A Taxing Experience

Korea time: 6:48am, Sept 22. (not backdating this so LJ catches this, but that’s when it was written, ignore the automatic timestamp)
We (meaning me and my colleague, Mike) ventured out on our own yesterday, having managed to get through enough stuff to justify leaving the office a bit early. The team here suggested we visit the “technomart” and helped us get a taxi to there, along with giving us a handwritten note in Korean that said “Please take me to the Intercontinental Hotel (Grand).” The taxi bit is complicated by the fact that we had no Wan on us, having not bothered to get currency from the hotel before leaving that morning. I think we both assumed we’d be able to use credit card for stuff, plus we didn’t plan to venture out alone that night…we thought we’d be hanging out with the Korea team somewhere (but turns out, that’s the plan for tonight). Anyways, the only taxi company that has credit card machines in the cab here are the black Deluxe Taxis. Per our host, they are more expensive, but they’re nicer and generally the drivers speak some english. So, our host warned us that when we got done at the technomart, we should look for one of those. Well, we finished up close to dark, went outside where it was drizzly but not raining, and watched for a black cab. We were out there for like 20 minutes and saw no black cabs. We tried pointing at credit cards with the taxis that were there but all of them gestured no. Finally, the traffic guard came over to us and through pointing and basic english, he advised us to try to find a black cab one block over near the train station. So, we walked over there, and sure enough, there was a huge line of black cabs. But then, when we got there, none of the drivers wanted to take us. We didn’t know why, but they’d read our little note, say “intercontinental?” and we’d say yes and nod, and then they’d say “credit card?” and we’d be nodding again, and they’d kind of laugh to themselves and pass it off to the next driver, who would do the same. Finally, one of them consented to take us. We had been outside nearly forty minutes at that point, and we were cold and damp. We were so happy just to be in a cab. Seriously, I wanted to just get in a cab and when we get to the hotel, run in, exchange some cash, and run back out to pay. Our hotel had guest relations people who translate with cabbies, so I knew they’d be able to explain to our driver what was going on. But Mike for some odd reason didn’t want to do that. (sigh) So, anyways, then the driver takes us to the wrong intercontinental hotel. There are two of them, you see, one is “Grand”, one is not. We were in the Grand one, which was about 3 blocks from the non-grand one. We paid and got out, figuring we’d get the hotel to help us get over to the Grand. But then the hotel people explained the situation to the cabbie and he took us over to the grand one for free. BTW, the reason the other cabbies didn’t want to take us…the trip was about $8, so our guess is that they didn’t want to run a credit card for that small a fare. They don’t get tips here, so it probably hurts their salary directly.

We’re getting wan today before we leave the hotel. Worst case, I’ll exchange it back at the airport and accept the fee as a lesson learned cost. 🙂