Forgetful patrons hound axe firms for lost property

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Forgetful passengers are demanding that taxi firms return their lost property

A South Korean looks at drivers' photos at Vinasun Taxi Company in Ho Chi Minh City after leaving his bag in a car

After leaving US$26,500 in a Ho Chi Minh City taxi cab, last month, one forgetful man found himself panic-stricken.

He called the Cuu Long Petro Gas Service Transportation Joint Stock Company, and explained his dilemma.

Doan Thanh Xuan, 23, heard the radio call and headed straight back to the absent-minded rider"” who later declined to provide his name or, for that matter, any explanation for his sizeable cash haul.

The honest driver received a $100 reward from the company and the grateful passenger.

But not all forgetful fares enjoy such luck. Despite extensive efforts from taxi companies to improve their image, many fail to recover lost items from taxi drivers and company-run lost property units.

Last week, a UK passenger wishing to remain anonymous, told Thanh Nien Weekly that he had left his and his fiancé's wedding rings, bridal gifts and a laptop he claimed had saved on it "extremely important information regarding UK universities" in a Vinasun taxi.

On Sunday (August 1), the couple took a seven-seater cab to their wedding party at the Tan Hoa Cau Restaurant in District 7. They packed a pair of bags in the trunk and kept their most precious items in the front seat. When they arrived at the restaurant at around 10:20 a.m., neither member of the happy couple remembered the bag in the front seat.

At approximately 6 p.m., the couple and a pair of friends made their way to the company office. The victim says he demanded to see photos of all the drivers.

"At first the guy told me that there were 4,000 drivers," the passenger said in an interview with Thanh Nien Weekly. "But they only showed me about 200."

The passenger's friend, a British national, began pounding on a tabletop, cursing and demanding answers, he recalls. Due to the outburst, the party was escorted outside by company security. "After [my friend] calmed down a bit," he said. "We headed back upstairs."

As the stated number of Vinasun drivers increased, he says, to 8,000 and then 10,000, the British national got angry and demanded to know the name of the man he was speaking with. "He wouldn't give me his name," he said. "So I kind of touched his back pocket looking for a wallet."

The distraught groom says the agent shoved him after his attempt to locate an identification card. He continued to demand the company representative's name to no avail and took several pictures, he says. The groom claims he left without discovering the Vinasun agent's identity.

"Due to different opinions in solving the case, there was a fight between the British passenger and Vinasun's Nguyen Tien Du - who was assigned to solve the case," a company representative wrote in a response dated August 4.

The taxi firm says it is still trying to identify the driver in question. They claim to have radioed all of their drivers immediately after receiving the lost property report. Vinasun also confirmed that they had allowed the group to peruse their driver photos.

As of press time, the groom said he had upped his reward to VND20 million, he said. He has yet to receive any of his lost property.

According to firm regulations, the company only records journey details when a passengers calls for a car. Because the couple hailed a cab on the street and can't remember the car number or license plate number, it will be difficult to recover their lost property, said Nguyen Thanh Loi, vice head of Vinasun's customer complaint division.

Take your bag!

Ta Long Hy, director of Vinasun Taxi Company and chairman of the HCMC Taxi Association, said the association is working to prevent dishonest drivers.

Besides offering rewards to drivers for returning lost property and punishing violators of company policy, many firms have offered training sessions in communication skills and ethical standards, he said.

"Passengers should be conscious about their ride," he said. "They should develop a habit of checking for their belongings before leaving a car. They should also take note of the cab number printed both inside and outside the car. If they leave anything behind, it will make the recovery process much easier."

He said that from June 16 to July 13 of this year alone, Vinasun drivers returned more than VND100 million (USD$250) in cash, 242 pieces of luggage, 15 laptops, and 30 digital cameras.

Around 20 taxi firms are operating in HCMC with a total of more than 10,000 cars, he said.

Customers forget things in taxis constantly and managing lost property is a 24-7 enterprise.

Loi of Vinasun said the company drivers returned property to more than 600 customers a month. Despite strict company standards, Loi admitted that dishonest drivers do occasionally pocket lost property.

Le Huy Cuong, head of the business development division at Mai Linh Taxi Company, also said that hundreds of passenger have left things in company taxis. Cuong's company operates around 6,000 taxi cabs nationwide with 12,000 drivers.

"I don't understand why so many people can't hold on to their property," he said. "To be fair, drivers want to earn an honest living through a long-term career with the company. They don't work this job to steal things that passengers leave behind."

Nguyen Thi Kim Yen, head of the customer service section at Vinataxi Company, said more than 120 passengers have reported lost property. The company has helped return around 65 percent of the items, he said.

All taxi firms advised passengers to mind their property and be mindful of cab numbers, routes and fares to help them find lost property easier in case they forgot it. They also print a lost property hotline number on cards and inside cabs but passengers can also call firm numbers which are easier to find.

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