Thursday, October 11, 2012

Worst taxi Drivers?

At the time when I read that Malaysian taxi drivers were rated one of the worst in the world, I have just came back from taking an approximately 30 minutes taxi ride from Bellevue in Seattle to downtown Pikes Market which cost me USD39 besides the USD5 tips that I have to pay, which means that my 30 minutes ride cost me a cool RM136.50 at today's exchange rate of 3.104. I barely spent 2 hours at the Pikes Fish Market before I had to go back to the hotel with Ryan whining about being tired and sleepy. Hence, my 2 hours escapade cost me a whopping RM273!

So, before we start to jump blaming our Malaysian taxi drivers and pointing fingers that the report is true and they deserve what they deserves, I believe that we should look at the `so called' poll and report and the results objectively before we judged.
I have the privilege to travel quite a fair bit recently, and taking taxis in some of this countries that I have visited and the experience related to this group of people and their occupation.

I must said that I do agreed that we simply do not have the best taxi drivers in the world but I am not quite sure if they deserved being called the WORST!

Firstly, the report was apparently highlighted by ( who in a previous post, also highlighted that they have been voted to be he BEST taxis in the world for 3 years consecutively. Londoncabs is the company providing the black cabs in London which is also reputed to be the MOST expensive cabs in THE WORLD!

This poll and report was apparently conducted by ( and was done for the year 2011. According to this survey, which was conducted between July 31 to August 20, 2011 with only 4,821 respondents across 23 countries such as SINGAPORE, UK, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA, JAPAN, SWEDEN, GERMANY, AUSTRALIA SWITZERLAND IRELAND INDIA SPAIN, CHINA, FRANCE, ITALY, DENMARK, NORWAY, THE NETHERLANDS, HONG KONG, KOREA, MEXICO FINLAND and USA.

Surprisingly, I find the percentage between that reported by and the one reported by londoncabs differs slightly. While only 28% were reported for London by, reported a staggering 33% while New York which received only 9% from, were reported at 17% by Most Asian countries were left out from the list reported by with the exception of Bangkok and even that the percentage was much lower at only 3% as compared to the 6% reported by

Other Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Tokyo, both at 7% and Singapore at 6% were surprisingly omitted.

I honestly find the discrepancies disturbing and the sampling size, alarming small considering that the countries polled cover well over 23 countries. No reference were made as to the nationality, race and background of the respondents, hence making this poll, in my opinion, rather unrepresentative of the actual quality of service of the taxis services around the world.

But then again, it does not take a genius either to know that our taxi service quality and system requires a in-depth look and reinvention in order to elevate it to a standard that we could honestly be proud of.

I have yet to visit London nor have I taken the iconic black cab here but based on the countries that I have the privilege to interact with the taxi drivers, I must said that I would disagree with the poll somewhat.

Here's my take of my experience with this group of `wonderful' people:-

We have yet to encounter one single rude taxi driver here from the numerous visits we made to the republic. Most of them were well mannered, English speaking and got us to where we wanted to go without a hassle. Hence, I am rather surprised that they do not make it to the top ten list in the poll conducted by

We have always heard numerous nightmare stories of how unethical and cunning Chinese are. I must confessed that I have lots of apprehension taking taxis there when I first visited Beijing but after a couple more visits (especially now that we would be relocating there by the end of this month), the taxi drivers in Beijing are actually a friendly lot. To me, most of them do look alike with their crude cut hair style and looked rather grumpy. But once, you are able to strike up a conversation with them in their language, they can be rather talkative and you might just be able to invoke a friendly smile across their face. We have yet to encounter one who do not follow the meter nor taken us `around' the city just to get a few dollars more. In fact, we find taking taxis in Beijing to be rather affordable. A 30 minutes ride that I took from Westin Hotel to Temple of Heaven in the morning heavy traffic only cost me RMB30 or RM15! And he was telling me, how he enjoyed visiting Genting Highlands and how beautiful Malaysia is. And an interesting point to note was that we were told that only residents of Beijing can be a taxi driver in Beijing.

There was even one instance when my wife was taking a cab in Xian from the airport to her hotel and apparently there are two such hotels and they ended up at the wrong one. The cab driver was not only NOT angry for getting to the wrong one because my wife was not specific enough (honestly, even she did not know that there were two), but he gladly took her to the right one and gave her a discount from the fare charged from meter because he said that it was partly his fault too for not finding out properly.

New York USA
My first impression of New York was tarnished by the black driver of the famous yellow cab. His careless driving (probably that's how they all drive in New York traffic) and his arrogance throughout the journey irritated us so much that we actually gave him just at USD5 tip, which of course drew further curses from him as he shouted to other cab drivers at the hotel lobby, something to the effect of "bloody Asians!"  And we have reporting that New York has the second highest rating of over 17%!

Atlanta USA
The driver who claimed he was from Pakistan gave us quite a fright when he took us through some pretty shady black neighborhood from the airport to downtown Peachtree Street in Atlanta in order to avoid the freeway. Although he was using the meter, he was "fxxking" at every turn and every corner and at every driver on the road besides busy chatting on his handphone.

San Francisco USA
Our worst experience was on our first night at San Francisco after our dinner at Pier 39. There were absolutely no taxis in sight at the taxi stand at around 11pm and there we were, along with 20 other people or so, standing there in freezing temperature, waiting. What came along was a string of limousines that offered to pick us up but for USD30 per person for a 15 minute ride. We were adamant that we would not subject ourselves to this `daylight' robbery and continue waiting for another good 20 minutes before the taxis began to arrive one after another.

Our taxi driver was a 65 years old man from Hong Kong who has been driving the San Francisco streets for well over 30 years. He was chatty and nice and the fare, only a fraction of what the limousine drivers were charging. Our next experience was a driver who tore through the hilly streets of San Francisco in the middle of the night like he was in a rally race, complaining that tourists are bad because they either walked or rent their own car instead of taking a taxi ride. Considering that renting a Ford Mustang only cost me slightly over USD90 plus insurance in Los Angeles, I can understand why.

Seattle USA
The taxi drivers in Seattle were a friendly lot, most of them either from Somalia or Ethiopia, many  having settled down with families and driving taxis for well over 6 to 10 years. Our encounters with them have all been pleasant ones though the taxi fare here is everything BUT cheap! As I shared earlier, a 30 minutes ride downtown cost USD39 before tips!

Los Angeles USA
Our ride from the Los Angeles International airport to Anaheim where Disneyland was located, a trip of approximately 30 minutes turned out to last longer than 45 minutes when the driver got lost and refused to listen to me even when I told him that the Fairfield Inn by Marriott was just across the Disneyland main entrance! (Which idiot who drive a taxi in LA would not know where Disneyland is and he even has a GPS in the car). The cost of the journey turned up to cost us USD140 (RM434)! On our return trip from the hotel to the airport, we engaged another company who provided us a minivan to cater for our six huge bags and the journey which took just well over 30 minutes only cost us USD93 (according to the meter).  Our USD7 tip made this Mexican who has been driving a taxi here for the last 6 years a very happy man.

Looking back at our experiences with different taxi drivers from the different cities that we have visited, we could only conclude the following:-

  • Taking a taxi (apart from Beijing) is an expensive affair and tipping especially in US is almost an unwritten law. In fact, some are even expecting a tip as high as between 10% to 15%. A 30 minutes ride in Seattle could easily sets you back RM140 or in the case of LA, over RM300!
 Taking a taxi in Malaysia is expensive to most of us who live in the country but no where near to what we would have to pay for similar services overseas.

Therefore, I would not want to compare the iconic black cabs of London for example to the those in Beijing or even in Malaysia, where their charges are rated as the most expensive in the world. Now, if you are paying for those similar rates back home in Malaysia, I am quite certain that you would probably be renting a limousine with premier services and I am sure certain that you will be served like a king.

Calling for our taxi drivers to improve their services and to avoid using unethical ways to fleece their customer, I believe is not just a matter of weeks or months, or by merely giving out handouts to win votes just before a coming election. It involves an in depth look at the entire licensing and fare system to ensure that taxi drivers can make a decent honest living without having to resort to unethical methods to make ends meet. Other modes of public transportation has to be put in order and accessible to the general public at large.

Kudos to our reporter who went out disguised as a tourist to ascertain how true the report was on our taxi drivers, which came as nothing new to most of us. Now, I would like to see a reporter disguised as an honest taxi driver taking over the wheel for a day and see if you could survive, playing by the rule.

Dishonest, unethical or rude taxi drivers goes beyond just a few individuals if the system is flawed in the first place. The government and the governing body should bear the responsibility of what the system has became.

Do we then increase our taxi fare to those similar to those of the black iconic black cabs of London and imposed strict entry education and test before a taxi driver is qualified to even sit behind a wheel in order to elevate our standard to that apparently rated as the best by Or do we imposed tipping as an additional incentive to encourage better service? Or do we do what the China government has apparently did just before the Olympics, making sure that taxis are clean and and taxi drivers do take their bath and maintain their personal hygiene and taking all necessary steps to enforce that and see it to past.

Is it really that simple problem to tackle and solve?


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