Here’s Why Uber Drivers In China Are Painting Their Faces To Scare Passengers

Filed Under: Uber

Okay, this is sort of hilarious/ridiculous. Per Quartz, apparently there’s a scam among Uber drivers in China where they intentionally use scary profile pictures. These drivers are painting their faces to the point that they look like ghosts, or perhaps even clowns. Why are they doing this? In order to scare passengers into canceling trips, so that they get hit with the Uber cancelation fee. Per Sixth Tone:

With profile photos that look like they’ve just stepped off a horror movie set, the ghost drivers scare passengers into cancelling their trip, meaning they will owe the driver a few yuan for their troubles.

Another scamming method used by the ghost drivers is accepting rides, saying the passenger has entered the vehicle, and cancelling the trip. The customer will have been taken for a ride worth a few yuan without noticing. Either way the ghost driver wins.


This is only a small part of the problem that Uber faces in China (though they’re selling their China operations off to a competitor, so it won’t be their problem much longer):

The Shenzhen Evening News reported on Monday that a government probe of ride-hailing drivers and their cars in the southern Chinese city found thousands of irregularities.

Among the drivers whose papers were not in order, 40 turned out to be wanted for crimes, and 2,191 had criminal histories that included major crimes or drug abuse. The licenses of 1,479 drivers were “abnormal,” and more than 6,000 cars did not meet standards — some 660 to the point that they were considered ready for the scrap heap.

While I love Uber, China is one of the few places I don’t really use it. I’ve had more bad than good Uber experiences in China in terms of quality of drivers, response time, etc. But the above just takes it to new levels…

The fact that the above was able to go on without Uber stepping in shows just how poorly run it in in China (by approving the above pictures, not catching on faster when drivers had a bunch of transactions but weren’t even driving people, etc.)…

(Tip of the hat to Andrew B)

  1. I believe (in Beijing at least), the regular taxi service can be hailed by an App, and it’s quite widely used, those drivers are better vetted and less prone to scams like this.

  2. China is such a rubbish country. Their people especially are. Why bother visiting this place and supporting the dictatorship.

  3. This “journalism” doesn’t even pass the sniff test. You only get a cancellation fee if you cancel after five minutes. Are people really waiting five minutes and THEN looking at the driver’s photo?

  4. I think this FT article explains it more clearly:

    “Mystery of China’s ‘ghost’ Uber drivers: Creepy faces on profiles have spooked potential passengers and raised suspicions of organised scam”

    Basically, they pick up the ride and drive for a bit without you being there. That’s the “ghost” element. Why they insist on looking creepy I’m not sure. I guess, in the hopes you won’t report them to Uber because you are frightened.

    It can’t be the cancellation fee, though. That’s rubbish.

  5. Lucky, you are extremely biased, because you do not even know China and Chinese people. You’ve posted few blogs about how crappy Chinese people are, how trashy Chinese airlines are, and how rubbish Chinese government is, blah blah blah… Just for your information, can you stop BSing??? Everyone knows most of airlines in America, especially UA and AA, are worse than China’s lol. PLEASE STOP, if you don’t China just leave. Nobody cares and no one welcomes you to China. Bye bye!

  6. yes of course frankie.
    you and your china friends can stay in china.
    and please do not come over here where ua and aa are “worse than china’s”.

  7. When people are (not even close) bashing China, there’s always people jump out and yell about how good China is and how foreigners don’t understand China. Why such thing does not happen when people are talking about the same of the US, Japan, or France? As a Chinese myself, I agree with the comment of @barb D, please don’t support the dictatorship regime here and please those liberals shut your mouth about how much you understand and love China.

    @Frank Brown For the MR fares, 1. the Chinese airliners are crappy, come on, we all know that; 2. CS MU are with Skyteam, meaning that you can only earn DL sky pesos. Credit miles to AA and UA is surely more valuable therefore lucky picks AA and UA. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. And to be fair, Lucky did mention many HU good fare tickets, which can be credited to Alaska. So it’s you biased and bluntly just defend anything, even maybe a little, negative toward China.

  8. Worse than all that.. I find a lot of the drivers don’t know the roads, even the main ones through the city. Best used in BJ and SH where it’s more difficult to get a cab, but in the other cities it’s usually super easy hailing one.

    @Frank Brown Come on man, Chinese airlines suck (mostly domestic flights). Internationally can be okay. Not that cheap either.. for flights originating in China I find Cathay and most other international airlines to be consistently cheaper.

  9. @ Barb D clearly you do not know much about China if you think all the Chinese people are rubbish. I don’t even know if you have ever been there, but if you have it is doubtful you really experienced the country. China certainly has its problems but it is quite an amazing place. It is not necessarily the easiest place to travel and if you are too ignorant to bother learning about the culture then you will be at a loss for what is going on and likely will be taken advantage of. Then again the same is pretty much true of every city around the world. It certainly helps if you can speak a little chinese as well.

  10. @Chinese hate Chinese Government It doesn’t make your comments less biased by saying “as a Chinese myself”. Admit it, you are the same racist as @Barb D.
    Sadly you even agree with her comments: “China is such a rubbish country. Their people especially are”… What’s wrong with you?

  11. haha! this is hilarious! I bet Uber can’t do anything about it. The corrupt chinese government will tell them them to “deal with it or get the f out!”. unless you bribe them of course.

    chinese airlines are amazingly bad, i booked a china eastern flight and they cancelled my flight the day before the flight! all they did was refund my money and told me to f off. that’s china.

  12. Am I on Ben’s blog… ? why there is people telling him what to wright or not to wright ? I’m confused…

    Anyway, its his job to warn people about the potential transportation’s trouble they could get in China or every other countries. It’s not his fault if china is daily pointed on the news for that. Chinese people get so defending when we (laowai) talk about something in China badly and its sad that they don’t see that Ben is just giving his honest opinion as a foreigners traveling/transiting in China.
    As China is now the most powerfull country in the world and want to become the best country with transportation, I would advice the offended people to avoid this blog because I think, it’s just the beginning… :-/

    Ps : I lived in china, I have traveled all around China, I speak Chinese, half of my family is Chinese and I sill agree with Ben’s comments/feedbacks 🙂

    Peace !

  13. @Olivier “As China is now the most powerfull country in the world ”

    Are you watching too much chinese tv? Because when you turn on a tv there all you see is government propaganda.

    @Lucky, thank you for writing this article, it has potentially saved me from getting scammed next time I visit china. You have an amazing blog, I visit it every day, please keep doing what you are doing. You can’t please everyone, just ignore the idiots.

  14. Old story. I have actually had a poor experience using People’s Uber(the driver failed to pick me up while starting the meter), so much so I started to use Uberx/Black here in Shanghai and Suzhou, which is fairly hard to secure.

  15. @Jay, I live in France now and I usually don’t watch TV… China just overtake US a couple of weeks ago… It’s not official yet as most of the rating calculations are from US and they don’t want to let the first title go to China 🙂 Perhaps they will in 2017…

    Sorry for being off topic…

  16. How do these drivers get the minimum 4 star rating to be allowed to pick drivers up in the first place if they are only trying to get cancellations?

  17. “It’s not official yet as most of the rating calculations are from US and they don’t want to let the first title go to China”

    So it will be appearing in the 2017 edition of US News & World Report’s rankings of the “Most Powerful Countries In the World” list?

    Not surprising to read about a major scam going in, and the Chinese somehow being involved…

  18. @Mike
    SH taxi drivers, in my experience, don’t know major landmarks either. They seem to require you to say the exact name of the hotel, the road, and the area it is in, in perfect fluent Chinese.

  19. Being Chinese and having lived in China for half my life, I can tell you that scamming has just apart of Chinese culture… The conditions in which some people live in China are why they will do anything to get what they want. The police are no help either, because often it is the loudest person that is right.

  20. In China, use Didi Chuxing. Now, if only they allow tourists to charge to their credit cards, that would be wonderful.

  21. Perhaps a wumao or two posting above. Pointing out how crap or dodgy an element of a country is is not discrimination.
    I live in Hong Kong and you couldn’t pay me enough to move over the border. Not surprised in the least reading this. Having to deal with all that dodginess and distrust on the mainland is exhausting.

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