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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday September 16 2012

Some of Michael J’s better bits of writing, as regular readers here will know, take the form of comments.  Knowing that a few people at least are interested in the topic in question, and knowing something about it (Michael knows something about everything), he often finds himself then able to let fly, as he might not be able to do in a regular blog posting.

Here’s the latest MJ comment, on this, which is by Rob Fisher, about taxies:

At Skopje airport in Macedonia last year, I found the worst regulated taxi mafia I have ever seen, and that is saying something. Not only is there no public transport of any kind into the city from the airport, regular taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport either. There is a special class of horrendously overpriced “airport taxi” that is the only way of getting into town from the airport. When I arrived in Skopje last year I was approached aggressively by half a dozen of these taxi drivers as I walked out at the terminal.

This pissed me off. I had already found out about their scam (and knew that they were likely to charge me something like 25 to 30 euros to get into town), but their being rude and aggressive to me as well annoyed me. (Note to foreign touts trying to sell me stuff when I am visiting your country - I do not like it when you keep trying to sell me something after I have said no, and I *really* do not like being shouted at. Being in a situation where the people selling you something have done their best to make it impossible to prevent you from buying it does not lead to high standards of customer service, generally, either. The supposed justification for this taxi mafia is probably so that foreign visitors will receive a “high standard of service”, I suspect).

So I walked out of the carpark towards the road. The taxi drivers followed me halfway out of the carpark, but eventually figured out that I meant it. I had downloaded local maps onto my iPad, and I knew that there was a town perhaps half to three quarters of a mile away, and that this was on a long road connected to several other towns and the centre of Skopje. I walked down the side of the busy road and past the field full of ageing NATO military equipment that had been brought for some use in Kosovo and after a half hour or so reached the town and road on the map. My guess was correct, and there was a bus stop on that road, and people waiting at the bus stop. (There were also bars, restaurants and grocery stores in the town, that were open). I waited a few minutes, a bus came along, and caught the bus into town. The fare was about 40 cents. The bus driver was warm and friendly.

Amount of effort required for the local bus company to offer a service to the airport? Essentially none at all - that existing bus route would merely need to divert briefly to the airport. However, the airport taxi mafia was clearly powerful and well connected enough to prevent this. First impression given to foreign visitors by all this: Skopje is a town full of rude, nasty rip off merchants. (As is often the case, most locals are not actually like this, but not a good first impression. This really did not give me a high opinion of the quality of local governance, however).

Heaven knows who you have to be related to be to get one of these airport taxi licences though.

(And if I had not found a bus route? Well, as long as those bars, grocery stores and restaurants had in fact existed and been open, I am sure that there would have been no trouble if I had gone into one of them and asked a barman or cashier how to find a taxi. The “taxi” in question might well have ended up being a private car driven by the barman’s brother in law, but the negotiated price would have been much fairer).

One of the best things about blogging is that you can vent about things that really, really annoy you.  if it’s a business which needs customers to do voluntary business with them, who knows, they might do regular ego-googling and get your message, while fearing that others might be getting it too.  Things might improve.  Your rant might improve the world for all of us, a tiny little bit.  Good.

If it’s the government, which the above circumstance is, pretty much, you can at least tell the bastards, and the rest of the world, what you think of think of them.  This too is soothing.  Also good.

I sympathise. The only time I remember really losing it with a local during a several month stay in India was when I returned to my temporary home town from a day out in the big city, and a rickshaw driver at the railway station quoted me the tourist fare to my apartment. It wasn’t the twenty rupees (or whatever it was) difference, it was the *insult* of being quoted the tourist price.

Posted by Alan Little on 18 September 2012

In Jordan earlier this year, I was clearly being charged a “Tourist Price” on just about everything I bought. This was made easy by the fact that there was not much culture of writing down prices, and when they were written down they were in a writing system I could not read. (The Arabs do not appear to use Arabic numerals). This annoyed me.

However, what was weird about it, was that it did not seem to occur to anyone that I might mind. Ripping off tourists was apparently the natural and perfectly proper thing to do. There was almost a touching naivety in that

Posted by Michael Jennings on 18 September 2012
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