Taxis are taxis, at the end of the day - or could they be something else?
I'd been visiting my elderly aunt at the new Possum Bourne Ryman Retirement Village in Pukekohe when a bright lime green pamphlet about White Rose Cars transport service was dropped in her letterbox.
I'd also seen bright lime green cars driving through the village. The information didn't indicate that the service was just for elderly people, so, when I needed a taxi service in Pukekohe a few days later, I decided to give them a try.
The first trip, to the train, took place on a wet day. Lisa, my friendly driver, came to the door to collect me. I was ushered into the front seat as if that was the only place a guest would sit, and she made friendly conversation as we drove to the station.
The rain was pouring down as I got out of the car. Lisa jumped out, grabbed her big lime-green umbrella and walked me down to the platform, insisting on carrying my bag for me.
About a week later I needed to get to an appointment in Pukekohe and then, within the hour, again to the train. This time I got John Hartley, the owner.
Again I experienced the same dazzlingly friendly experience, plus even more. I finished the appointment quickly so instead of dropping me too early for the train he said, 'You've got plenty of time.
Is there anything you need to do in town before I get you to the train?' He went off and serviced another client while I grabbed some Christmas presents and a coffee, then came back - all for a very affordable price. Of course it's easier to slip in an extra client in this way in a small regional town, but the only other service I've used that consistently provides anything close to this level of friendly personal service is Corporate Cabs or similar limousine-style or chauffeur services - at a much higher fee.
While I had the owner beside me I took the chance to find out more.
John and his wife only arrived in New Zealand a few years ago from the UK, choosing to live in beautiful and friendly Franklin. Although the company has been running for a very short time, (less than a year when the Awards were held) it was voted Category winner in Best in Business Services for the Pukekohe Business Awards 2016.
How often do you hear of a company less than a year old winning a community-nominated award?
You won't see their cars running around looking for customers. They're a private hire company which must be pre-booked, but you might only have to wait a few minutes. As they say in their marketing, calling White Rose Cars is rather like summoning your own personal chauffeur.
'Do you just service the Pukekohe and Franklin district?' I asked John.
He replied, 'We serve mainly the Franklin area but cover the whole of Auckland and the Waikato regions. However, we'll go wherever the client wants us to go. For example, we've got one regular client whom we drive up to Whangarei.' (I think he said every six weeks).
They take people to the races, the airport, collect children from school and run them to their parent's workplace, pick up parcels and drop them off as they drive by - and that's just for starts. Check out their Facebook page to see what clients say.
Most of their drivers are women, which is great for people who feel apprehensive about getting in a car with a stranger. They're registered with ACC to provide essential transport. As well as regular cars they also have a specially designed wheelchair-accessible van that enables the customer to sit beside the driver.
Being in the front gives a smoother ride, is more friendly, and also enables the driver to make sure the client remains comfortable.
When I find great service I love to share the good news. If you had such an outstanding service within a reasonable distance of your home or work, I bet you'd be singing their praises too!
You might not want to run a taxi service, but what can you do with your business to go the extra mile, providing superb service with a smile and a friendly chat?