Agra Taxi Scam ? Or Am I wrong

#1 Mar 26th, 2010, 02:00
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  • danaraujo is offline
#1
I've just arrived in Toronto, back from India. I'll describe what happened to me in Agra last Thursday (March 18th). I hope it will prevent more visitors from suffering the same scam. I'm an experienced traveller, even though I'm on the road only for two or three weeks a year. I don't feel ashamed by having fallen for the scam and you will see why.

I'd just arrived from Delhi and decided to take the full day tour with the UP Tourism inside the station. I'm not a great fan of tours, but this one included Fatehpur Sikri and I didn't want to do separate arrangements for the city attractions and FS. As I stepped inside the office, using the side door, a guy called me outside. I ignored him, but he stepped inside anyway and told me he offered the same destinations but with a private car and guide.

The proposition was very interesting, as the UP tour would start only at 10:30, two hours later and I wanted to hit the Taj ASAP, to avoid the crowds. I showed this man the places included in the UP tour and I was VERY clear I wanted to visite all of them. He said everything would be included. His price was Rs. 650, against the Rs. 1,440 for the UP. As this offer didn't include admission fees, the price wasn't too good to be true. Just in case, I inquired what guarantees could he give that his company was legit. His answer is the reason why I'm not ashamed for being taken. He told me that the whole transaction would be made through the police booth, in the middle of the parking lot. Now, when the police gets involved, you trust. That's what I did. I paid, got an yellow slip, put it inside my bag and there we went to the Taj, Fort, Baby Taj, etc. As I'm not a guy to linger at any spot for too long, by 12 I had covered all the Agra points.

Then, I asked the guide to hit the road to Fatehpur Sikri. The guy looked strangely to me, as if I wanted to take advantage of him. He calmly explained me that the arrangement didn't include FS, that it was far away and that price was too low. I told him that his boss had guaranteed me that FS was included. I became very upset and asked him to tell his boss he was a thief and a crook. I ended the tour on the spot, even though I still had 4 more hours paid for.

The guide told me everything was written very clearly in the slip and I could check it. Only then I realized how the scam works: THE SLIP IS WRITTEN IN HINDI ONLY. I never got it translated, as I had to return it, but I'm sure it would state that only sights in Agra were included, but how could I've known?

CONCLUSION: If the prepayment through the police is a way to protect the tourist, how come the slip is not written in English and other languages spoken and understood by tourists? My only guess is that the police (and I'm not sure if it means the main Police organization or the Tourist Police, but it doesn't matter) get some form of compensation from the scammers by legitimizing the process. They aren't interested that visitors read the contract, otherwise much fewer would pay for the services, diminishing the payout.

What is your opinion? Am I being too harsh with the brave authorities who toil incessantly under infernal heat, to make sure no one will ever atempt to steal our hard earned money? Or is everyone in Agra just competing to see who scams the best, police included?

P.S. I paid Rs. 900 for another car with AC to take me to Fatehpur Sikri, wait for 3 hours and return to Agra. No incidents, after I was clear that the car belonged to another company.
#2 Mar 26th, 2010, 05:39
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#2
Er... Agra... likely scams... guidebooks warning of such... rings a bell?

(No, I'm sorry, I didn't read the above in detail, because of the same. Your grievances may well be legit. Or then maybe you should have known better. I've managed to avoid the place till now over several trips, to the surprise of no few -- the next thing they usually want to know: Have you been to Goa? Can't say I have no.)
#3 Mar 26th, 2010, 06:55
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#3
Fatehpur Sikri isint too far from Agra...

Now lets see how this police booth thing works... I might be wrong about Agra but this is how it works at NewDelhi and a few other cities where I have used the service.

Its called prepaid taxi and the only difference between hiring a taxi yourself and hiring it from the prepaid booth which are mostly run by the local police (There is no such thing as tourist police as far as I know) You pay the booth the amount of money that is pre set according to distance and stuff and the taxi guy takes you where ever you paid for and all he gets from you is the recipt/slip that the prepaid booth gave you and then he has to go back to the booth to get his money. Mostly the booth charges something like Rs2 or Rs5 from the taxi guy and rest of the money goes to the taxi guy.

You are supposed to give that slip to the taxi driver once your journey is complete.

Now in Your case (I am not ruling out Police involvement and this being a scam) what might have happened is that Rs650 might have included Fateh pur sikri as well as its not too far any way but as it was written in Hindi there was no way you could have read it and the taxi guy pulled a fast one on you and cut the tour short so he can return back for another customer.

I dont understand why they wrote it in Hindi on the recipt coz at Delhi they wrote it in English.... so the police involvement isint ruled out here
#4 Mar 26th, 2010, 17:39
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#4
This is a pic of the board depicting official rates of the Pre Paid Taxi stand at Agra. If you look at Sl. No. 7, you'll see that Rs. 650 is for Agra City and does not include Fathehpur Sikri.

The rates for a non AC taxi for Agra City + F. Sikri are Rs. 850/-

So, I do not think you were cheated for money. But yes he certainly lied to you when he said that F. Sikri is included in this price.

Why people forget one simple thing, If it's too good true to be true, it's not.
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#5 Mar 26th, 2010, 18:14
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What I don't understand is that the agency did have a tour that included Fathepur Sikri at Rs.850 so why the agent didn't sell that? If he had charged that amount and gave him a different ticket that would have been cheating.
#6 Mar 26th, 2010, 18:23
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Probably they wanted to lure him with lower prices.

So they told him that the tour would include F. Sikri also, but actually they bought him a Agra local taxi.
#7 Mar 26th, 2010, 18:29
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#7
His Fatehpur sikri tour price was Rs.850 which is way below Rs.1440 of UP tourism any way.
#8 Mar 26th, 2010, 19:09
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I suspect there was a misunderstanding due to the language gap. It's usually much greater than most people realise.
#9 Mar 27th, 2010, 03:49
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#9
I'll explain the situation better.

I don't doubt that the sign with the "menu" might be posted at the booth. Of course it was my fault that I didn't check it. Actually, I didn't notice it. I was on guard, but when the "boss" told me the contract was done through the police, I relaxed, used to the notion that the police is there just to protect you and me from the notorious scammers of Agra.

My complaint about the slip being in Hindi only is that the agents can say whatever they want about the tour and I cannot check their word against what really counts. Imagine you buying a plane ticket without understanding the language in which it is written, just to arrive at the airport and finding out the the plane goes to another destination...

That's when the figure of the police as a "referee" makes you accept things on trust that you wouldn't ever accept otherwise.
But if the police is there to protect the traveller, what other reason for the ticket to be written in Hindi, other than to be a cover for all the lies the agents decide to tell you?
#10 Mar 27th, 2010, 04:27
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Hindi is after all the sole(?) official language in Uttar Pradesh.


What I was trying to convey is that many of these people who deal with tourists pick up a repertory of stock sentences in English and often use them with a fluency that makes native speakers of English overestimate their language competence. As it is, differing face and body language can cause further misunderstanding. In my experience non-native speakers of English using their classroom English find it easier to communicate in such situations. They are unlikely to ask questions like: Does this tour go to Fatehpur Sikri or doesn't it?. The answer to that could have been: Yes, not going. In Hindi an affirmative answer to a negatively posed question just confirms the negative. This carries over into certain kinds of Indian English.
BTW I am presuming that you don't speak Hindi. All you said was that you couldn't read it.
#11 Mar 27th, 2010, 05:58
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I would also like to add that if the guy you dealt with at the booth (police man) was an old man then he probbably didint understand a word you said to him.. Younger police guys are more likely to know English to be able to answer a question correctly.
#12 Mar 27th, 2010, 06:02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danaraujo View Post CONCLUSION: If the prepayment through the police is a way to protect the tourist, how come the slip is not written in English and other languages spoken and understood by tourists? My only guess is that the police (and I'm not sure if it means the main Police organization or the Tourist Police, but it doesn't matter) get some form of compensation from the scammers by legitimizing the process. They aren't interested that visitors read the contract, otherwise much fewer would pay for the services, diminishing the payout.

What is your opinion? Am I being too harsh with the brave authorities who toil incessantly under infernal heat, to make sure no one will ever attempt to steal our hard earned money? Or is everyone in Agra just competing to see who scams the best, police included?

P.S. I paid Rs. 900 for another car with AC to take me to Fatehpur Sikri, wait for 3 hours and return to Agra. No incidents, after I was clear that the car belonged to another company.

I think you can chalk it up to live & learn. I can't read hindi very well either .... but what I became incredibly efficient at was - verbally understanding hinglish & reconfirming that the service I was expecting was the one that was being offered - for the price that was advertised. On many occasions this would include an extraordinarily drawn out dialogue on par with Abbott & Costello's Who's on First routine - just to get the point/agenda/request to sink into the travel agent/touts all-too-often ADHD oriented mind (especially upon seeing a big sack of money - oops - I meant gora/tourist). Not easy, incredibly frustrating at times .... but a necessary part of the Indian travel experience.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot

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#13 Mar 27th, 2010, 11:26
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#13
The guy who really conned you was the one who charged you Rs.900/- for the FS trip.
#14 Mar 27th, 2010, 20:42
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#14

Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeakXV View Post On many occasions this would include an extraordinarily drawn out dialogue on par with Abbott & Costello's Who's on First routine - just to get the point/agenda/request to sink into the travel agent/touts all-too-often ADHD oriented mind (especially upon seeing a big sack of money - oops - I meant gora/tourist).
That's just incredibly spot-on, isn't it

(I do sympathize though. Really had enough of it sometimes on my last trip. Just give me a freaking answer already, either yes or no, and is it here or there, how hard can it be.)
#15 Mar 28th, 2010, 20:05
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jyotirmoy View Post The guy who really conned you was the one who charged you Rs.900/- for the FS trip.
I don't consider it conning. He asked a price, the official one, I accepted. I had the right to use his services for a longer time, but I decided that 3 hours at FS was enough for me. In total he stayed with me for 5 hours and stopped 3 or 4 times on the way back for some pictures I wanted to take. The car was almost new with good AC and there was a guide included. As long as I agree on something and the services are rendered accordingly, it's just fair.
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