Why expats bargain hard for their taxis

The Roving Bandit ponders the ethics behind bargaining down a taxi fare when one can easily afford to pay more. As the Bandit himself realises, this is hardly the most pressing problem on the planet, but, hey, us expats working in the Aid industry do like to agonise over these sorts to things.

I think can think of three legitimate reasons an expat might legitimately bargain down their taxi fare:

  • They may be a very junior intern / volunteer who really does not have any cash to spend, and has to eke out what little they have over the time they are here. The whole accounting for their life out in whatever far-flung place they have gone to depends upon the fact that life is significantly cheaper than wherever they call home. Quite simply they cannot afford to pay the rich white person’s fare.
  • Alternatively they may take this taxi on a regular day: over-paying today means over-paying forever, and that may have a more significant impact on their costs.
  • Finally they may be concerned about sticking out as a rich fool, and thus making themselves a target for thieves and other chancers. If they can bargain hard in the local lingo then that might signal they are not such an attractive target.

However, I suggest that the reason most expats bargain down the cost is that they think it is not cool not to bargain it down, and feel they would look silly to their friends and work colleagues (local and expat) if they paid way more than the going rate. And looking silly does decrease ones social capital which may impact upon one’s ability to get useful stuff done. But mostly I reckon folks just don’t want to be taken for a ride when they go for one.


One response to this post.

  1. My experience in Beijing was that it was mostly concern about locals targeting foreigners, that led foreigners to be really bitchy about their taxi fares.


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