Monday, July 16, 2007

Cons & Cars (Turkey)

Con artists live among us, no matter in which country we live. Throughout my travels, I have received my fair share of con attempts and my time in Turkey has been no different. The simplest cons have been a gift from some of those road warriors in yellow, the taksi drivers. Although the majority of my travels in taxis have been “con free,” there are those drivers that can’t help themselves when they see a foreigner. The first trick occurs when a driver will decide that a passenger is not savvy enough to notice that he has not started the taximeter over from the last fare. Currently, taxis cost 1.73 YTL during the day (6:00am – 12:00am) and 2.46 YTL during the night (12:00am – 6:00am). If the taximeter does not display the proper starting rate, then the driver is probably trying this simple con. The second trick occurs when a taxi driver charges unsuspecting passengers the night rate instead of the day rate. In Turkish, day is Gündüz and night is Gece. The taximeter will blink between the current fare and either Gündüz or Gece, depending upon the time of day. This has been attempted on me several times, but by simply pointing to the taximeter and saying "Gündüz" (Gewn-Dewz), the drivers have stopped the car and reset the fare. A third taxi trick occurs when the driver refuses to turn on the taximeter and desires instead to haggle over the price before or after the trip. Although this has never happened to me in Turkey, Tom Brosnahan at suggests that you point at the taximeter and firmly say Taksimetre (TAHK-see-MEHT-treh). If all else fails, choose another taxi. Taxi drivers are required by law to use the taximeter.

While these taxi cons may result in a 5 or 10 dollar loss, this next con that occurred to me was subtler and cost me a lot more money. Parking on the street is a nightmare here in Istanbul. Thankfully, my employer has been gracious enough to pay for a monthly parking lot. The cost is 200 YTL/month in the neighborhood of Beşiktaş (I live one block away from the Çirağan Palace). Recently, I returned to the US for my sister’s wedding, but before I left, I filled my tank full of gasoline. Upon my return, one week later, I noticed that as soon as I was pulling out of the parking lot that my empty light came on. The strange thing was that my odometer read only 81km, when I can usually get at least 400km per full tank. Anytime I purchase gasoline, I always restart the odometer to count how many miles (or kilometers) I have traveled. I thought I had filled the tank before I had left on vacation, but who can remember 9 days later? Luckily, I found the receipt that confirmed my suspicions. I had indeed filled the tank the day before my departure. Although I could do nothing to the attendants, I did have my boss call them to let them know that WE KNEW what they had done. Hopefully, that fact will keep them from doing it again. Looking back on it, the only way that they would have been able to use so much gasoline without changing the odometer is to have siphoned it out of the gas tank. Here in Turkey, gasoline is extremely expensive. The minimum octane available is 95 and the current price is 2.96 YTL/liter.

A few weeks prior to the previous incident, I went to pickup my car and it was not there. These same parking attendants were supposedly fixing one of my tires that had gone flat. That assured me that the car would return any moment from the tire repair shop. About half an hour later, the car arrived and they charged me 20 YTL. I still do not know if the fix was legit or not.

Joel Montgomery

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