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July 20, 2021

A Bad Minute is a Bad Minute—not a Bad Day.

 

 

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As I stood in the Naples airport bus queue, it became obvious the bus parked in front was jam-packed—the passengers were all squeezed in like sardines.

The taxi drivers dotted around the bus stop appeared to be getting frustrated. They were pacing about shrugging their shoulders and looking annoyed. They were clearly thinking: “Why are they willing to wait for the next bus to squeeze themselves in, when they could pay one euro more for a shared taxi?”

I started chatting with the girl standing next to me in the queue. As we were waiting, she got chatting to one of the frustrated taxi drivers who explained the shared taxi concept. It seemed to make sense, share a taxi with five others wearing masks rather than 50, and get dropped off quicker and nearer to your destination. We discussed the idea and agreed if we could assemble a few more people, the shared taxi idea seemed sensible.

So, as resourceful people do, we got about assembling the shared taxi gang. Along with another Italian lady next to us and a younger couple who were eager to get going, we all jumped into the taxi with a seemingly nice driver. Everyone was Italian, except me.

The original lady introduced herself—she was Brazilian, living in Italy, and visiting Naples for three days as an escape from Verona. She became my translator and the guide of the shared taxi gang.

I was bundled into the “port drop off” group with the young couple, but as we consulted the map, it seemed my hotel was a little further out from the official drop off point. After a discussion with the driver, it was agreed he could drop me off at my final destination for 10 euros, not the standard six euro fare. Four euro extra seemed reasonable. As everyone else left the taxi at the city center drop off, the lovely lady who had been my guide left her number in case I wanted to meet up the next day to explore Pompeii together.

I felt carefree and connected to the travel community. Everyone looking out for each other, all on a similar path—to experience Naples and the surrounding wonders.

Next thing I know we have parked up near my hotel. As I jumped out of the taxi smiling, I gave the driver a 20 euro note and waited for the change. I was a little surprised when a five euro note was returned. Somehow the negotiated 10 euro fare became 15 euros in the space of 10 minutes.

This is when I turned from a relatively carefree traveller, into someone I can only describe as slightly aggressive, in a nice Scottish way. I like to think of this as my most assertive version!

I mumbled “here we go,” like I was getting ready to rumble with the taxi driver and indistinctly shook my head, then explained firmly, but politely, that the agreed price was 10 euros, and that was what I was paying. No more discussion needed.

Of course, that would be far too easy. He went on and on about the extra distance, how he had got me to my destination safely, and that 15 euros was the price. I explained there was a mix-up and asked him to return my 20 euros so we could start the exchange again. He seemed surprised by this gentle demand—so was I. It made sense though—you know how in Hollywood movies when the argument doesn’t play out as expected, they state: “Let’s try that again,”—that was my idea.

He proclaimed that was ridiculous and I should be grateful he had charged me so little for such a journey. This I felt was a bit extravagant. He had driven me from the airport to my hotel, not across a danger-filled war zone. He further explained that even though he was not happy he would give me 10 euros change.

I get it, I appear to look like a female who may be naïve, vulnerable, and a little in awe of Naples. What he doesn’t know is this happens in nearly every country I visit and no matter how prepared I am for it, it triggers me.

It happened the whole time I visited Oman at the start of 2019. I remember by the end of my trip, it relieved me to be leaving as you had to use a taxi to get everywhere and each experience slowly took the shine off the amazing country which Oman is. They used all the scams in the book.

The most common is when a taxi driver tells you he has no change. This is a ploy for you to say: “Oh, okay Mr Taxi Driver, here, have all my money since you have no change.” I usually have a little debate instead, starting with me asking: “No change?” They reply: “No change.” To which I mutter: “You are a taxi driver, offering a service which requires the exchange of money, and you have no change?” “Yes.” And the worst bit is, they do not offer any solutions to this “no change” pantomime, as they are the masters of playing it dumb. There is of course one solution. I tell them I shall pop out of the taxi and return with the required change.

Honestly, why does it need to happen? Why can’t the taxi drivers accept what they agreed and not abuse my trust?

These exchanges always make me feel a bit off. I don’t like getting angry and I don’t like confrontation. I hate being rude—but when you are forced into a corner, there is no backing down.

The rules of the travel game are clear: Be nice and smile, but always, always remain alert, and be prepared for opportunists.

My advice is: Don’t let them ruin your day, or your trip.

The last taxi scam incident in Naples lasted a maximum of seven minutes.

A day is filled with 1,440 minutes—don’t let seven minutes weigh you down.

Don’t become a victim to your hard done by thoughts and ruin your day. Think of it as a bad minute, not a bad day, and you’ll be okay.

Breathe, smile, and wave the driver goodbye. Friendly people and fun adventures are waiting around the corner.

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