Recently,a friend of the Author was talking of the driver-drivee rapport that existed- or didn't exist, whichever be the case- between commuters and auto-drivers in Chennai. Which inspired the author to pen this post.
The vehicularly handicapped,in the absence of kindly transporting friends, have their sad lots cast with either the straight-from-hell buses or the ruthless auto-drivers who seem to share the same origins as the aforementioned buses. Considering the erratic and chakravyuh-ish nature of buses, especially during the rush hours, poor wheel-less citizens like the author are left to the tender mercies of the latter. The survivors of the Auto-Encounters can relate tragic and terrible tales of extortion,embezzlement, sadism and exploitation. Veterans have learned several tactics to counter the strategies of the sly critters.
Rule one is to never, never speak in English. That is the cue for a typical specimen to hike the price by a hundred bucks. No matter how bad your accent is, don't stray into the E-word. The only exception is of course when you are shouting at the dude. Then throw in as many as you want.Beep Beep Beep sounds the same in any language. Another useful tip would be to always carry big change. Auto-drivers are known to pull the 'no-change' gag time and again ensnaring a novice auto user into paying more just to get rid of them. Similarly always know landmarks and state the the destination at least three times s l o w l y. Auto-drivers love to take you for a ride (no pun intended). The last thing you want is a tour of the city when you have to get somewhere in a hurry. And then be forced to pay extra because you apparently said the wrong place and landmark.
Rule two,which should have been rule one, is: Always bargain. It is an idiot, a very desperate person or a rich lunatic that pays exactly what is asked for.The tips for bargaining are the guidelines for auto-security. Always lower the price by a minimum 10-20 bucks. That'll probably be nearer the actual price. The traditional method of loud haranguing, though very entertaining and often effective, is very time consuming. Also,there is no guarantee of success even after the investment of time. The League of Auto- Users (LOAU)have come up with some bargaining maneuvers. An easy method of arm-twisting is to walk off with a scornful smile when the adversary poses the outrageous price. The auto-driver will be pricked by the doubt that the commuter actually knows how far and how much to give-thus making recalculations and reassessments. Hence, a more reasonable price. The author has had almost 90% success rate with this ploy. Another similar method practiced by the authors compatriot Longlegs, is the "thanks,but no thanks" approach. When faced with a sky high fare, humbly fold your hands and bid the auto-driver with a saintly smile. The autodriver is not only nonplussed by the cultured behaviour, but also pricked by conscience. 'Such a nice person," they think "how can I trick them like this... I'm a disgusting thief!" at this point they will be determined to reduce the fare to make themselves feel better. Of course this works only with those auto-drivers who actually possess a conscience. Hence the success rate is not very high. on some sparse occasions,charm and courtesy have seen to bring surprising effects. The LOAU recommend the application C&C at the commencement of the negotiations, reducing the flow as they continue. It also helps to make the adversary believe that s/he has the upper hand even if you've got a sweeter deal. Deft usage of reverse psychology is the sign of a true veteran. Despite all these subtle strategies,if all else fails- start yelling. And always work on the principle of "there are more autos on the road".
At this juncture the author wishes to make a disclaimer. Not all auto-drivers are sly tricksters as portrayed in the preceding paragraphs. Some, admittedly very few, actually show signs of humanism. Once the Author, suffering from an uncharacteristic illness, was stumbling down the pavement in search of transport. The auto that the author waved down unfortunately had to go else where. As the author turned away shakily, the auto-driver volunteered to drive her to the nearest bus stop for no charge whatsoever. The author confesses to complete shock. Apparently,the world is not totally black.
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