Friday 13 September 2013

TAXIS: Watch for the rip offs

There are many scam artists out the world ready to rip you off and the most rip offs are done by taxi drivers. Part of the reason for their behavior is that their pay is based entirely on what fares they get from their passengers. I will tell you of some of the taxi drivers that ripped me, my family and other victims off.

The latest taxi rip off I and my family experienced took place in Florida when I and ten members of my family in September of this year were going on a cruise ship that was based at Port Canaveral. We needed a ride from   the Orlando Airport to the hotel we were spending the night at in Port Canaveral. My oldest daughter contacted the Supreme Cab Company in Orlando, Florida and told them that we needed a shuttle bus to take us from the airport to our hotel and later a return trip from the ship to the airport.

The owner, a woman promised my daughter that a shuttle bus would be at the airport to pick us up and that the bus would cost our group $95 for the 46-mile trip each way. My daughter agreed and the arrangements with that firm were completed over the Internet. 

After our plane landed at the Orlando Airport, we were greeted by a man who said he was from the Supreme Cab Company. He took us to the underground parking lot and we discovered that there wasn’t a shuttle bus in the parking lot. Instead there were two taxis in which one would carry five of us and the other would carry six of us. That didn’t bother us at the time because we would only be paying a total of $95 for the trip to our hotel.    

When we arrived at the hotel, the two drivers demanded that we pay each of them $95 instead of just one payment of $95.  My daughter called the owner on her cell phone and the woman told my daughter that the shuttle bus hadn’t returned from the last job and it was for that reason, she had to supply two of her taxis and since there were two drivers, they each had to be paid $95.

Needless to say, my daughter told the woman that we wouldn’t be paying $95 dollars to each of her two drivers. One of the drivers said that he would call the police. Since the issue was not one of fraud on our part but rather a matter of how much we should pay, the police officer that arrived on the scene told the cab drivers that we hadn’t committed a crime and that he didn’t have the authority to arrest us. He did however remain to see if he could broker a settlement between us. He was successful. We paid each driver $60 each. In doing so, we paid $120 as a result of that brokered deal instead of the full $190 but because of the dishonesty of the owner who claimed she owned the cab company, we were out $25 and she was out $70.  She naturally lost our return fare of $95 for a shuttle bus. We chose a second firm to take us from the ship to the airport and we paid $125 for the shuttle bus. All told, we were out $55 because of a dishonest taxi owner.

Years ago when my wife and I were in Vienna, we called a cab company to have one of their cabs pick us up and take us from our hotel to the train station. It would normally be a 30-minute ride. It took an hour and the traffic wasn’t heavy. He was going out of his way to drive on unnecessary streets just to add to the cost of our fare.

In 2000 when my wife and I arrived at the north train station in Paris, we had difficulty in getting a cab to take us to our hotel. Half an hour later, a cab driver stopped and asked, “Are you looking for a cab?” I told him that were. I told him where our hotel was and he said, “Hop in.” When we arrived at the hotel, he demanded twice what the normal fare would be. When I asked why, he said that his cab was a limousine.  I spoke to the woman at the hotel desk and told her that the cab driver was ripping us off. She told him and me that I shouldn’t have to pay that much and we settled for half of his fare.

A couple who were spending their final night in Paris, asked their hotel to arrange for a taxi to take them to the airport at 07:30 the following morning. The driver didn’t show up until 07:45 and gracefully apologized for not showing up on time. After they loaded their bags and had gone less than a block, they noticed the meter was already reading 15 Euro's. They asked him about it and although they spoke very little French, they understood him to say that he had turned the meter on from where he started out on his trip to the hotel. To put it mildly, the couple were really peeved at this idea and thought it was a real rip-off. They were so peeved in fact, they told him to take them back to the hotel. When they circled the block and got out of the taxi, the driver refused to give them their bags until they paid the meter which by then had gone up to 18 Euro's. They spoke to the person behind the desk at the hotel, but he was of little help but he explained to them that it is not an uncommon practice for this to take place in Paris.

When my wife and I arrived at Luxor, Egypt in 1995, we got off the train around six in the morning and caught a cab. We told the young cabby the name of the hotel we would be staying at. Instead of driving us to that hotel, he drove us to a different hotel. His reason for doing that was obvious. The hotel would give him a commission. I angrily told him to drive us to the hotel we had made arrangements to stay at. When we arrived, I told him to follow us into the hotel and then I paid him the fare that was normally paid from the train station to that hotel. Would you believe it? The little creep demanded that we also pay for the trip to the first hotel, the one he had no authority to drive us to. The clerk of our hotel was a big man and he screamed at the cab driver after we paid the proper fare, “Get the hell out of this hotel before I throw into the Nile.”

I didn’t know it then but in Egypt, that country had tourist police who help tourists who are abused by the locals. Had we called those police, the creep would have immediately run from the hotel and drive away as fast as he could because the tourist police were known for beating cab drivers to a pulp for ripping off tourists.  

I read a complaint of two women who took a taxi to their destination in Luxor. There were mirrors in front that were directed down from the top that picked out their underwear and the driver was playing soft pornographic music and a pornographic DVD on a screen. When the taxi stopped at the door of their hotel, he said that he would be happy to be their regular taxi driver. When the women turned him down, he became angry and leered towards them. When they opened the door in order to allow the night security people to hear what was going on in the taxi, the cabby continued looking at them threateningly so they left the car and after they paid him his fare, they told him to go away. He stepped out of his taxi and shouted and swore at women. The hotel security had to step in (5 of them) and the creepy cabby continued shouting  and swearing at them until the security guards ordered him to get off the property and the women were safely inside the hotel.

If you are in Cairo and you want to take a taxi to your hotel, there is something you should remember. The city is huge. When I and my wife were there in 1995, I showed the cabby where on the map our hotel was. The drive would have taken about 30 minutes. It took an hour and a half because he couldn’t find the street. He had to stop many times asking people for directions. He finally found our hotel. He only charged us for a half-hour trip. The reason he had difficulty finding our street was that I had purchased an English  map instead of an Arabic map.

In 1994 when I was in Lisbon, Portugal, I caught a cab to take me to my hotel. I kept a close watch on the meter. I then paid him the amount shown on the meter. He then said, “That is not enough.”  I replied, “That is what is showing on the meter.” He then said, “You also have to pay for my gas used to get you here.” I responded angrily, “Go to hell. You can pay for your own gas.”  He then drove us away from the hotel and began singing repeatedly, “I am going to take him to the police.”

That is what he did. He drove in a tunnel under a major park and inside was a police station. I told the police officer what the cabby was demanding from me. To my shock the officer told me that above the fare showing on the meter, the cost of the gas used to get the passengers to their destinations also has to be paid. I gave the officer the money and he gave it to the cabby and then the cabby placed my backpack on the floor.

I thought that was the end of it. The cabby then said, “I also want him to pay my fare for taking him to this police station.”  The officer pointed to the entrance and said loudly to him, “OUT!” As he was getting into his taxi, I began to sing repeatedly to him, “I don’t have to pay the extra fare.”

The officer then called another taxi for me and knowing what the fare and the gas would cost me to return to the hotel, he told the second cabby to charge only that amount to me which he did.

When my wife and I were in Bangkok in 2005, were always conscious of what was going on in the taxi meters. Every morning, we would take a taxi to the major conference building from our hotel where I was a speaker at a UN conference. They didn’t rip us off because they made plenty of money driving us to and from our hotel even though the distance wasn’t very long. The reason for this was the taxi had to cross a major intersection and at all major intersections; the traffic lights didn’t change until ten minutes had passed.  

What we had to watch out for was the small three-wheeled tuks. The drivers demand horrendous fares but you can negotiate a smaller fare before you climb into them. You also have to watch out for taxis in Bangkok that don’t have meters in them. The cabbies really rip the tourists off who get into those taxis.

 In Toronto,  Ontario, a couple at the International airport asked the taxi driver as to what the fare would be to take them to the City of Hamilton which is 44 miles (71 kilometres) from the airport. The fare he suggested was proper. However when he reached the City of Oakville which was equal distance between Toronto and Hamilton, he dropped them off after having paid the full fare to Hamilton and he then drove away leaving them stranded in Oakville in the middle of the night.

The best cabbies in the world are in London England. They don’t even get licensed until they can name every street in that huge city. But even then, one night in 1974 when I tried to hail a taxi, none of the empty ones would stop for me. I got a police officer to pull one over for me.

The same thing happened to me when I was in Caracas in 1980. I had to ask a police officer to pull one over for me.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the majority of cabbies around the world are honest and treat their passengers decently but there are a great many cabbies in which the only proper description of them would be—scum bags. Be careful you don’t get into a cab driven by a scum bag.


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