You know about getting tea-housed, you’ve heard about the ‘art student’ exhibitions, and now it’s time to talk about fake red cabs.
Sometime a while back, when this Shanghaiist had just moved here, we asked a local what the difference was between all of the cabs. The response was cryptic: ‘They’re all the same, but watch out for the red ones.’ This seemed like a weird piece of advice, perhaps in the same vein as ‘don’t flip the fish you’re eating or your family’s boat will capsize.’ After several crimson cruiser rides went down without incident the warning gradually faded from memory.
Fast forward to autumn 2007. We were walking around Huangpu district, just north of old town and no one, we mean NO ONE, would stop to pick us up. All of a sudden, when things seemed most hopeless, an empty red cab miraculously pulled up and we told the driver to head to the fabric market (approximately 2-3 kilometers from our present location). Ten minutes later when we arrived the meter said 18 kilometers (and about 30 kuai). At this point two previously unnoticed warning signs became apparent: (a) The driver’s information was not visible anywhere on the back of his seat and (b) his information on the dashboard was flipped upside down and pushed far out of sight. We would have called in and complained but the ink on the receipt was, predictably, unreadable.
We chalked this experience up to bad luck and considered it an isolated incident of a scummy driver, but then something happened last week. We had visitors in town and, sure enough, they wanted to visit Old Town. On the main intersection just north of old town, where cabs are usually hardest to come by, there was a long line of, you guessed it, eager red cabs. After trying to get in one and telling him where we were headed in Chinese, he informed us (hard to say if this was kindness or chutzpah) that we should find a real cab to take us there. We’ve recently mentioned that the police are cracking down on bogus cabbies near the maglev, but they don’t seem to be doing anything about this rather blatant scam.
We don’t think that you should write off all red cabs, because many of them are just your regular, hard-working folks that are just doing your job, but you should be aware of the warning signs:
1. Make sure that the cab has a plastic guard around the driver’s seat with the company information visible.
2. Make sure the driver’s information is visible in front of the passenger seat.
3. Make sure that the driver in the picture is the same person as the one driving your cab.
4. NEVER take rides with cab drivers that are trying to solicit you outside of their cab (street side, airport, etc.)