Hong Kong Taxi Drivers Protest ‘Unfair’ Competition

Hong Kong taxi waiting for a fare on Nathan Road in Kowloon. Photo Credit: Stewart.

Culture Wars

Taxi drivers in Hong Kong are up in arms! They are threatening to mount protests, block roads, and burn tyres in the streets if the government introduces franchises for “premium taxi services”.

I have a better idea! Why don’t taxi drivers in Hong Kong recognize that they are service providers and improve their attitude toward the paying passengers that they are being paid to serve!

If they did, there might not be so much demand for “premium services”.  Is it really true that passengers are willing to pay a 30% to 50% premium for such a service? (I would.)

A few personal gripes …

  • How many times have I hailed a cab, gotten inside, and discovered that the driver had as many as SIX devices on his dashboard that were making VERY annoying noises ever few seconds?
  • How many times have I waited my turn in a queue, gotten into the taxi, and the driver – who had been sitting there in silence waiting for a fare – picked up his mobile phone and started chattering away in a LOUD voice about total nonsense”?
  • How many times have I heard taxi drivers making INSULTING comments about me, including racial slurs, or ridiculing my attempts at pronouncing the name of the place I want to go to because my Cantonese was LESS than perfect (but I always got where I wanted to go so it must have been good enough for them to understand)?
  • I’ve been sworn at for no reason. I’ve had drivers refuse to let me enter their taxi for no reason. The list goes on.

On a few occasions I have demanded that taxi drivers let me out before I got to my destination because I couldn’t stand their hostile attitude, incessant chatter, or incredible rudeness.

This ALWAYS got an angry reaction. On one memorable occasion, a taxi driver actually jumped out of the cab and challenged me to a fight because I asked to get out before arriving at my destination!

I was tired. That’s why I hailed a taxi. All I wanted was to be driven home In peace and quiet.

Texting While Driving

And what about the drivers that text message while driving at high speeds while driving me to the airport? Am I within my rights to politely tap him on the shoulder and ask him not to do that?

I want to do that but usually don’t have the nerve.

More importantly, shouldn’t they know in the first place that they shouldn’t be doing this?

I’m not saying that ALL taxi drivers in Hong Kong are rude. I’ve met a few that were friendly – downright friendly, in fact.

I got to know one driver, whom I unfortunately lost contact with, who I could call the night before if I had an early morning appointment (or an early morning departure).

Because I was afraid of oversleeping, he would call me in the morning to wake me up 45 minutes before I wanted him to pick me up. (I always gave him a big tip.)

Another driver once asked if I could play badminton. He wanted to play badminton with me on his days off.

Once I left something in a taxi on my way to the bank. The driver parked the taxi, ran into the bank, and returned it  to me. I didn’t even realize that it had gone missing!

Exception to the Rule

But friendly drivers are the exception rather than the rule.

I take taxis less often than I would like. I usually have alternate forms of transportation. Taking taxis is NOT just getting from point A to point B as many taxi drivers seem to think.

It is usually more about comfort. Why else would you pay five to 10 times more than the bus or metro fare to get from point A to point B??

When I got into a taxi a few months ago, the driver immediately picked up his phone and struck up a conversation. I had observed him before getting in. And he had NOT been chatting.

Mindless Chit Chat

“Hey, what’s up?”  he started. In other words, this was NOT an important phone call.

He was NOT calling his wife to inform her that he would be late for dinner. He just wanted to chit chat with a buddy.

I gently tapped him on the shoulder and politely said, “Please don’t talk on the phone when you drive.”

He turned around angrily and snarled, “I drive you home! What more you want?”

“I want you to drive me home without talking on the phone!” I replied.

“I am PAYING you MONEY to drive me home. I am not PAYING you MONEY to listen to you talk on the phone!!!”

Reality Check

Will he be one of those drivers mounting protests, blocking roads, and burning tyres in the streets?

I have a BETTER idea! If he and drivers like him want to protect their livelihood, they should remember that they are doing a job.

They are being PAID MONEY to take PAYING passengers somewhere. They are NOT just DOING someone a favour, for which that someone should be grateful.

PAYING customers should NOT have to listen to annoying noises, incessant chatter, or insulting comments along the way.

Nor should they be forced to listen to the driver’s choice of radio stations. Radios should go silent – unless the PAYING customer wants to listen.

If drivers assumed a polite rather than a hostile attitude, if they chatted with their passengers rather than their buddies on the phone, their passengers would be happier (and more likely to take taxis more often) – and the drivers’ days would be more pleasant.

They might even get a tip!

If Hong Kong’s taxi drivers go ahead with their protests, things could backfire. Regular taxi riders might discover, such as I did a couple of years ago, that there are more pleasant (and cheaper) ways of getting  from point A to point B.

For the price of about 12 trips by taxi, I was able to buy myself a bicycle! I now only take taxis as a last resort. They are no longer my “default” option.

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