Tricks taxi drivers use to con you

The last couple of months, leading taxi app companies have been rocked by swindling claims by drivers. PD WIKENDI found out some of the tricks drivers employ to make unsuspecting riders pay more for a trip than they should

Drivers working for Digital App Taxi Providers (DATP) last week called off their nine-day strike protesting low fare charges by the companies which own the apps such as Uber, Taxify, Little Cab and Pewin Cabs, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Tuesday. It was signed between drivers’ lobby Digital Taxi Forum and the four apps as well as Fone Taxi, with the principal secretary for Transport, Paul Maringa, saying that this would address various issues that drivers have raised since the service was launched into the market around 2015, especially price wars.

However, the MoU does not bind taxi hailing app firms to set new rates, and it is unclear whether drivers will take home the amounts they desire, which has largely led to industrial action in the past. This then goes back to some dishonest ways drivers have been employing to make more money, partly owing to their dissatisfaction.

The last couple of months, the companies, especially Taxify and Uber, have been rocked by swindling claims by drivers, and ended up having to reimburse disgruntled customers. On their Twitter handle, @Taxify_ke, is a screenshot showing one user who was reimbursed Sh390, after paying Sh970 for a trip that should have costed Sh580. Responding on the matter in their handle, Taxify insisted that it “does not condone drivers who defy the firm’s policies”, and that they investigate all incidents brought to them, in a bid to maintain respectable practice and standard of service. Uber also maintained its commitment to rid the company of such issues, and urged riders not to hesitate reporting any incidents where they suspect fraud on the part of the driver.

Here are some of the ways we found drivers use to make a trip cost higher than it should.

1.They switch off the GPS during the ride and switch it on at the end of the trip, which manipulates the mileage, and total trip charge can come to double the price or even way more than that. “It happenned to me in a trip from Nyayo estate to the SGR station. There was no unusual traffic or a surge, yet the price was higher than it usually is,” an Uber user, Charles Clyde, shared his experience. If a rider is on a trip not frequently taken, they may fail to note that the fare was higher than it’s usual range for the same distance under the same circumstances. It is advisable to check on the app during the ride, to see that the vehicle is showing on the map correctly as you’re moving.

2.Adding parking fees to the fare charge, even though they are not applicable. Taxify allows drivers to automatically add these tolls, and in such instances, your trip may include parking fees of areas where these apply, even if you just passed by and did not enter. Imagine a scenario where you pass by two to three malls and the app picks all three of them. When added to your fare, a dishonest driver will not alert you, rather proceed to con you of these amounts.

3.Rather than show you the total calculation of your fare at the end of the trip, some corrupt drivers will show you a screenshot of a previous trip, displaying a different amount that they wish to charge you. Our investigation uncovered that these drivers have various WhatsApp groups where they share some of these tricks, including the screenshots. “A driver in need of a certain trip amount requests the screenshot in one of the groups and often receives the same or an amount close to the one they requested,” a Westlands-based driver identified as Maina, who is on Little Cab, Taxify and Mondo apps reveals. Not all drivers on the WhatsApp groups subscribe to the deceitful ways of making money, and they are the ones who tell on the fraudulent ones. According to him, a driver is likely to use this stunt in a case where the trip has been requested on behalf of a customer, and they are the ones to foot the bill, rather than the app owner who requested the ride. This happens often at night when riders are leaving clubs and are tipsy, and may not be wary of overcharges.

4.Driving at low speeds to pile on the total trip time, as fares are a combination of distance covered and time taken. You may note your driver going at say 40kph, in smooth traffic on a good road, and this could be intentional. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and has for years been employed in areas where taxi metres are in use.

5.Another obvious one is taking long routes when there is the option of a shorter one, especially if the driver notes that the rider is not familiar with the area being driven to.

6.Starting the trip before you show up, so as to start racking up time. In some instances, starting the trip before they get to you, hence rack up distance as well! “If you fail to look at the app between requesting a ride and entering the car, you may not notice this. However, if you do, you may note the app indicating that the trip is in progress, in which case you can refuse to enter the car and leave the con to take care of whatever fare will have accrued,” advises another driver, Zablon, who has operated with Uber since its launch in the country.

7.Starting the trip well into the journey, feigning failure to remember to start the trip at the beginning, and at the end of the journey, the total comes to a very low amount, so they request you to pay the estimate, or negotiate a cost that to a sincere rider feels like a deal, yet the driver has underhandedly made the money off app.

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