A guide to getting ripped off without losing your dignity

TaxisAlmost everyone has their own story of getting ripped off while travelling. Whether it was a dodgy waiter, a hotel that tried to charge too much or a driver that took you for a ride in more ways than one, however smart we think we are, people will get the better of us from time to time and relieve us of a few extra dollars.

When this does happen however, we can choose how we react. I won’t advocate to anyone that they should roll over and just accept it. There is a way where you can preserve your own dignity and that of the person with whom you have a dispute. One thing is certain though: it always helps to be sure of your facts before getting mad. To illustrate the point I’ll share an example of where I failed spectacularly in this regard.

My story of being ripped off involves the most common scammers in the world: taxi drivers. I was in Istanbul on a business trip in 2006 and jumped into a cab at the Galata Bridge, heading to the Intercontinental Hotel. The driver immediately used trick no.1: the broken meter. I didn’t worry as I knew the fare should be around 7 TL ($6). Besides it was pouring with rain and I didn’t fancy getting out of the dry car.

As we approached the hotel he executed trick no.2: ‘accidently’ missing the entrance to the hotel and its waiting doormen and stopping along the main road. So I was ready for an argument when he completed his scam asked me for 20 TL ($17). I laughed at him and said “no way!” A short discussion followed (he in Turkish, me in English) which got louder and more heated. I had already decided to give the guy 10 TL and walk, so I pulled a note from my wallet and thrust it at him.

This only got him more angry, and I in turn lost my temper, saying that he was getting extra from me just to get rid of him. I continued to push the note toward him, while he seemed far more offended than I felt was justified. And then I suddenly saw why: I had been waving a 1 TL note at him all this time! Sheepishly I apologised, fished out the 10 TL note, he took it with a grunt and I left the car quickly without looking back.

It was not unreasonable for me to argue my case when he inflated the price in this way. But I did learn that in a dispute it’s wise to be certain of your ground; otherwise you’ll find it very easy to dig yourself into a deep hole.

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

9 Responses to “A guide to getting ripped off without losing your dignity”

  1. Ha! I think he got what he deserved – wonder how he liked having the tables turned on him. Great story. I always try to keep my cool & keep things in perspective, but when I fail, I fail spectacularly! Guess just means we’re human.

    February 16, 2010 at 8:48 pm
  2. Now that’s parganing for ya. Starting at 1 and working your way up =p

    Definitely always frustrating. I try and avoid the hassle, by agreeing on the approximate price before i ever get into the cab. It’s definitely more difficult if you’re in a feeder line, but even then it can be helpful.

    February 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm
  3. Many thanks Barbara and Alex. Yes, I bet he was surprised at how hardnosed my bargaining technique was: but not half as surprised as I was 🙂

    February 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm
  4. Pradeep #

    If I need to be taken to a hotel. I usually ask the driver to wait so that I get my money from the hotel room or friend or whatever. Once inside the hotel, I ask the reception what the proper bill should be. Worst case, the reception talks to the driver and mostly that’s the end of the discussion.

    My Girlfriend and myself once decided to stop at a street cafe during a walking tour of Porto. The waiter put a plate of snacks on the table (without ordering) and we thought that is the standard welcome plate. We took a bit and ordered 2 Cappuccinos. As they gave us a bill of 17 Euros, we looked at each other, discussed, if we let them rip us off or decide to go ahead and make fools of ourselves. Well, we called the waiter over and asked him to explain the bill. This guy tried to impress by being impatient, so we asked him to get his boss. He said no, so I got a bit louder and asked him to get the police as we won’t be paying. Then the boss came over. Resulting bill: 4 Euros and something! When we were getting up, I grabbed afew pieces of snacks , then looked at the waiter, smiled at him politely and left him a one Euro coin :-).
    It was a wonderful day 🙂

    February 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm
  5. Thanks for sharing the story Pradeep. Must have been sweet to beat him. We’ve fallen foul of the snacks at the table trick too. I guess they expect that most people won’t kick up a fuss. Mentioning the police usually does the trick.

    March 2, 2010 at 5:34 pm
  6. Leila #

    You know, that’s not so easy when you’re alone, a woman, at night, in a totally dark street, with no clue of where you are (in Prague), and the taxi driver looks like a mobster. Of course I knew in advance I would be ripped off (it happens in my city also, unfortunately), but I that guy looked like a convicted felon, I swear. It took the next morning, the sun light and a map, and finally, my leaving town to find out how much it cost me. Of course, I love myself more, and I was glad to get rid of the mobster.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm
  7. Thanks for sharing Leila. You’re quite right, it’s a different story where safety is your no.1 concern, especially as a woman travelling alone.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:43 pm
  8. Hi Andy – Great story. And that’s exactly the kind of blooper I have a tendency to pull! good for you for standing your ground, however. And thanks for starting my day off with a nice chuckle.

    October 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm
    • Thank you Gwen – it’s good to laugh about these things now and I hope I remember this incident if I’m ever faced with a similar one in the future (I guess I’m bound to be!)

      October 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm