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Taxi drivers…

Early Monday morning I took a taxi from the Sheraton to Beijing airport. When arriving there the driver told me the price was RMB 80 and I paid him (in Beijing taxi’s, especially the more expensive taxi’s at 5-star hotels, the meter is often out of view). Then I asked him for the receipt, which he reluctantly gave to me. Normally I do not really check the receipt, but because he did not automatically give it to me I took a closer look. I turns out that the total amount was only RMB 63. That’s the sort of thing that ticks me off: don’t try to cheat me, even if it’s just for a few RMB. So I point it out to the driver and he says that I agreed to the price. I agreed to the price? I asked him how much it was because I could not see the meter and then paid him, that’s not agreeing on a price. Then he said he did not have enough change, thereby undermining his first argument.

A loud verbal fight outside the taxi started, and soon we had many people around us. The driver then decided to give me back an additional RMB 15 (suddenly he had change!) and hoped I would leave. But I did not, because I felt he should learn a lesson not to try to overcharge foreigners. So I wrote down his taxi license number and his license plate. The driver knew he would be in serious trouble if I would report this, so he tried to bribe me with RMB 100. I told him I didn’t want his money, and left the scene. I did not report him, but I think (or at least hope) he learned his lesson.

A few hours later at the exit of Shanghai airport a goodlooking young lady in a business suit was asking foreigners in good English to follow her to the taxi stand. Because she was dressed like a business woman even I thought for a moment that she was part of a new airport system with different taxi stands. But when I saw her walking in the direction of the parking lot, I knew she was just one of the touts trying to get foreigners into overpriced illegal taxi’s.

Not much later I was at the front of the official taxi line, and was directed to the first taxi in line. Next to it were three drivers and they seemed to discuss who could ‘take me for a ride’. I wanted to get into the first taxi, but the second driver told me to go to his taxi. Fine with me. So I get in, and he makes a sign with his hands to show him a card where I want to go, assuming I am a tourist. The other drivers stand next to his open window nosy to find out where this guy can take me. Too bad for the driver I tell him my home address in Chinese. When I also tell him the shortest way to get there, he seems really disappointed. Bad luck for him, no possibility to rip off a foreigner…

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  1. Marc, Beijing Taxi drivers are definitely as good as their counterparts in Shanghai. Last time I went to Sheraton (the Great Wall hotel) from Beijing airport, the taxi driver asked for 150 Yuan.(That wasn’t overcharging, that was robbing!)

    In your case, I would say that the driver probably didn’t overcharge you. Because the taxi driver had to pay highway toll on their own, 80 RMB sounds reasonable to me.

  2. Patrick, the taxi fee was RMB 53 plus RMB 10 toll fee for a total of RMB 63. The driver does not pay the highway toll on his own, the customer has to pay that. The point is not whether a price sounds reasonable, but whether it’s the price on the meter. That’s why they have one. If they try to overcharge me by making a deal upfront I just take another taxi. But a driver should not try to fool me upon arrival, even for a small amount. It’s a matter of principle to me.

  3. Hi Marc,

    It reminds me of the best scam I ever fell for, when I was living in Beijing in 1999…

    I had an apartment in the Henderson Center, and worked at the first Carrefour store in Fuang Zhuang (excuse the French..)

    So I got in a taxi as usual – normally it cost around 10 yuan. We arrived, and I offered him my only money, a 100 yuan note. He carefully tucked it away in the door pocket, produced his wallet and found that he could only offer me about 30 yuan change, so he gave me back the 100 yuan, and said forget it! I protested for several minutes that if he would just wait for me to go inside and climb up and down four flights of stairs to my office, someone would lend me the money. I didn’t feel good about ripping him off. Anyway, as soon as I climbed out of the taxi, he roared off.

    Still feeling bad, I went to work and the morning progressed as usual.

    At lunchtime I went to the local hot-pot restaurant with my girlfriend, enjoyed a fine lunch, and went to pay…

    …where the waitress pointed out that the only money I had, my 100 yuan, was in fact a rather poor colour photocopy…

    From then on I only got into taxis if I had about 30 yuan in small change available!

    Keep blogging!

    Best regards,