Getting taken for a ride


I wish they'd just use the damn meter

This is from the backseat of my friendly neighborhood autorickshaw, the same one that I’ve now taken on multiple occasions when I don’t have time to walk a bit.

Now, by law, the rickshawwallahs are supposed to use the meter (little box above displaying the number 10). But good luck finding one who will, because invariably they get more money by simply haggling.

You see, I live at present in a budget tourist hotbed, which means there are plenty of foreigners who A) don’t know what they should pay B) have the money to pay the extortionate rates for which they’re asked.

Normally, when I need a rickshaw for a longer ride and I have time, I walk away from the tourist sectors to get better prices. Or if my destination is under say eight kilometers, I just walk. It’s quite nice.

But when I’m headed for interviews or just need to get places quickly, as was the case this week, I am forced to pay the higher rates from the guys closest to my room.

I generally aim for a rate of 10 rupees per kilometer, which is still a huge rip-off, but it’s at least better than they generally ask. Knowing Hindi and a little of the city helps a bit — I can persuade most wallahs that Mein nahin feringi hun. Mein desi hun. (I’m not a foreigner. I’m an Indian.) — but that only goes so far.

And I typically am disarmed of any cutthroat bargaining prowess whenever I consider that I’m usually haggling over 75 cents.

The meters by the way (as best I can tell since they are rarely turned on) run 10 rupees for the first kilometer and five each one after that. There’s supposed to be a surcharge at night, but damned if I know what it is.

Irshan, the driver of the above rickshaw, figured he had a captive audience this week, so I ended up twice paying 500 rupees (about $11) for about 30 kilometers of drive time.

And sadly, despite building in an extra half hour to account for India, I still got to my interviews late. The first day, Irshan got hopelessly lost. The second day, he needed to stop for gas.

This is how things go, when your life is in the hands of the rickshawwallah.

(This afternoon, I learned the official Delhi autorickshaw complaint number, which I used tonight as a threat when someone really tried to rip me off. The problem I found, however, is that there are plenty of tourists still willing to be duped, so when I got aggressive, I got ignored.)

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3 Responses to “Getting taken for a ride”

  1. Royal Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Hope you have the haggling experience all worked out by the time we get there.

  2. Adam Jadhav Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    You both will, unfortunately, make for easy targets as obvious foreigners, thereby reducing the effectiveness of my haggling.

    What we’ll likely do is separate when it comes time to bargain — for rickshaws, for souvenirs, for whatever — so that your skin color doesn’t inflate the price I can hopefully negotiate.

  3. Ryan Says:
    November 21st, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I have to say the rickshaw haggling was one of my favorite parts – it’s sort of like gambling in a way. 1) I stick out like a big old pile of foreigner money ready for the take when walking up to a stack of rickshaws in downtown Delhi for sure and 2) it’s nice because the difference between 40 ruppees and 100 doesn’t mean much at all at the end of the day – but it can be a whole lot of bargaining room in between!

    I would make a game to try to guess what I thought it should be (for the local rate) – bargain hard to get that rate – if I got within 10-20% I was pumped. Then I’d ask a couple of locals at my destination if I was anywhere close or if I got ripped off. Then, lean, modify, and try again – made for a fun game of things!

    8 or 9 times out of 10, I usually ended up paying them close to what they asked originally just as a good tip and for letting me have a good bargaining game – if they were ludicrous with their request (i.e. 500 rupees to go 3 km), I’d just walk away – and somehow the price always dropped to a reasonable rate :-) (though they didn’t get tipped at that point!)

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