Rude drivers and filthy taxis: cabbies named and shamed in Macau
Macau's growing taxi problem has given rise to a name-and-shame Facebook page with more than 2,000 members sharing their horror stories.
Andrew Scott, administrator of the Macau Taxi Driver Shame page, released a cabbie blacklist at the start of the month, with a "whitelist" featuring polite and fair drivers. The blacklist has 73 taxi plates; the whitelist has 15.
"I am hoping that we can force the bad guys out of the industry," said Scott, who is in the process of forming an official association. "We are not an anti-taxi group. We want to work with the industry to fix the problem."
In the first half of the year alone, the Macau transport bureau received 1,340 complaints and its inspectors reported 397 taxi offences. But only 169 offenders were fined.
A spokeswoman said 290 cases were still being processed; the remaining 1,278 cases had been closed. She said some complainants were unwilling to pursue their cases.
Scott said rude drivers, filthy taxis and poor driving skills were common complaints on his site, but "fishing" was the problem people were angriest about, where drivers refuse to accept customers who are not willing to pay up to 10 times the metered fare or who are not headed somewhere the driver wants to go.
Wheymz Maverick Tagura, 22, told how after a business meeting at the Venetian in Cotai Strip this month, he and three associates approached a line of seven taxis. Each turned them down before one driver began bargaining. "He was asking 100 patacas or more for a trip that should cost half that," said Tagura.
The discussion turned into a row and Tagura described how the driver got out of the car and ran at him. Six other taxi drivers joined in the brawl. The night ended in a police station, but no one was charged.
Glenn McCartney, assistant professor of hospitality and gaming management at the University of Macau, said the former Portuguese colony's taxi issue had a lot to do with the failings of the public transport system.
"Only an efficient transport system can solve the problem, but that will take time," he added.
The bus network is overloaded, a light rail project is not due to open until 2016, and there are just 1,180 taxis in a city of 641,500 - which has more than two million visitors a month.
"We are tired of not being able to get a taxi and of being mistreated," said Scott. "Our taxi industry is probably the worst in Asia. It's embarrassing.
"Violence has been increasing for sure. I started hearing about it two years ago, and it has got worse in the last six months."
Macau Taxi Drivers Mutual Association chairman Tony Kuok Leong-son agreed the situation had deteriorated. "There have been many arguments between passengers and drivers over how fees should be charged."
He partly blamed "too many mainland tourists … who bargain over prices". Macau played host to more than 18 million visitors between January and July, mostly mainlanders.
A new law in the pipeline would impose heavier penalties on cabbies and tougher surveillance, such as CCTV in taxis and undercover agents. The bureau currently has just five inspectors. Moreover, by December, Macau should have 200 new taxis.
McCartney said: "Not all taxi drivers are bad, but they need more training and education."
Additional reporting by Lai Ying-kit