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  • Writer's pictureKirk

Beijing Taxi Scam Story

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

By the time I arrived in Beijing, China on this particular trip I was already a seasoned traveler. In fact, I had already been in Beijing years before. I knew this was a place I needed to watch for scams.


I remember someone I worked with years ago warned me of taxi scams in China. He had taken a taxi from the airport to his hotel and mid way the taxi driver wanted to "renegotiate" the price. And not in the passenger's favor of course. When my coworker refused, the taxi driver removed his luggage and left him in the street. I understood his outrage, but I think I'd have paid the extortional rate rather than being deserted on an unknown street.


On my prior trip to Beijing I had visited Tianamen Square, a busy area. At the end of my visit it started to rain. I never carry an umbrella so I was left in the elements. What I did not know was how difficult it would be to flag a taxi in the rain. I should have known from past New York City experiences.


After one finally stopped he communicated his extortionate price of 10 times the normal fare. I balked and he took off. I didn't balk the next time a taxi driver stopped. They can see you're a westerner in the rain and the price goes up. Forget the meter!


With that experience behind me I felt I knew the system here. So, after walking the streets of Beijing I was ready for the dreaded taxi negotiations.


I approached a corner where taxis stood in wait and began to negotiate. I walked away from the first guy who was asking about 5x the metered rate and went to the next in line. He was less, but still too much. Finally a man in a rickshaw bike approached me with a price I thought reasonable so I agreed and I jumped on the back of his conveyance.


From the back of a rickshaw bike.


When we approached the hotel the driver demanded twice the negotiated rate. I reminded him of our agreement. He told me that was a "one-way price" and he needed the same amount to drive back to his spot!


I was adamant I would not concede to this extortion. But he would not relent. He was quite animated as he demanded the new payment.


We were in front of the hotel now so I called out to the doorman of my hotel. That changed the discussion quickly. Suddenly, before the doorman approached, he was eagerly willing to accept the previous agreement.


Of course he knew he was scamming me and didn't want to get anyone legitimate involved from my hotel. I'm glad I had exact change. No tip for him!


This was the first time I had been exposed to this particular scam, but not the last. In fact, the next time this happened it was in another country with more interesting results. But that's another story......

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