Hugh Paxton’s Blog has constantly ridden Bangkok taxis – very cheap, one heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a car in the city if you are a visitor and if things go a bit skew whiff, you get lost (the driver gets lost) then that’s not really an issue. It takes longer than expected or the driver weaves through strange alleys like an escape artist for The Italian Job and you are an hour ahead of that crucial meeting. I really like Bangkok taxi drivers.
Just sometimes they go wrong.
Hence this quick travel advisory. If you are in a hurry to get to the airport and everything is somewhat carelessly not strapped to your testicles and you look affluent and flustered and are covered in gold bangles, then the driver might suddenly run out of gas and in the interests of speed, beg you to get out and push the vehicle to the curb.
Like every great scam this one relies on:
1. The victims being in a state of agitation, being late, being worried about missing their flight, getting stuck in the midst of hurtling scooters, large trucks with blare blare horns, fear, confusion about protocol in a new country, disorientation, kids suddenly appearing at the taxi windows looking on their deathbeds and selling jasmine garlands for good luck.
2. Trust. The victims trust the taxi driver. He has a certificate dangling beside his rear view mirror. He is, in this confusion, an authority figure. Like a Bangkok traffic cop. Nuff said on that one.
3. Hope and sympathy. The taxi driver explains he is out of gas (again) and asks his passengers to help push the taxi out of harm’s way.
4. Compliance mixed with desperation, hope and still a degree of sympathy for the taxi driver’s dreadful plight. Out the door spill the victims of the scam. And they push. They really push. Hoping everything will work out. After a bit of pushing, the taxi re-finds its gas pedal and clears off with all the belongings and is never seen again.
5. Hugh Paxton’s Blog Advisory: If your taxi runs out of gas en route to an airport, smack the driver repeatedly in the face while the vehicle is stationary, shout loudly, scream, lower windows and scream even more loudly. Or, play it cool and suggest that you handle the steering wheel and he does the pushing.
This is a new scam, quite ingenious, and honest policemen (even dishonest policemen) are going to squash it fairly swiftly. Could take a few months, though. Taking a taxi to the Intl airport do it through your hotel or backpackers lodge . If you are staying with honest people they’ll know honest taxi drivers.
I’ve only had one fight with a taxi driver. Outside Robinsons department store on Sukhumvit. The little bastard was in league with the doorman, switched his meter off as soon as we climbed in and demanded with menaces 200 baht. In retrospect, not a significant sum – three times the legal norm if his meter was running. None the less a pitiful scam. I hammered his windows, yelled expletives, told him I was going to smash his head in and he auto-locked the doors.
This was not his intention. He wanted this raging foreigner out of his cab but he couldn’t unlock the doors. I gave him more hell. The idiot wannabe gangster had put his seatbelt on and it’s really difficult to punch somebody in the backseat if your seatbelt has jammed.
More shouting, fierce trapped rat, not a player.
I think it was my wife who opened the doors. It was me who won the “F****k you!” contest.
Then we caught another taxi. The Robinsons doorman had vanished. No loyalty amongst thieves.
Cheers from Bangkok! Trust me most taxis are safe!