Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ulats = Sales Pro

Having spent a year in The Little Red Dot, I travelled back and fro to KL, at least twice a month and I relied on express buses. Being prudent in my spending (not stingy ok heheh), I normally departed from Larkin, JB instead of Beach Rd, Novena etc. So after work on Friday, I would rush through the maddening jam – traffic and people – to get myself to Larkin at least by 10 pm (Aiya, after mas selamat escape, we endured at least 2.5 hrs just to get through Woodlands Checkpoint).

Once there, I scanned through the terminal, looking for familiar kind faces of what we called – ulat bas– to buy my ticket back to KL. I got my ticket in less than 5 minutes. Isn’t that super efficient? Kalah kaunter kerajaan or pejabat Pos. Shame on you Gomen!

I’ve been wanting to share with you people about Ulat Bas for quite some times, especially during Ramadhan where JPJ, DBKL, Poli(mi)s(i) and LPKP rounded up several people – the ulats – from Pudu Raya because they cheated the passengers or roughed them up. That’s what the ever-lying MSM told us.

I have to be sensitive with this issue because my youngest brother runs express bus business. He leased buses from a malay towkay, who got free permits from LPKP – well, very political this business is Before running his own business, he worked for Konsortium Bas Ekpress Semenanjung (KBES) since he was only 18 years old. Five years later, he got fed up with KBES management for mistreating the employees and with enough funds, he and his partner started their own business and they hired people who were retrenched from other bus companies to work for them.

What I admire about my brother is that, though being the youngest, he has mounts of compassion for others – he pays all his staffs at least RM1,500 p.m. (some companies could pay them lower, less than RM1K) because these people, in their middle ages, have families to support. I am proud that he is not one of those business owners who think about getting richer each day and neglecting the welfare of their staffs.

First few months, business was good until the Gomen increased the petrol price in June 2008. While the Gomen told us that they would increase the petrol subsidies to express bus owners, apparently what they mean is that they will only give to certain companies. You see, not all express owners establish a name to itself i.e. like KBES, Transnasional, etc (again, this is very political). Though my brother has his own counter in Pudu Raya, the bus owner didn’t get extra subsidies as LPKP thinks these buses are just free-lancing. The business suffers tremendously and he has to work doubly hard to ensure that the day’s income is sufficient to pay the buses’ lease rental (which has increased in tandem with the petrol hike) and staff’s salary.

During raya holiday, he told me that the ticket sales were so low, it never happened before in the history of Pudu Raya. Pudu Raya was so empty, my brother told me they could play futsal in there. You know why people? The Gomen hired certain express buses, owned by political-connected people, to sell their tickets at other places like universities, colleges so that people don’t have to go to Pudu Raya to buy those tickets. The impact of this exercise – no sales to those doing this business in Pudu Raya i.e. this kills the business and of course, it affects many sole breadwinners working in Pudu Raya.

On TV, the MSM showed how people rushed to buy tickets from Transnasional counters and said that the tickets were all sold out, causing panic to many other commuters, when there were plenty of other express buses available.

Those ulats and those seen with walkie talkie (wei, this is the cheapest mode of communication. Do you know that you can call anyone around Malaysia with walkie talkie service with paying only like RM20 p.m.?) were hauled up in lock-up not just by LPKB, but also Poli(mi)s(i) and DBKL. They stayed there for almost a week before the Poli(mi)s(i) told them that they can be bailed with RM15K. Of course, they can’t afford it and most of them still languished in the lock-up before being charged in court (after Hari Raya).

The Pudu Raya management company even hired bouncers to ward off ulats from Pudu Raya. Dressing in black with sunglasses, these tough cookies gave way to ulats because they know, without these ulats, they wont be having a job from the management company. This company charges around RM2K p.m. for a small counter in Pudu Raya and there have 100s of counters there.

The counters selling tickets opposite Pudu Raya were demolished so violently by DBKL because they just came and say that you cannot sell tickets here and simply started banging on the walls of the counters till they looked like scenes from a war movie.

My brother told me that ulats are actually PRO for Pudu Raya. They know what, how, who, where of anything you need to know before travelling. However, we see them as filthy, nuisance buggers, who are trying to cheat us. They are not, people, trust me. One of my brother’s good friends is an ulat. He is immaculately casually dressed that he could sell one book of ticket everyday. So people, if you guys need a sales pro, look out at Pudu Raya and you’ll find many there.

Some people think when these ulats told you to wait for the bus outside Pudu Raya, they think they have been cheated. Do you people know that it is so bloody hard to get into Pudu Raya? For timely departure, these buses will park opposite Pudu Raya.

While I almost shed tears listening to this injustice and lies, I cannot help but notice one peculiar habit of us, weak human beings.
Note : At the time of posting, my brother had given up his business because of all the above.

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