I have received a third email in less than a year that recounts situations where readers have been literally “taken for a ride” by taxi drivers… Often, as tourists, whether local or foreign, we are extremely vulnerable when trying to move around an unfamiliar city, and taxi drivers can take advantage of you. You are not inclined to “fight back” or assert your rights as it appears riskier than its worth to do so. The most recent email was of a tourist’s experience in Cebu, and it really pisses me off no end, hence this post.
First, let me recount my own experience in Cebu, so it sets the tone for the post. A couple of years ago, arriving from Bohol aboard a fast ferry, I tried to hail the first cab in line at the pier. I told the driver I was headed to an address near the Capitol building, and he immediately quoted me a price of PHP400, roughly 4x the metered rate at that time. I calmly told him I wanted the metered rate and he refused. I told him he should re-think his answer or suffer the consequences and he still refused to budge. So I went in front of the cab, took down his license plate number and name of operator, I got his name from his Taxi ID on the dashboard and told him I was going to file a complaint with the LTO in Cebu. And send a copy to the Mayor’s office. I also called a port cop over to explain what happened and took his name as a witness. At that point, noting the high likelihood that I could indeed be a pain in his rear, the cab driver acquiesced and said he would take me where I wanted. I refused. Told him I had given him a second chance, and now I wouldn’t get into his cab for my own safety and security. I took the second cab in line and he didn’t even try to scam me in any way. I asked my secretary at the office to call the LTO, get the right information, and I sent in a letter of complaint, cc:ed to the Mayor’s office and local Department of Tourism representative. At the time, Cebu was trying hard to improve cab services and for a couple of years after there were fewer incidents such as this taking place. I have also repeatedly experienced cab drivers at malls refusing a fare, saying it was too near or too far, etc. Again, take their plate number and write in. If a cab driver or cab company receives enough complaints at the LTO, their license can be suspended or lost altogether. They will not be allowed to drive for a cab operator again.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS?
Cab licenses are given out by the government. They are a privilege to operate the cab in the designated territory. They have rules. The privilege CAN be withdrawn. To my knowledge, unless grossly mistaken, a cab driver CANNOT refuse a fare because they feel like it. Because the destination is too close. Because it is too far within the territory it is meant to cover (say city limits). They cannot pick and choose clients, unless they themselves feel at risk of harm’s way, for example, when a potential client is clearly drunk and maybe violent. Cab drivers CANNOT negotiate fares, and must use their meters. That is why they have a metered cab license. Cab drivers CANNOT add on premiums for late night driving, gas, aircon, baggage, etc. unless STATED explicitly by the LTO or local governing agency. Cab drivers CANNOT demand a tip or a different tariff.
Despite what I write above, many consumers either don’t know this, don’t care, can’t be bothered and so perpetuate a situation where they are being taken advantage of, without even bothering to speak up. It’s like public transportation rape. You suffer in silence. So we all deserve bad service if we don’t speak up. It is, to some degree, our own fault. So, SPEAK UP FOLKS!
How to complain in Cebu?
I have gathered a couple of numbers for those of you who have had bad experiences with cabs in Cebu. Write a simple letter outlining the complaint, the name of the driver if you have it, the cab company and the plate number and send it to the LTO in Cebu, call them first at 032.256.3766 to get address details or fax number. Follow up a few times to let them know you won’t let it pass. Copy the letter to the cab company as well. If you can’t do it for yourself, think of the dozens of folks you might help in the future as a result of a simple, factual and objective complaint. The LTO is in charge of all WHITE cabs in Cebu. If you are fooled by either a yellow airport cab, tourist bus, rent-a-car service, then direct your complaint to the Department of Tourism office in Cebu, at 032.254.2811.
NEVER get into a cab you have confronted and informed that you will file a complaint against them. BUT DO FILE the complaint instead of just posturing that you will do so. That we even have to think about this is pathetic third world stuff, or is it? I have had bad cab drivers in New York, Morocco, Seattle, Jakarta, etc. as well. I am particularly galled by cab drivers who are in line at a mall and then refuse to take you to your desired destination. Shouldn’t the mall also step in and ban such capricious behavior? But again, it boils down to US, and if you don’t speak up, it won’t get better. Don’t even ask me about the three folks who cut in line ahead of us in broad daylight at the recent S&R mega sale in Cebu, resulting in our losing the two carts we had reserved from 430am in the morning. Did the store do anything about the line cutters? No. Did the three folks get embarrassed when I raised a stink and directly pointed at them for store security? No. Did the rest of the line do anything? They clapped and cheered loudly when I lost it, but that’s about it. Pinoys love a fight, but they son’t want to be in the fight. :) Horrible. A national shame. We encourage or at least don’t discourage line cutters and we don’t point out folks who pick and choose when it is their JOB to serve the public ridership at large. We want tourists (that don’t come for sex, yeah right, I loved that dumb pride filled but totally misdirected brouhaha) but we can’t even ensure decent, safe, fair cab service… Oh, and don’t mention tourist buses taken over by terrorists.
Note: I suspect the errant cab drivers are still few and far between, maybe as little as less than 5-10% of all the cabs around. So it’s like bad apples, they spoil the rest of the bushel. And I only refer to the few evil ones, not the majority who I suspect are honest, upright, fair citizens. And I do note that every once in a while cab drivers are hailed for their honesty and return of critical documents and money left in their vehicles… kudos to them indeed.