Bored Chinese schoolboys convince Didi driver to take them on 1,400km journey with less than US$30 in cash to pay him
Ride-hailing app had assured driver the journey was in order but had to step in after a row over who would settle the US$980 bill
Two teenage boys managed to fool an unwitting taxi driver into driving them 1,400km (870 miles) with only 200 yuan (US$29) cash in hand, promising the driver that they would pay him at the end of the journey, according to media reports.
The 13-year-old classmates from the southern city of Shenzhen hailed the cab last Saturday using one parent’s Didi Chuxing ride-hailing account after deciding they wanted “to travel” because they were bored during the summer holidays, Jiangsu Television News reported on Thursday.
The fare eventually came to 6,700 yuan (US$980) for the 20-hour overnight journey to the southwestern city of Chongqing.
Didi Chuxing says it employs 3.9 million retired soldiers as drivers, easing China’s jobless veterans problem
Upon arrival, the youths – surnamed Peng and Fang – told the driver they only had 200 yuan on them, but one of them said he had an aunt in the city who would pay. But when the boys contacted her she refused to come to meet them or pick up the bill.
The boys then contacted their parents and one of the families then decided to contact the police.
The driver then drove them to a local police station.
The pair are below the age of criminal responsibility, which is 14 on mainland China, but the report did not explain what had happened to them after that.
Although the boys’ families offered to pay Zhang 2,000 yuan, he said this was not enough and Didi, China’s largest ride-sharing app, agreed to pay the whole cab fare on Wednesday.
Zhang said that he had been surprised to receive the request, but his bosses at Didi Chuxing assured him that the order was “normal” and promised that the company would cover the fee if the passenger could not pay.
“At the time, I was curious why they wanted to take a taxi so far. But they said they had the money, so I felt it was not good to ask again,” he was quoted as saying.
The longest taxi journey Zhang had previously accepted was from Shenzhen to Guangzhou, a distance of less than 200km.
A representative of the ride-sharing firm told the news portal Southcn.com that it had previously encountered a few cases of fraud involving long-distance rides, including a passenger who rode 360km from Shenzhen to Chaozhou in Fujian without paying the 3,000 yuan fare.
Didi said that the app has anti-fraud checks in place, which require customers to pay upfront for long journeys if they have newly opened Didi accounts, “bad records” or previous complaints from drivers.
Otherwise, customers do not have to pay upfront so long as their accounts are linked to a payment wallet.
Didi added that it was currently developing a real-name passenger registration system for its app, expected to launch by the end of this year.
This will be linked to an in-app social credit rating system for passengers.
Additionally, they will install a compulsory pre-payment system for customer orders over a certain mileage.
Didi Chuxing has recently surpassed its rival Uber to become the world’s biggest ride hailing app, with a valuation of US$56 billion last December.