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The city of Guangzhou in China, known as Canton until 1949 and still referred to that way by many Westerners, is one of the new capitals of global trade. In addition to being the home of thousands of Chinese and multinational businesses, it also hosts the world's largest trade fair, known as the China Import and Export Fair as well as its unofficial name, the Canton Fair. The Fair is held twice a year, and the first one in 2009 will be the 105th in its history.
Because of its worldwide influence and the well-attended Fairs, there is a constant influx, as well as a permanent community, of foreigners. While the hospitality and innate honesty of the Chinese people is well known, there are unscrupulous people everywhere, and Guangzhou is no exception. Foreigners are targeted for any number of scams, among which is the widespread taxi scam.
How tax scam works
Taxi scams have become very common in Guangzhou, especially during the Canton Fair days, but international visitors are always at risk for this deceit all year round. The taxi drivers can quote an inflated price, or take a long roundabout routes to increase their fares and find many other ways to make money from their customers.
Victim passengers can end up paying from 3 to 10 times the metered fare during Canton Fair days, in particular, but overcharging takes place year-round. The fact is, overcharging is only one of the ways that taxi drivers can defraud international visitors. Some taxi drivers will give change in counterfeit bank notes, while others will not return lost or misplaced belongings to the owners.
How to deal with it
Almost all visiting foreigners have encountered some kind of taxi scam in Guangzhou, many of them during Canton Fair days, but normally they do not know how to handle the problem. Even if they suspect overcharging, their lack of language skills and unwillingness to cause a scene tend to make them pay the extra amount.
If international visitors traveling in Guangzhou do not know how to deal with this problem, and are affected by the language barrier, they are easy targets for taxi scammers. However, these travelers should not feel powerless, because the punishment for taxi scams is stringent, and a guest complaint can cause immediate suspension of a taxi driver's license by the local government. Just knowing this much can help travelers protect themselves from being cheated.
Ken Lin is the manager for the Canton Fair Division of Wentrip.com, the largest service agents for business travelers to China. Based in Guangzhou, Wentrip Canton Fair Division is staffed by professional service personnel who have over 10 years of experience, mastering all of various fair-related issues. They are local residents and familiar with Guangzhou city, its hotels and streets and the way that business is supposed to be conducted.
Wentrip offers not only bilingual hotel addresses and maps in English and Chinese, but also such helpful information as the normal taxi fares to various locations (airport, train station, exhibition centers, etc.) from a guest's resident hotel. In addition, Wentrip provides detailed guidance on how to deal with taxi scams, how to mark down the cab driver information, helpful phrases and other advice.
In extreme cases, if international guests cannot handle a problem by themselves, they can call Wentrip's local service and get emergency support immediately, even over the phone. In fact, Wentrip local service teams in Guangzhou receive phone calls from any number of guests asking for help to resolve taxi scams. Normally, visitors do not want to complain on the drivers to the government, so Wentrip staff scold the dishonest cab drivers directly and request them drive the guests to the destination and charge only the correct fare.
To provide this kind of service, a company should have an office in Guangzhou or at the very least, a team that knows Guangzhou very well. In addition, each team member should be familiar with all the Canton Fair-related issues and speak English well. Wentrip is one such firm, and already has a solid track record of success in helping foreign visitors to their city.
As long as the local service and support team staff is thoroughly know all the roads in the city, and provide this service, Lin says, dishonest drivers can do nothing to cheat foreign visitors. Lin notes that few groups or companies other than Wentrip offer this level of service, since thorough knowledge of the city, the culture and the language is required for success in advising international visitors on these matters.