It happens all the time. You get into a taxi and the driver doesn’t want to turn on the meter.
But this time I knew how much it should cost to get to the market we were headed to. Mike and I hopped in a taxi in front of the hotel. We told him where we wanted to go and he told us it wasn’t open yet. Yeah, right. That’s the oldest scam in Bangkok. I told him I knew it was open and that’s where we were going.
Then he got out a card and passed it back. It was dog-eared and bent and was advertising “massage” services. 10,000 each he said. (That’s $330.) No. We wanted to go to the market. He tried pushing his prostitute option again. “No. Market.”
“Ok, ok” and he drove on. Then he pulled out a brochure for a zoo. I don’t remember how many thousand he wanted to take us there. We declined and told him we wanted to go to the market. And declined again…
I got fed up and told him to turn on the meter. He said he wouldn’t. He said it would cost us 1,500 baht to get to the market. Each. That’s a total of $100. The day before I went to the same market with a metered taxi for 80 baht – under $3. I told him I’d pay 100. I figured that was fair – more than the metered amount but not excessive. He said “no… 1,500 each.” Fortunately we were stopped. I opened my door, pulled out a 20 baht note and told him we were done. Mike started to open his door “are we getting out?” I asked the guy – “100 baht?” “Ok, ok!” he said. I closed my door. “100 baht” I confirmed. “No…”
I was done. “Let’s go” and I threw the 20 baht note into the front of the cab and got out quickly.
CRUNCH! Came the metal on metal sound.
Mike had opened his door just as a scooter was zipping by. I got around the car and saw the guy standing his scooter back up and looking for damage. He wasn’t going too fast after all. We asked him if he was alright. I think we did at least. By now the taxi driver was getting out of his cab and starting to yell at us. Traffic in front of us had cleared. I knew he wouldn’t leave his car there. “Let’s go.”
He followed us. We tried to get into another cab but he stopped that driver and the driver made us get out. He demanded money from us. How many thousand? I don’t remember. Within minutes he talked himself down to 500 and by then I demanded that he call the police to settle it. He balked. He stopped insisting on money. He went back toward his cab.
Mike and I changed tactics. We walked against the traffic, crossed the road and dodged down an alley. This guy know where we started and where we wanted to go. That didn’t feel good. We popped out onto the road in a different spot just as he drove by. Back into the alley we went. By then my mouth was dry and heart rate leveling after the adrenaline rush. We nabbed a taxi and willingly paid 200 baht to get to the market.
We learned. Demand the meter. Since I knew how much it should cost I wasn’t concerned. Drivers unwilling to use the meter are not just looking to not give a cut to their company – they want to cheat you.
I hope that the driver learned too. I wonder if sleazy taxi drivers are Buddhist and if they come back as a cockroach.