In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had two letters to the editor concerning a woman who was overcharged when taking a taxi from the airport to North Side.
The woman said this has happened to her twice and that on both occasions, the taxi driver told her the rate quoted at the airport taxi stand was incorrect and said she would have to pay more.
The woman reluctantly agreed, saying she was too tired from travelling to argue. However, the incidents stuck with her enough that she was spurred to write a letter to the editor.
We know of other complaints of taxis overcharging, like the male tourist who was literally and figuratively taken for a ride by a taxi driver from lower Seven Mile Beach to South Sound and charged $50. When he tried to dispute the charge, the taxi driver told him he would call the police and have him thrown in jail if he didn’t pay. He paid and hasn’t returned to Cayman.
We know of another case where someone was charged CI$19 for a two-and-a-half mile trip down a straight stretch of road.
Then there’s the practice of taxis at the airport piling too many people into one taxi and then charging each party full price, something that does not happened in most developed countries.
Taxi drivers are some of the first people tourists are likely to see when they come to the Cayman Islands. If our tourists have a bad experience with taxi drivers, especially if they believe they are being cheated, it can taint their view on their entire vacation.
Incidents of tourists being cheated are the kinds of things that end up getting posted on the internet for the world to see, and in these tough times of dwindling tourism numbers, Cayman certainly does not need any bad press caused by unscrupulous taxi drivers.
Perhaps the main problem with Cayman’s taxi fares are the way they are determined. At the airport, someone issues a little ticket saying how much it will cost. For other fares, taxi drivers consult a rate sheet which passengers cannot see. There is nothing, really, to prevent taxi drivers from saying the ticket from the airport was wrong or to quote a different fare than is published on the rate sheet.
The easiest way to resolve this problem is to pass a law requiring taxis to be metered. Metering laws have been passed in many places in the world for the exact reason of creating certainty when it came to fares and thwarting dishonest taxi drivers.
It is time for the Cayman Islands to catch up with the rest of the world and adopt a metering system to stop the abuses that are occurring before this becomes a major issue for the tourism industry.