Bangkok taxi complaints: are they necessary?
There is a new article in one of Thailand’s English language newspapers this week about Bangkok taxi complaints. According to the Department of Land Transport (DLT) there have been 23,092 calls to their new Bangkok taxi complaints hotline in the last year, with (mainly) Thais complaining about taxis refusing to take them where they want to go, taking the long way round, being rude and careless driving.
But, also according to the DLT, it is often not the Bangkok taxi drivers that end up paying the fine but the company that rented them the taxi in the first place.
Plus, with the vast majority of complaints to the Bangkok taxi complaints line not ending up with any solution anyway, most passengers still end up frustrated and upset.
So, is there really much point in calling the Bangkok taxi complaints line and making a formal complaint?
And, are Bangkok taxi drivers as bad as people make out, or is it a big hullabaloo about nothing?
My experience with Bangkok taxi drivers
I’ve lived in Bangkok for 12 years and, during that time, have probably taken at least 5,000 taxi rides as I take them many times a week. During those 5,000 plus taxi rides, how many problems have I had with Bangkok taxi drivers?
Honestly? Less than ten.
As for those ‘problems’, they have been minor ones. They have included two or three taxi drivers taking the ‘long way’ round. No big deal for me, as it literally cost me an extra 10-20 baht. They have also included three drivers (three out of 5,000 remember) who have refused to turn the meter on (I told them to stop and was going to get out when the meter was miraculously turned on), and a couple of other just generally grumpy ones.
That’s it. Ten minor problems out of more than 5,000 taxi rides.
In fact, for me, Bangkok taxi drivers are superb. Taxi rides are inexpensive, the drivers are almost always friendly and pleasant and, in 10 years of taking thousands of rides with them, I have been cheated out of just a few baht a couple of times.
So, no, I don’t believe Bangkok taxi drivers are bad. In fact, I think most of them are lovely.
Why do I not have problems with Bangkok taxi drivers?
In my opinion, there is a very simple reason why I rarely have problems with any Bangkok taxi driver. That’s because I TALK TO THEM.
Yes…I treat every taxi driver like a human being, and not a servant that I expect to take me where I want to go while I sit in the back seat pretending he’s not there.
When I get in, I always say “Sawatdee ka” and then start up a conversation. My Thai isn’t particularly great, but I can carry a rudimentary conversation so I talk about the traffic, the weather, shopping, which country I’m from (they always ask), how long I have been in Thailand, about Thaksin and Abhisit (99 percent of taxi drivers are interested in politics and the majority support Thaksin), ask about their wives and kids and on and on.
Not only does my having a conversation with a taxi driver make the journey seem shorter, it also makes it far less likely any Bangkok taxi driver is going to cheat me or give me bad service when I am friendly, polite and nice to them.
What happens when you treat Bangkok taxi drivers like servants?
In all my time in Thailand, I’ve noticed Thais rarely if ever speak to the guy who is driving their taxi and most farangs (westerners) don’t either. Sure, many farangs don’t speak Thai but, if they do, they rarely say anything more to the driver than where they want to go.
So, what happens when you treat Bangkok taxi drivers like servants?
You have already established when you get in the car that you couldn’t care less about them or their service. All you want is to get where you are going in the shortest time possible.
The taxi driver, in return, couldn’t care less about you. You are just another person they will ferry around Bangkok — a person who might grunt at them as you thrust your fare in their hands. Then you open the door and leave.
That is why when you treat them like a servant, or a sub-human, you honestly shouldn’t be surprised at the treatment you get. After all, if you were treated the same way in your job, would you want to give your customer the best service possible?
I know I wouldn’t.
The next time you take a Bangkok taxi ride try behaving differently
That’s why I am telling you if you have had problems with Bangkok taxi drivers in the past, the next time you take a Bangkok taxi ride try something different.
Be smiling when you get into the taxi and be friendly and polite. If you speak Thai, or the taxi driver speaks English, have a short conversation, and do your best to treat the driver like a human being.
And, when you get out, give them a tip. Even a tiny amount like 10 baht is always appreciated and shows you were happy with the service.
In return, you will likely get great service, an honest driver and a pleasant experience. Sure, you might get one surly taxi driver now and again as, yes, they are out there. But, I can guarantee you 99 percent of the time, your experience with Bangkok taxi drivers will be better.
After all, it’s like my mother always says, “You catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar”.