How to Spot Batingting/ Catch tampered taxi meters

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Working in a field that renders me lacking sleep a lot of times a week forces me to take the taxi very often. Even though I often say I want to die in my sleep, I have no intention of doing so behind the wheel, where insurance does not cover me. But it's not like taking a taxi gives me a license to relax and just sleep. On the contrary, I feel more stressed riding a taxi than riding a jeep. While the latter's lack of suspension makes you feel like you're being constantly ass-wrestled by a midget, the former is more likely to rip you off.

Batingting is a term for modified taxi meters, presumably based on the sound that plays in the drivers head everytime he gains a peso out of naive passengers (a tagalog equivalent of KA-CHING). I encounter batingtings a lot and by a lot I mean from 2004 up to now, I've already lost count of the times I spent finding how taxis cheat their meters in the Philippines. So much so, it's turned into almost a sport for me. Or maybe more like a gamble. Spot the cheat, save money.

Sometimes when I call their BS, the drivers are honest enough to come clean. Other times it don't end aspeacfully. For the cases of the former, I have in my possession a lot of recorded statements from taxi drivers about these things. For both, I have various information on how batingtings really work.

1. Rule numero uno is to not follow the LTRFB guidelines. An unbroken meter seal (that blue/yellow plastic rope that ties the meter down) does not prove shit. A lot of drivers testify, the modified meters are being installed from within LTRFB, BEFORE the seals are applied. That's like the cops being the ones responsible for stealing your shi --- oh wait.

2. Batingtings are not limited to old cars, old meters, and old drivers. One driver admitted he'd only been in the business for a few months. His car was a latest model Vios and his meter was one of the fancier ones I've seen. These heinous meters are so ubiquitous, I wouldn't be least surprised if pedicabs started carrying fake meters.

3. Pushbutton batingtings are waning already. The past few years, I've been seeing less and less drivers who rely on batintings that require them to trigger a button to increase the fare. I suppose it's already become too obvious to anybody who pays attention, when the meter starts jacking up two increments higher in a single breath. This is partially because the newer cars have much more sensitive electrical circuits, and adding a connection from the aircon or the radio to the meter will cause the whole thing to short. (The problem's already existed before, but it was usually not bad enough to fuck up the car computer. This is also the reason why the older batingtings are attached to radios with busted displays)

4. The new batingtings, specially for the newer meters rely on adjusted distance. The standard distance-based fare is 30 pesos for the first 300 meters, then 2.50 for every additional 200 meters. Fake meters alter this and make it 150 meters or even 100 meters. It's harder to detect because 1, passenger eyes are not accurate distance measurement devices and 2, the driver doesn't have to do anything. It's also preferred by drivers because they always have the "oh the meter's broken, thank god you noticed" excuse when caught. The "running horse" meter, or the one with the animation of a running horse is particularly notorious for this because the adjustment feature is already built into the frigging meter, like it's been built specifically to buttrape passengers.

Here are some tips in catching these batingtings/fake meters:

1. If you ply a route often, set various waypoints for a particular route and try to memorize how much the meter reads on the average. After a while you'll see the price stabilize, and a spike reading beyond two fluctuations or so might mean you're being gipped. Keep in mind that even though you're in traffic, the wait-based fare doesn't increment until after a couple of minutes so it should not affect the fare that much unless you're in really heavy shit. This has got to be the most effective tool in catching crooks, unless in some twisted future all taxis are cheating - in which case I do hope our GPS devices will get more accurate distance measurement features - and laser beams that can destroy souls.

2. Fake meters usually come into play at night, as told by at least three drivers. This is because some batingtings still require some alterations to the meter, which would come in the form of thin wires attached to the meter. Keep a sharp eye on weird protrusions on the meter.

3. Related to #2, some batingting drivers have the habit of holding the stickshift in such a way that they are blocking the meter. To work around this, sit in front or since that's not as advisable for when you confront the driver, sit in the middle of the back seats.

4. For the newer batingtings that alter the distance increments, notice that some drivers tend to keep a low maximum speed even when in high-speed areas. You will notice these by the fact that they never go over third gear even when its clear that they can have the economy advantage of shifting up. This is because the moment they get too fast, the increments will happen at an impossible rate, and the meters will look obviously tampered.

5. For the older batingtings, it's pretty standard fare, as mentioned in my previous article. A broken radio, a driver who keeps on pressing things that shouldn't be pressed, and increments that happen too close in succession.

6. The last thing I can say about detecting batingtings is that the ones using them are just humans - not in a sense that they bleed but in a sense that they cannot keep up the BS without flinching. A lot of them tend to start getting distracted when you look like you're paying too close an attention to the meter. Some of them will try to keep you distracted by talking to you, but if you know your psychology, a man who has something to hide will always sound different from somebody who doesn't. Keep your guard up and your instincts sharp.

As a final word, I refuse to acknowledge that all taxi drivers are scamming dickheads. I have met a lot, more than I can count, of drivers who honestly go to work everyday expecting fair pay for fair service. Sometimes the meters are indeed defective, and they come out with it the moment you ride. Even if they don't, sometimes it's not really the drivers fault. A polite inquiry into an unusually fast meter oftentimes results in a peaceful resolution of the matter. It's all a matter of taste, really.


rei said...

Very informative! Thanks~

Anonymous said...

palagi na lang ako nakakasakay sa ganyan, pero dahil magisa ako, di ko naman alam san ako magrereklamo.. sa guard ba ng pupuntahan ko, o sa mga mmda!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! God bless!

Anonymous said...

San ba talaga pwede magreklamo kc ako nabibiktima ng ganyan dapat ko ba silang di bayaran pag sobra2 ang metro ko.. minsan kc naiisip ko na din h'wag ko na silang bayaran dahil nanloloko sila ng tao.

Keith Jang said...

It's amusing the amount of taxis that have faulty going to a supermarket and every second checkout is faulty lol

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