When modernization is ‘out of order’

When modernization is ‘out of order’

A pair of Australian tourists were astonished to hear that their cab ride from the port of Piraeus to the central Athens neighborhood of Pangrati was going to cost them a whopping 350 euros. They protested until the driver reduced the fare to 250 euros – by no means a reasonable amount. They paid him but kept his license plate number and reported him. The incident did not end there because Airbnb, through which the tourists had found their accommodation, stepped in, so the driver apologized and returned the money.

The taxi driver who told me about this particular incident also spoke of the notorious “mafia” of cabbies who wait outside ports, airports and intercity bus stations, fishing for unsuspecting tourists and travelers. No one, my driver assured me, can do anything about stopping their shenanigans, not their union (SATA), not the police and not the municipal authorities. Does this “mafia” really have that much power? Impressive.

The incident with the Australians may have happened yesterday or 10 years ago. Anyone who travels between Piraeus and Athens frequently knows just what to avoid and why. I have also met taxi drivers who rail against these colleagues. In fact, none can claim ignorance of the fact that certain drivers make a very good living by fleecing passengers, and especially those who don’t speak the language. It’s just that some talk about the problem openly because they know it casts a shadow over the entire profession, while others don’t. 

Demand for taxis has shot up along with the surge in tourist numbers. Users of cab-hailing apps are having trouble finding a driver to respond to their summons, because drivers are turning down certain fares in favor of more promising ones. And let’s not even mention the number of drivers who have card terminals, even though these have become mandatory.

The case of taxis is indicative of a world that should already have adapted to a new state of affairs in their profession. There are, of course, plenty of excellent taxi drivers who do their jobs well and efficiently, but they seem to multiply at a much slower rate than the predators who are propagating the ills of the past. And this is not the only profession that is so reluctant to give up the twisted past.

Touting modernization without embracing its essence is like having a POS terminal that is always “out of order.”

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