
Zhang Liang, of the Qiangsheng taxi firm, said so far it hadn't been approached about starting the business. “We considered it a while ago,” said Zhang. “But decided not to go with it for we didn’t see the profit of such business.”
Opinions are divided on the service. Some worry that since the organizer is at the back of the passenger seat, the driver won’t be able to see if a passenger is stealing the goods or worse, swapping them for something that could put health at risk.
Wu Liang, who hailed a Haibo taxi several days ago at Pudong International Airport, said he had difficulty fitting his luggage in the trunk because “there were already several baskets of snacks there.”
Zheng Tianwei, owner of a small restaurant, said he noticed the snacks a while ago, but he wasn’t buying.
“There were melon seeds, shrimp chips and others,” said Zheng. “But they looked grimy, I wouldn’t buy them.”
“Is it legit or not,” Zheng wondered. “I’ve seen similar cases in Hangzhou and Shenzhen.”
Shanghai has no regulations covering such a service, Shanghai Transportation Commission said.
“The bottom line is not to jeopardize the safety of passengers on board,” its Zhou Yiqun said. “We will keep a close eye on it.”
“It is a relatively new business in town,” said Ge Zhihao, a lawyer from Guantao Law Firm. “But since inside of taxis is also public space and the app is technically a snack vendor, it is legal as no regulation prohibits it.”