Vietnamese motorbike taxis disguising themselves as Grab, Uber drivers to con clients

By Vi Vu   October 19, 2017 | 12:27 am PT
Vietnamese motorbike taxis disguising themselves as Grab, Uber drivers to con clients
GrabBike drivers wait for customers in downtown Hanoi. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam
The tricksters are working in gangs and beat anyone who steps on their turf, according to one xe om driver.

Gangs of motorbike taxi drivers in Hanoi and Saigon have found a new way of surviving the rising competition from popular ride-hailing apps: disguising themselves as Uber or Grab employees.

The sneaky xe om drivers have been buying uniforms and accounts from drivers already fired by the app companies, and have been spotted working around Tan Son Nhat Airport in Saigon and My Dinh Bus Station in Hanoi.

And they're back up to their old tricks.

As well as fooling customers into thinking they work for supposedly reputable firms, some have been fixing fares by changing the destinations of their journeys by fiddling the apps, according to local media reports.

A week ago, a man leaving Tan Son Nhat was surrounded by around 10 men wearing the easily recognizable green Grab jackets. One of them asked where he was going and offered a fare without even opening his phone. “We’d have to share 20 percent of the money with the company,” he said as an excuse.

When the customer insisted on seeing the price, he was taken to another man wearing a green Grab helmet who opened the app on his phone to try and prove the point. The only problem was that the destination the driver had entered was six kilometers further from where the passenger wanted to go, Thanh Nien newspaper reported

The fare offered by the driver was VND60,000 ($2.64), compared to the VND25,000 shown on the app.

A video posted on Wednesday last week showed a foreigner traveling from Tan Son Nhat being charged VND100,000 for a motorbike ride that should have cost VND19,000.

Other drivers at the airport said the tricksters are working in gangs and beat anyone who steps on their turf, even fellow xe om drivers.

Fake Grab and Uber motorbike drivers are also operating outside My Dinh Bus Station, according to industry sources.

One driver said many people do not feel comfortable taking a xe om as there’s no clear pricing policy, so some drivers are deceiving customers with branded company jackets and helmets and charging a high price at the end of the ride.

But some traditional xe om drivers have defended themselves, saying it's a small few who overcharge and give the rest of them a bad name.

The disguise is just a trick to survive the increasingly harsh competition with the new services, they claimed.

Malaysia-based Grab entered Vietnam in February 2014 several months before its main rival Uber. Both operate car and motorbike taxi services.

Their market shares have not been disclosed, but other service providers, from taxi companies to xe om drivers, feel threatened.

VnExpress has interviewed xe om drivers who said they were being elbowed off their own turf by Uber and Grab.

Some even predicted that the newcomers would eventually put traditional drivers out of business.

The turf war has turned violent on multiple occasions, including an incident in June when police had to fire gun shots to break up a fight outside a major bus station in Saigon.

Several videos of drivers fighting with crash helmets have also been shared on social media.

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