How To Take An Uncooperative Taxi in Bangkok
Anyone who has taken a taxi in Bangkok in recent months will know that a significant percentage don’t want to take you where you want to go. But if you have some very basic understanding of psychology and know how to read body language, you will get those uncooperative taxis to take you to your destination and run the meter if they want to get paid.
Since June of last year (2014) I have climbed into no less than 15 taxies who did not want to take me to my destination. Of those 15 taxies all but 1 took me to my destination.
The one that did not already knew he was in big trouble so he went through a big act getting his so called broken taxi towed by another taxi to the shop. But actually his taxi was not broken, he just flipped a kill switch by his knee. Needless to say he did not make any money that night as the ordeal took a few hours and by then all potential customers had since acquired other transportation. Seeing that he picked me up at the end of Soi Cowboy at about midnight, he asked for 400 baht for a 2.2 km trip that would normally cost about 50 baht, his game was clear. So it was extremely amusing to watch him act it all out and try to create a valid excuse so he would not be fined on top of it.
There are a few simple steps to make this work, and the first is remember there are no rewards for bad behavior, and second and very important is to use the toilet before you do this so the call of nature is on your side as well.
The first thing is just get in the taxi, don’t talk to the driver through the window. Once you are in the taxi, you own that taxi, and he will not make any money until he does his job properly. The next thing is you tell the driver your destination. If he does anything other than turn on the meter and start to drive, expect some fun and a bit of Thai drama.
In each case I told them I could wait as long as it takes …. one, two, three hours or more. At this point they suddenly regress to acting like a 2 or 3 year old having a temper tantrum. When they do that you don’t have a thing to worry about because it says you are in control. Anyone who is a parent will immediately recognize the behavior and know just how to handle it.
It is also very important to not get angry as it could trigger a confrontation. So just smile and repeat your destination. You can also repeat you will wait as long as it takes. At this point I have seen several turn off the taxi and get out. The key is just to calmly sit and wait for them to return as it is all part of their temper tantrum. They eventually will return once they do the math and conclude that you will wait as long as it takes for them to do their job.
At this point many will conclude that they do need to do their job and will quote you some over-priced fee. Your reply should always be ‘Meter zero pay zero’, and express that several times. Some will and some won’t turn on the meter or at least not right away. Again do this all while being calm and collected and in control. If they don’t turn on the meter you can tell them that they are jai dee for the free ride.
By now you should have your smartphone out and have taken a photo of the ID plate on the inside of the door. Then you say you are posting it on Facebook and automatic upload. That quickly gets their attention and some will blurt out NO, NO FACEBOOK! They are acutely aware of the power of social media and simply know it is bad news for their bad behavior. As far as they know the whole of Thailand now knows they are misbehaving. After a minute or so just say that you already have 3 ‘Likes’ and after another minute say you now have 7 ‘Likes’.
It is about this time most conclude that the meter should be on and to go to where you told them to go. Also in most cases it only adds about 10 to 20 minutes to your trip. However there are slow learners and it could take 30 minutes or longer for them to remember their job description.
In some of the more interesting displays of grown men acting like children, they may drive recklessly and even try to physically push you out of the cab. In my case that is a bit amusing as I tend to spin the dial on a scale significantly being about twice their weight. Always keep in mind you are in control and be kind, smiling and calm.
The same one who tried to push me out also took a tire iron out and made a threat to hit me. I just calmly looked in his eyes and repeated my destination. He paused for a few seconds, gave me a WTF look and put the tire iron away and got back in and drove some more. It is hard to say what he was thinking, but clearly everything he tried including the threat of violence did not work. That is important to note as it is tied to the behavior of a 2 or 3 year old. He then stopped and complained to a motorcycle taxi driver about me that I found totally amusing. The motorcycle driver looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders and gave him a look that said it all. Noting a small smile from the motorcycle driver suggested he may just go and get some popcorn and watch the two year old in an adult body a bit more.
In the most recent fun ride home, the taxi picked me up and went through the now expected behavior and did not turn on the meter at all saying he was taking me to the police station. Needless to say that amounted to him shooting himself twice. As he had to drive past my destination to go to the police, as soon as he did it became kidnapping and I added a new word ‘Kidnap’ and told him he would get special treatment for that. It took him all of 2 seconds to sort that out and he very quickly pulled over. As the meter was off and I have a photo of it off with the G.P.S. coordinates automatically included, he was busted on all levels. I thanked him for the free ride and told him he was jai dee for not charging me. As I was walking away from the cab I heard the same Thai cussing and swearing going on that was the drama of the trip, but I was not concerned as I did give him the choice to turn on the meter several times. So for this one he has only his bad behavior to blame as once again there are no rewards for bad behavior.
There is however one concern and that being if the taxi driver does not regress to a 2 or 3 year old, it means something is wrong and most likely you don’t want to be in that taxi anyway even if they were willing to take you where you want to go. Other behavior could suggest the driver may be under the influence of drugs or drinking, and if that is the case their behavior could be totally unpredictable.
So, yes, there is no need to play taxi roulette, just get in and there will be more material for another reader's submission if you enjoy that type of thing. Just be a kind and understanding parent, stay in control while being kind and polite and all will be OK. I have clearly done this enough now to be an expert at it.
I like what you're trying to do, but on the other hand you do have to be careful as some of these drivers may not be keen to play the game. You're playing with their rice bowl and that sort of thing is never recommended. There have been news items of the odd driver becoming unpredictable when challenged or feeling affronted by a passenger. Yes, while there are parts of town where it can be a challenge to convince the driver to turn on the meter, at the end of the day it usually only means waiting a few minutes before a cab comes along with a driver willing to take you to your destination without quoting silly money.