Zhengzhou’s cabbies tried to take me for a ride when I returned from Taiwan.
I needed to go from the airport to my apartment, a trip that should cost between $25 and $30. But when I approached the first driver in the taxi line, he wrote 500 yuan ($80) on a piece of paper. When I shook my head no, he crossed out 500 and wrote 400 ($64). When I said no again, he crossed out 400 and wrote 300 ($48). I then used my crude Chinese to tell him that his price was still too high. He frowned and walked away.
After getting the same reaction from several other cabbies, I went to a different area where you can negotiate with private drivers. After a little haggling, I agreed to pay 170 yuan ($27), which was the amount I originally had in mind.
As a former taxi driver – I moonlighted in Washington, D.C., when I was a young freelance writer – I know that crooked cabbies can be found in every major city. (I knew some in D.C. who used to unhook their odometer cables because their taxi rental fee was based on how far they drove.) But Zhengzhou seems to have more than its share of scammers. Yesterday’s $10 ride could cost you $25 today. You never know until you get out of the cab.