The Scumbag Taxi Driver
Experienced travelers all have a story about being scammed by a taxi driver. You get into the car having a notion of what the ride should cost, or maybe just trusting that this driver will get you to where you need to be for a fair price. Then you arrive. The driver -- typically with either an intimidating stare or a shifty smile -- hits you with a price tag multiples of what you were thinking.
Living in Prague for many years, I knew taxis were a well-understood scam. I came to loathe those guys, lurking outside tourist restaurants and train stations. Occasionally, when I’d see them chatting up their targets, I’d warn the tourists and offer to call them a taxi from a reputable service.
Daniel Levine, a trends consultant, also lived in Prague and developed his own strategies for dealing with them. Then, one day, he was in a hurry, and things went pear-shaped. The meter was spinning so fast he couldn’t even keep track of the numbers.
“It was such an obvious fraud,” he says, “but I was already on my way and in a rush so I figured I would just deal with it when I got there. I had dealt with that situation before and I generally threw half the money for the fare at the driver and said I knew it was a scam and they're lucky I wasn’t calling the cops. They usually accepted being called out and took half the fare, which was always more than a ride would cost anyway. But this time I had to pull something out of the trunk and the guy got out and started arguing with me. I refused to pay more. Next thing I knew, he took a swing at me.”
The cabbie missed, and Levine walked to a street where he knew cops hung out. It worked: He wasn’t followed.