2 June 2011

Grumbling

Blogging is great for grumbling - letting off steam and having a good old moan. As I can't think of much else to post about today, I shall return to one of my pet themes - namely taxi drivers.

Here in Bangkok there seem to be thousands of taxis - often brightly coloured. You rarely have to wait long for a cab. You hail one, open the front passenger door and enquire if the driver is prepared to take you where you want to go. This can be more challenging than it might seem as hardly any taxi drivers in Bangkok speak more than three English words. Also they have clearly all been trained in negative and disinterested body language. Sometimes the signal that the fellow is prepared to transport you is shown by the very slightest inclination of the mandibles.

Bangkok's metered taxis are incredibly cheap. The meter begins at thirty five baht (70 UKpence or $1.15 US) but then the meter ascends very slowly. A long trip to the state-of-the-art international airport - Suvarnabhumi (Soo-wanna-poom) nearly eighteen miles from here will cost a mere £6 UK ($9.80US or $12NZ).

In Thailand, tipping is not customary - which suits me just fine. Around the world, taxi drivers seem to expect to be tipped after every trip. However, I have always had an aversion to this habit as in my many years as a teacher I never received one single gratuity from a parent - even if I was the last to leave a parents' evening at nine o'clock on an icy winter's night or I'd given up several lunchtimes to coach a struggling child. Not one groat, one centime or one dong! Zilch! Yet somebody sitting on his (or her) fat backside turning a steering wheel and getting lost not only expects an inflated fare but also a tip!

In tourist hot spots in Thailand there is always a danger of being ripped off by taxi drivers even though most taxi drivers in the country seem scrupulously honest. Last Sunday, in the southern town of Krabi, I agreed to pay a pick-up truck or song thaew "taxi" driver a certain sum of money to get to the airport. I had just travelled from Ao Nang to Krabi for forty baht - a distance of seventeen kilometres. In Krabi town, I climbed into the back of the jallopy, squeezing in next to some local people.
Thai Song Thaew "taxi-bus"

I noted that when the woman who had been sitting next to me paid the driver at his window she gave him fifteen baht. A mile later, at the airport, I got out the twenty baht we had agreed and the driver started shaking his head. "Two hundred! Two hundred!"

"No way!" I insisted. "We agreed twenty baht"

"Song thaew two hundred from town."

"We agreed twenty mate and besides there were half a dozen people in the back with me! It might be two hundred for somebody on their own."

The bloke was becoming aereated. He tried to phone someone on his mobile phone.

"Look. I am an honest man!" I said. "As a compromise I will give you one hundred baht and no more! I don't like being cheated so you will take the hundred and bugger off!"

I tossed the banknote into his cab and waltzed into the airport as he sped away - no doubt seething about the farangs whose business puts food on his table.

This was just another incident to add to my lifelong catalogue of "events" with taxi drivers. Having rid Sheffield of several parking enforcement officers last year, I am considering a similar campaign against taxi drivers when I return to England or possibly I will limit myself to a protest march on parliament, urging our noble MPs to make the tipping of taxi drivers illegal.

6 comments:

  1. ah
    the saga of foreign taxi rip offs....
    a sure fired thing to ruin the nicest of trips...been there
    worn the t shirt!

    ReplyDelete
  2. ROBERT
    The dong is the currency of Vietnam.

    ReplyDelete
  3. YP
    We parents always "tipped" our kids' teacher at the Waldorf school. When she finally graduated our class from 8th grade, we passed the hat and collected $12,000 to help her take some time off before she picked up another first grade class (the teacher stays with the same class from 1st through 8th grade).

    Looking back to the public school days, I think parents would have contributed whenever there was an opportunity, but it would have been heavily frowned-upon, as if parents were trying to buy grades for their little darlings. (Heck, I might even have considered that myself.)

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  4. Personally, I find tipping taxi drivers a perfectly reasonable practice, although the council calls it fly-tipping, while the police refer to it as disposing of the body.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My rule is never to tip a taxi driver who speeds off before I have fastened my seat belt. If everyone did this, I can assure you that very few taxi drivers would receive any tips. HAH!

    ReplyDelete

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