Following the announcement that a proposed demerits system for badly-behaved taxi drivers could be a reality next year, audio recording of a driver and his passenger arguing over the fare has been doing the rounds online.
Footage from the cab driver’s dash cam was posted two days ago, and more than 35,000 people have listened to the 40-minute audio of the dispute, which took place near the Mong Kok fire station after 7pm on July 12, while thousands more have listened to edited versions.
It all began when the driver stopped his vehicle on Prince Edward Road West, and the female passenger insisted on paying a HK$24 (US$3) fare with a HK$500 note (US$64), telling the driver she didn’t have any change.
The driver, who says he also doesn’t have any change, then tells her to just give him the HK$500 instead.
And then — just after the five-minute mark on the video — hell broke loose.
Within minutes of the fight starting, the driver — who insisted he was under no obligation to provide change — threatens to call the police
The female passenger responds: “Ooooh I’m so scared! Call the police then!”
Eventually, the passenger relents and offers to actually give him the HK$500. But that would have been to easy.
Instead, the driver refuses to take it, shifting tack and suddenly questioning whether it’s a legitimate HK$500 note. “How do I know if that’s real or fake?” he asks.
When a police officer arrived at the scene some 15 minutes later to try and settle the dispute, the driver states that according to the law, he has the right to refuse to give change to passengers who pay with HK$500 notes.
At one point in the clip, the officer tells the driver to stop playing around, to which the driver responds “I’m not playing around, I’m trying to make a living!”
The officer eventually wrote down the female passenger’s Hong Kong ID card number and told her she could pay the driver later.
For those of you wondering if the driver was in the right, according to the Transport Department’s guidelines on taxis, it isn’t a criminal offence if the driver cannot give change to HK$500 or HK$1,000 notes.
Technically legal or not, that hasn’t stopped Hongkongers from debating whether or not cabbies should be allowed to refuse to give change.
Some described the driver as arrogant, while one person pointed out that as most people pay their cab fares with HK$100 notes, there’s no way the driver wouldn’t have change.
Others criticized the female passenger for not having smaller change, while one wag offered a novel solution: “Just keep driving until the meter reaches HK$500. Problem solved!”
Call us crazy, but we can’t help but think this could have been resolved by just driving to a nearby 7-Eleven and breaking the damn bill. Guess that would be too easy.