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The cheating taxi driver

This evening I had a couple of beers at Bar Rouge with Spil Games colleagues from Holland and took a cab back home afterward. I let the driver stop outside my compound and gave him RMB 100 to pay the RMB 45 fare. A second later he had an old RMB 10 note in his hand and told me that I had given him only RMB 10. For a moment I thought I made a mistake and took another RMB 100 from my wallet. But then I realized that he was cheating me, because I had just spent my last RMB 10 in the cab to Bar Rouge and I remember thinking to get some change in the bar for my taxi ride home (which I then of course forgot about in the bar).

So I looked at him and told him angrily he was trying to cheat me. He said no, I made a mistake and showed me he did not have any RMB 100 notes in his wallet. I repeated it again and then he said, ah, sorry I made a mistake. He then tried to give me RMB 25 back instead of RMB 55, which made me really angry. So he then apologized again and gave me RMB 55 back. I asked for a receipt, but he refused. Then I got really angry and tried to write down his taxi number, but he ripped the card out of its holder so I could not see his number.

That was too much for me and I told him I was going to call the cops. He started pleading me not to do this, offering me several hundred RMB (suddenly he had RMB 100 notes!) if I would let him go. This confirmed to me that he had probably played this trick before and may have gotten a warning and would lose his taxi license if he would be caught again.

I told him I did not care about money, but that it’s about ethics (well, at least I tried to explain that to him in Chinese, not sure if he understood what I meant), and that I hated him for trying to cheat his customers. I was very angry now and sort of felt that he deserved to lose his license, this kind of cab drivers give the others a bad reputation. On the other hand the punishment would be a bit too harsh, but at least I wanted to teach him a lesson. So instead of the cops I called my wife who turned out to be at home. The driver was almost crying when he saw me calling, probably assuming I was calling the police. In a way I felt bad for him, even though he was the one trying to cheat me.

My wife came out and the driver apologized to her many times and told her that his receipt printer was broken so he could not give me a receipt. She then said she would call his company to check if his printer was really not working after which he also offered her money not to do this and pleaded her to please be generous.

My wife argued with him for a while but was smarter than me and eventually let it go, telling him that he should never try this trick again. So I went out and tried to take a picture of his license plate. When he saw that he jumped out, standing in front of his plate and pleading me not to do this. So I just took a picture of him instead in front of his car. I had planned to put the picture above this post, but it’s probably better I leave it like this. He got his punishment and I don’t think he will easily try this trick again.

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  1. Not only the air got worse since the Expo finished, but also the scammers and beggars are back! We shot on Nanjing Lu two days ago and there were so many scammers and WBD’s running around on the pedestrian street… And beggars at all major expat places. Shanghai is back to the future 😉

  2. Glad he didn’t manage to cheat you! Hope he learned his lesson too but somehow I’m doubtful.

  3. Interesting question… cheating happens all the time with taxi drivers in Shanghai, usually it’s just a wrong turn or taking the wrong tunnel to get 1~2 RMB exta, but not often that extreme. If they cheat me for 1 RMB, I let it go. They work 16 hr days and increasingly spend most of these hours in a traffic jam, to make little or no money. I would get upset for less than that.

    it’s the same dilemma as with beggars: for him at that point, letting it go after some scare, seems like the right thing to do. But on the other hand, you pushed him to that limit, and now he may feel even more comfortable, he can push it that far and still get away with it.

    Would it have been better to make one “case example” (i.e. reporting it to his company), which would mean helping (that’s how I see it) his fellow drivers that they can’t get away with this?

    I don’t know the answer to deal with these negative exceptions, but in my humble attempt to make Shanghai a better place, I try to re-inforce the positive exceptions: if they speak english or are particularly friendly, I usually tip them 5RMB extra, and make it clear why I gave them the tip. They are often surprised, and I hope that at least one driver changes his mind that way and behaves more friendly.

  4. Marc the champion of taxi riders !!!

    good one ! – I think you did the guy a favor
    lets hope he learns from this

  5. Hmm…seems like a good reason to pay for Taxi rides with a transport card (jiatong ka). At least until they come up with a scam for that too.

  6. Dear Marc
    That is sad, but maybe the driver won’t do it again. I once offered a 100RMB note for a 55RMB fare. The driver complained that I had offered him a big bill. So I managed to put together 55RMB. He returned a fake 100RMB note to me in place of the one I had given him and I gave him 55RMB. I did not find out until I was paying for lunch for a group of guests that I had a fake bill. My original bill was from the bank, so it was real. If I had looked carefully, I would have identified the fake the driver gave me. I think this guy probably uses this trick any time someone cheated him with a fake 100RMB, or worse, it could be something he tries on laoweis. But it’s the only time I have had big cheating. I have had little cheating of drivers tipping themselves by not giving correct change.

  7. @Arturo
    Unfortunately notes from a bank doesn’t mean those notes are real… Already have some bad experiences with this myself. I’m 200% sure I got the 100 yuan notes from the ATM, and still had a fake.
    My wife told me to only get money from an ATM if it also allows money to be put in on your bank account.
    Normally I’m not too worried about this, but next time I need a lot of money I’ll just go to the counter I guess.

    For taxi drivers I usually try to pay with small bills. That saves a lot of trouble.

  8. I just write an article about some tricks make sure to catch it on the global times, and to be honest I’m TIRED of that situation there’s nothing we can do but I don’t care I’m reporting every time that happens I don’t care if there’s no taxi drivers left in Shanghai don’t PITY Them at ALL!!

  9. Careful with the jiaotong ka (transport card), they do have a trick to cheat!!

    When giving it back to you after using it for paying, they “accidentaly” drop it on the passenger seat or on the ground where they have another card hidden, which is empty. Almost impossible to see the swap…
    Best advice is to leave the card in your wallet or in a plastic poach when handing it over to the driver for paying.

    Nevertheless, Let’s admit the generally taxi drivers in shanghai are very honnest…

  10. There is a scam with the transport card. They quickly change your transport card with one with a lot less money.. Always take the receipt, also because you never know if you’ve forgotten something.

  11. He will DEFINITELY do this again. He will also steal customers phones, bags, etc. Come on, man, how long did you say you’ve been in China!??!?!? Oh, and that little old lady behind the register at 7-11 overcharges you every single time you go in.

  12. @jay
    exactly! no guarantee that bills are real from an ATM.

    My last incident with a taxi driver was about a week ago. Driver asked me if to take the Highway or normal rout. I told him the highway. From pudong to Puxi that means the bridge. Nevertheless we went through the tunnel. A much slower way, due to traffic, and so much more expensive. (I was pretty close to the nanpu bridge)

    So i decided not to pay full (just a few rmbs less). He didnt agree and came after me. That’s the point i get seriously angry. But still controlled myself. I walked off, pretty much ignoring him.

    Most of the time i am ok with taxi drivers. But for sure some search for the slowest routes. Especially during not busy times. The thing is, i know my way around in SH. So i tell them how to drive.

    The card switch i didn’t know about. But sure sounds easy. I suggest mark them clearly! 😉

    And if you can pick ur taxi, easy not during rush hours, i go for green or the high model yellow/white ones. Stay away from the red taxis. The look and are dodgy from miles away!

    Ps. If my driver offers me money i def. would take it. Cos thats the only thing they do care about.

  13. I hate every taxi driver in Shanghai. Every time I´m there driving in a taxi I pray for my life. They haven´t yet understood that it´s a service job.