I Hate Getting Ripped Off

On our last morning in Saigon before departing for Malaysia, Brian, Ariana, the kids, and I went to the famous downtown market, Cho Ben Thanh, for brunch and souvenir shopping, while Tom stayed at the hotel to work. We had taken multiple trips between our hotel and that area so we knew that cab fare costed no more than 50,000 VN dong (roughly US$2.50). Brian and Ariana decided to stay behind to get some hair and nail treatments so I hailed a cab to take the kids back to the hotel. I gave the taxi driver the name of the hotel and the address in Vietnamese. As we approached the hotel a few minutes later, I glanced at the meter and saw that it had inexplicably jumped to over 150,000 dong. Alarmed, I asked the taxi driver how it could possibly cost over 100,000 dong when previous rides had costed between 35,000 to 40,000 dong. He immediately became hostile and defensive, arguing that the price for getting to the market was different from the price of leaving the market because the route was different. I called him out on his bullshit and asked how many kilometers did we travel because we had been in the cab only a few minutes. He wouldn’t back down and persisted in arguing with me, probably embarrassed because he realized that, even though he picked me up from a tourist trap and I spoke VN with an American accent, I knew exactly what I was talking about and how much the cab fare should be. When I told him to make a right turn into the hotel driveway, he suddenly made a left u-turn and parked across the street from the hotel. He accused me of giving him the wrong address and asked me to just get out where we were parked. The meter read 180,000 dong and I was pissed, flustered, and unsure of what to do next. I didn’t have the nerve to exit the cab without paying, but the smallest bill I had was a 200,000 dong bill. I knew that he would never give me the right change if I handed over 200,000 dong. I felt like I was being taken advantage of because I was a solo mother with two young kids, and I was furious. After feeble attempts at negotiation, I ended up paying 170,000 dong for a cab ride that should have costed 50,000 dong, or roughly US$8 for what should have costed $2.50. I called him a cheater, grabbed my kids and slammed the taxi door shut behind me. What’s the big deal, right? Really, what difference does $5 make, in the grand scheme of things? It’s not the dollar amount, it’s the principle of it. I can live with getting ripped off when I don’t know I’m getting ripped off. When I know it’s happening and I’m impotent to stop it, that’s when I hate myself the most. I realized that he didn’t want to drop us off at the hotel lobby entrance because the hotel porters would have come to my aid. I should have demanded that the taxi driver drop us off directly in front of the hotel or I should have refused to pay at all. But I was too chicken and flustered. I never know the right thing to do and say in the moment. I hate it when I’m treated badly, but I hate it even more when I don’t have the confidence and wherewithal to put a stop to it.

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A former corporate attorney who is now happily retired and does whatever she wants.

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