The One-kuai Roll

The starting fare for taxis in Shanghai is 11 RMB, or, as the locals say, 11 kuai. This amount increases as a function of both distance traveled and time. This is all well and good.

What is not well and good, however, is a trick the taxi drivers frequently pull which I will dub “the one-kuai roll.” The typical one-kuai roll scenario is something like this:

> Scene: in a taxi on the streets of Shanghai, in light traffic.

> You: OK, this is good. Stop here.

> Driver: What? Here? [taxi slows down but continues moving forward]

> You: Yes, Here! Here! [taxi still moving forward]

> Driver: OK, I’m stopping. [taxi still moving forward]

> You: Stop! Stop! [taxi still moving forward]

> [Just as the taxi finally rolls to a stop, the fare increases by one kuai.]

> Driver: That’ll be 21 RMB, please.

> You: D’oh!

That’s the one-kuai roll: a sly move to bump the fare up by just one more RMB. It seems like almost all the drivers do it. It’s only one kuai ($0.12), but man, it’s annoying.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Mel Smith Says: January 1, 2007 at 9:11 am

    I suppose you could just plan to ask them to stop half a block back? 🙂

  2. It’s likely to get balanced out by the taxi drivers who flip the meter immediately when you say “stop just up there by the corner” and roll the rest of the way there unmetered. Or at least that’s what prevents me from shorting them the 1 kuai and arguing about it.

  3. Most cab drivers where I lived would not count the roll. A good deed in a weary world.

  4. Thank you for giving a name to something that has happened to me so many times.

    I hate the one-kuai roll!

  5. You could open the door… =)

  6. Haha, I’ve found that Shanghai taxis are a place of extremes that mirror China at large quite well.

    I’ve been in taxis that take the shortest, fastest distance, and have respectable looking taxi drivers and a damn TV for your time-passing pleasure (though this sort of distracts me from watching the driver’s honesty)… and I’ve been in taxis where the driver angrily told me to 操我的妈妈 because he fumbled the change I gave him under the seat… or on another occasion because I insisted that he give me change from a 20 with a 17 RMB fare….

    Shanghai was also the first city in which I encountered taxis that wouldn’t let you in the cab if you weren’t going far enough (or wouldn’t pay the extortion flat-fee prices)… I’m sure it happens everywhere, but Shanghai was the first for me.

    As for the one kuai roll, I’ve started doing a reverse little game in an effort to figure out the meter… I see how close I can get them to stop before the change over. 😉

  7. After seeing the title of this post in Bloglines, I guessed that the one-kuai roll was those rolls of one-mao coins that they wrap in sticky tape and hand you as change equal to one kuai. Equally as annoying.

  8. Micah: Back when I used to shop at a local morning market in the bitter winter cold, I would use that sort of “one-kuai roll” so that I didn’t have to take off my gloves to separate bills or count coins.

  9. If this happens to you twice a day, which I doubt, it would cost less than 90$ a year … Regarding the way you put yourself in front of the scene on the Internet, I hope for you that you still can afford it …

    I live in Switzerland. If you take a cab from Geneva airport to the center of the city, it will cost about 30-40$ just for the ONE-WAY drive … Salary here is about 4 times higher than in Shanghai, but do the maths … How many kilometers can you go with a cab in Shanghai for 10$ ??? I guess a little further than over here.



  10. I live in Malaysia. I faced the same problem here, Indonesia and in Thailand too. I think they got a union some where and they will be kicked out of the union if they don’t charge a little extra hahaah.
    keep up your blog. Happy New Year

  11. In Xiamen it was the roll to up the fare to X.50, then they would round the fare up and pocket the extra 0.50, i.e. completely ignore you as you wait for your change. Solution? If they do the roll, shortchange THEM by 0.50.

  12. FREE LESSON – when they do this is when I ask for the receipt. Sit there and look at the receipt. Ponder a bit. Tell them the ticket is fake. Tell them they are sure smart. And then just mumble incoherently for a long time. And after throughly fumbling thru my change, offer them one kuai less and claim no change, or the 100 kuai note and ask for change. But on balance, they’ve still rolled-me more 1 kuai than I’ve gotten out of them. And the only fake note I ever got was a 50 from a cabbie. I’m still looking to pass it back to a cabbie, I’m gonna try it on the next 1-kuai roll!

  13. Hunxue'er Says: January 3, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Just pay the amount before the rollover, get out and walk. 99% chance he won’t get out to chase you down for it. If you need change, however, you’re screwed I guess…

  14. We seem to have the opposite in Shenzhen. Cab drivers are all too-willing to kick you out of the cab as soon as possible, even if you are blocks from your stop. I had one yell at me for letting the meter run when I was letting a friend off at her apartment building before continuing to my own.

  15. It has happened to me in Beijing lots of times. They basically almost go 1 full block past the intended stop. The funny thing is when they try to make it roll over but it does not cooperate and they just stop since they already past 1 block. One time, I had one driver that got really lost and it look her over one hour to get to a destination when it should have been more like 30 mins. She was very apologetic. That one was over 100 RMB. However, I feel for them, they work very long hours (16 hour days I was told) and make very little (screwed by the taxi companies).

  16. One solution to avoid the 1-kuai roll is to shout some unrecognizable word when you reach your destination and scare them; or, more politely, to take the exact fare out of your wallet and brandish it under the driver’s nose (provided you tool the risk to sit at the front). A lot of drivers 1-kuai-rolled me but a lot others were extra honest and stopped the meter well before we reached my destination when they screwed up somewhere on the way (missed the exit, took the longest way when I suggested another, etc.) Compared to other cities in China, I think that Shanghai’s taxi drivers are the most honest of them all.

  17. Or you could just pull the E-brake

  18. I just open the door. Watch the driver throw a complete fit and slam on the brakes as you smile politely and hand him his money.

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