Madam - auto standSo earlier in the week I was talking about autos – not cars, but auto rickshaws.

No-one ever seems to use the meter (or not with foreigners without an enormous amount of fuss before hand) so you have to negotiate. This can be tricky if you’ve never been to your destination before and so can’t guess the fare.

But a good rule of thumb is that if they’re laughing and their friends are poking them in the ribs, you’re being ripped off. Actually, if you’re white and standing in a rich expat enclave, such as I live in, you don’t even have to guess – you are being ripped off. No question.

It irks me deeply that I’m often told the same price for a journey round the corner in an auto that a fully fledged taxi would cost to take me twice as far into the city. I don’t mind a bit of price inflating, after all I do have more money than the auto drivers… but being ripped off completely just annoys me.

So my tactic is to choose a price I am willing to pay and to stick to it. No haggling, simple price sticking. It’s not the standard practise here, but it mostly works. Well as long as you have a rough idea of how much it should cost for your journey. So here’s how you use the technique:

First you approach the auto stand and either wake someone up, or peer into the auto that everyone is sitting in chatting. It’s usually the front one, and there’ll be three or four people crammed in there leaning on each other in a combination of talking and sleeping.

Note: there doesn’t seem to be much actually doing in the auto driver life as far as I can tell, but a great deal of sitting.

Once you’ve attracted someone’s attention, the conversation goes something like this;

‘How much to Cosmos?’ – or whichever easily identified, local place you want to go to.

200, madam.

‘That’s ridiculous. 100’, which is actually also ridiculously high, but what I’m willing to pay.

Shaking of the head, sad look as though you are an imbecile. No, no madam, 200.

‘No, I will pay 100. It’s only round the corner’

No, no madam. 175.

‘No, 100’, make to turn away.

Okaaay madam, 150.

‘No, 100’.

At this point they’re usually ready to laugh in my face for my persistence. Particularly if I throw in a ‘well put the meter on then’, and we all have a good laugh about that before getting back to the haggling.

If I stand my ground, eventually they’ll wake someone up and I go home for 100. I can only assume 100 is still a lot and that the person who’s been asleep has simply missed the ridiculously inflated price we started at earlier in the negotiation.

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This is part two of a three part post – next step we actually get in an auto and move off. Ooooh!

Part one – Too many fruits, Madam

Part three – The view from the back seat

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