Since the 1st September 2012, the police have been cracking down on taxi drivers refusing to pick up passengers. In the past they would have just received a warning, but starting this month, refusing to pick up passengers is now 1 of 13 traffic violations that will get a driver an immediate fine (see here). If this happens to you, you can contact the Land Transport Department Hotline on 1584. You need to make a note of the license plate (see above picture) and the time and place of the incident. They also suggest taking a picture but I would advise caution doing this. Taxi drivers have been known to attack passengers for doing this. An alternative number is 1197 which is the hotline for traffic police. According to The Nation, the LTD received 60 complaints from passengers in the last three days. There was also 11 complaints of taxi drivers dropping passengers off midway.
Taxi drivers have a variety of excuses for not picking up passengers. Some of them are genuine and you should try and be sympathetic. Taxi drivers often rent the vehicles and they have to return them at the end of their shift on time. It is not fair if you want them to go the wrong direction near the end of their shift. The Bangkok Post did some research on Thai forums and here is their list of the most common reasons given by taxi drivers for refusing a fare:
- “I’ve to return the cab to the garage” is by far the most common excuse that people come across. Many people have pointed out that a taxi driver who is no longer providing service on that day should turn off their “vacant” sign so that people do not waste their time and can look for other cabs.
- “The car needs refueling”.
- The driver changes his mind mid-way and drops the passenger off, claiming that the traffic is too bad to go through. Many people pointed out that traffic congestion in the city is normal and if the driver wants to avoid traffic jams they should quit driving in the city altogether.
- Taxis parked in front of malls and bus terminals are selective of their passengers, and frequently claim the destination is too near and they don’t make any money for the trip. These drivers are usually mafia-types and normal cabs are threatened do not to get in the queue.
- “The trip is too far, you have to pay extra”. Many cab drivers trying to make extra money force passengers to pay more than the normal meter fare. Even though they do not deny service, demanding more money is also unlawful. These demands are often made to passengers travelling at night trying to get home, or people who are in a hurry. Passengers are usually forced to oblige and pay 50 to 100 baht more for the convenience.
- Taxis that only accept foreigners as passengers. These types of taxis are found near tourist areas. Many usually do not turn on their meteres and charge excessive fare. Then there are those who turn on their meter but drive around town before reaching the destination, often close by, to increase the fare on the meter for visitors who are not familiar with the roads and streets.
- Some just park on the side of the road, rudely waving off passengers without any explanation. Netizens said these people are “rich enough, they do not need to woo passengers to make a living”.
Speaking personally, I have rarely had a problem with taxi drivers. The majority have been polite and have turned on the meter without me asking. I have had some refuse to take me to a destination due to traffic jams, but there are usually half a dozen following behind. It is not the end of the world.