NAIA Yellow Metered Taxi Scam (and how to beat it)

February 03, 2014

Jenn: How was your visit to the Philippines?
German friend: Yes, Boracay was really nice but we didn't like Manila. Mainly because the airport taxi was too expensive. Maybe if we were with you, they would not charge us that much.
Okay, so that was not verbatim but that was the gist that we got when we briefly interviewed two German hostel-mates who went to the Philippines to celebrate Christmas. It's such a downer hearing this from foreigners, not because I'm a fanatic of our vast natural resources, but because I know this is true and is still widely happening.

Below is a true story on how some of these taxi vultures operate. It happened exactly one month ago, January 3, 2014. (Yes, this post has been drafted for that long, too!)


On my trip back to the Philippines from Singapore, we arrived in NAIA Terminal 1. Now, this is actually my first time to arrive in this airport. Unlike Terminal 3, which I was familiar, I looked for white taxis, obviously because I didn't want to ride the yellow metered taxis for double the charge. I didn't see any and it would probably require a lot of walking. Now since I had 5 pieces of of luggage/bags/boxes with me, I wouldn't make it far. So with the advice of my friend, I had to take a yellow metered taxi. I was too tired from the 10-day trip anyway.

The dispatcher gave me a piece of paper with the plate number of the taxi. Then, the taxi driver helped me stow my things in the trunk. Right after I got inside the taxi, the driver asked for the paper. This is where I made my first mistake-- I gave the paper to him. At the time, I was thinking that maybe he needs to keep it until I arrive at my destination.

Next, I asked the driver three times where the meter was as what I was seeing was just the two small meters, not the Peso meter I'm used to seeing. Both three times he explained the same thing-- it will be computed based on the distance/time reading. I then remembered that there was once an airport taxi I have ridden in Terminal 3 where the taxi company computes for the distance and you have to pay the corresponding price. This is why, stupidly, I shut up because while I was trying to process what he was saying, I'm reminded by my body that I was too tired. And I was thinking, how expensive could it be? I just live in Taguig.

The drive home was pleasant. We even shared new year stories and I was very polite when he asked me how the country I visited celebrates the new year. Then we arrived at my condo building. I looked at the "distance" meter and it read 1310. I asked the driver how much is the equivalent in Pesos.
Driver: 'Yan na po 'yan.
Jenn: Ha? Magkano? Akala ko ba ico-compute pa?
Driver: Yan na po yan. Yung PHP1310.
Jenn: Kuya, bakit ang mahal? Ang lapit ko lang, ah?
Driver: Ganon po talaga yung ganitong taxi eh.
At this point, he wouldn't let me leave the taxi. I guess I could have just left easily but I was thinking about all my things inside his trunk. At that time, I was also thinking, "Crap! I only have 800 Pesos in cash!"

Then, I said my money is not enough because I wasn't expecting that much on a cab fare. He told me, "Pwede nyo naman po ako bayaran ng dollars." But then I really couldn't pay him via EZLink, because I already spent my last SGD at the Changi Airport. He then suggest to drive me to the Petron right outside our gate so I could withdraw. I withdrew money and then he returned me to my building.

By the way, this fool, (yes, me) paid PHP1400, my second mistake. He did not even make an effort to pretend-reach for change. My third mistake was not asking for a receipt before he turned off the meter, quickly if I may add.

As soon as I got to my room, I looked up the metered rates and the usual fares people had to pay. For me, it should have been only 300-500 pesos. I also asked my friend how much he paid for his taxi ride. He said, "160+."

By this time, I was feeling preeeeetty stupid. I was too laxed to have gotten back home to my beloved country, thinking everything would go well. Quickly, I dialed the NAIA terminal's hotline and they gave me the metered taxi hotline. I tried to dial several times but I was getting a busy tone every time.

I had to say enough is enough. I wasn't gonna let the driver walk away with it. I walked out of the condo and into the guard house. I asked for the plate number and taxi body number of the taxi I rode. Fortunately, they also keep a record of the name of the driver straight from their driver's license. (Thank you Cypress Towers Condominium guards for doing your job well!)

The easy way to the Terminal 1 airport would have been to take a taxi but I was sporting a "it's a pride thing" attitude. I didn't wanna waste more money on taxi fare. I had to ride 4 jeepney rides in total reach the airport terminal.

I actually didn't know how to get there other than riding a taxi, but my days in Singapore has taught me to not be reliant on taxis. We do not have a version here though so what I did was to ask locals where to ride and get off. It took me 36 pesos in total for the 4 rides. That's a 200-peso saving right there! Haha.

Going back to my quest for justice, I went straight to the dispatcher, the one who gave me the paper/ticket. On the long ride to the airport, I already have a prepared bullet points on how to confront the driver. As it turns out, I didn't need that. It was relatively easier than I prepared for.

Here's the rundown of what happened:

  1. I showed the dispatcher the taxi details: the driver's name, the plate number, the taxi body number
  2. The dispatcher looked at the taxi queue for a taxi in the same body number series (meaning there were a lot of taxi companies who service the metered taxi line. They are distinguished by their body number so that, too, is an important detail.)
  3. After seeing a taxi, he called the driver and asked me to tell how I've been ripped off. 
  4. As quickly I said "1400 'yung siningil sakin nung driver pa-Taguig", this driver immediately said, "Miss, teka lang ha. Kausapin ko boss ko. Ibabalik namin pera mo."
  5. After calling his boss, he called another taxi from the same company to take me to the parking lot. All this conversation was monitored by the dispatcher so even though the thought of going on a ride scared me a bit, I was still determined to push through.
  6. I was taken about 200 meters down the airport, where the parking lot was. 
  7. I met with the boss, who is a she
  8. I showed her the details of the driver. She said, "Wow, napaka-detalyado naman niyan." Right there and then, I saw from her face that she knew the driver.
  9. She then asked me how much is the usual fare. I told her the fare I paid when I went to the airport when I initially left for Singapore. The other drivers chimed in that it was the correct fare but since they are yellow taxis, they price double. I was aware of that. We reached to a conclusion that the fare would have costed me 320-350 pesos.
  10. She asked if we can make a compromise, she'll give me back 1000 pesos from her own pocket if I do not return to the airport to file a complaint. She promised she will suspend the driver as well because this driver put every other drivers' livelihood in jeopardy.
  11. I said okay. (It was okay for me because there are other drivers who will get penalized if the taxi company gets a complaint. It wouldn't be fair to the honest drivers.)
  12. The other driver asked if he could hail a white taxi for me. (They didn't want me going back to the airport and they wanna make sure I didn't.)
  13. I went on my merry way.
What I can tell from all the drivers and the boss in the parking lot was, they didn't want to give out their names nor the company name. I guess they were just making sure I won't have enough details to file a formal complaint. But like what I said, even if there are many unscrupulous drivers in the airport, there are still honest people out there who wanna make an honest living.

It was good for me that I got my money back. Thanks to the fact that the taxi company did not want to get suspended. At least I felt some sort of justice there. But how about those people who won't make the effort to go back and claim what is theirs? How about the foreigners who come through the airport looking forward for a great trip as promised by our "It More Fun in the Philippines" campaign? 

I guess what's really important here is that they should also see that their selfishness can cost us our tourism pull, that they are not merely drivers, but ambassadors to the general behavior of the Filipino citizens. They are the first in line in showing whether Filipinos live up to our reputation of being hospitable. 

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