I want to be clear that we aren’t 100% certain this was a scam, but we were pretty damn suspicious. Read about our recent experience with the ride share app, Grab, and judge for yourself.
My partner and I arrived at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport at around 7pm on a weeknight. We got outside and put our address into Grab to book a ride.
The fare was going to be 270,000 VND because we needed to get to the Old Quarter which is about 40 minutes away.
Soon, we had a driver accept our ride. A minute later we get a message from the driver saying they “forgot to turn off their headlights,” so their car didn’t work. And could we do them a favour and cancel and book another car?
We couldn’t figure out how to cancel, so we messaged back asking the driver to cancel. Instead, he marked himself as arrived. We messaged asking, “Where are you? Are you here?” He replied, “No. Sorry.”
Finally we figured out how to cancel and tried to book another ride. Again, the driver who accepted told us his car was broken and to do him a favour and book another ride. He also asked us to cancel.
Frustrated, we cancelled again. Third time lucky we thought. But we got accepted by driver number two again! We messaged and said, “You just accepted us before. Are you coming?” He wasn’t. Apparently his car was still “broken.”
We told him to stop accepting rides if he couldn’t take them.
As we were standing there wondering what to do and feeling a little helpless, a man walks out of the carpark and says, “You want Grab? I take you, 300,000.” We countered with 250,000 and he walked away. We were suspicious of this because it seemed a strange coincidence that he would come just as someone kept telling us to cancel, and that he would come to exactly where we were standing.
We are also approached by a second man who said the same thing. Two men total, and we had a total of two people telling us their car was broken (since the second guy accepted us twice).
Thankfully, the fourth time we tried, we got a real driver who got us to our destination. We don’t know for sure, but it seemed really sus to us!
Grab only lets you cancel a certain number of times before it starts charging you a cancellation fee. It also charges you a cancellation fee if you cancel after more than 5 minutes of booking a driver.
We think the potential scam they’re running here is that they have a few people accepting rides and then telling you they can’t pick you up and forcing you to cancel. At a certain point you’re going to be hit with cancellation fees every time and be forced to take either a taxi for double the price or go with one of their friends who approach you in person asking for a slightly higher payment in cash.
They’re not the kind of people we would want to get in the car with. We were almost ready to try to figure out the buses or take an actual taxi. So maybe it’s something to be mindful of and get your host to organise an airport pickup if possible.
I’ve contacted Grab about the issue, so hopefully they will investigate. Let me know if you’ve had something similar happen to you!
Our host is going to organise our ride back to the airport for a cheaper fee. Next time we come to Hanoi (and we will return) we’re going to get our hotel to organise the taxi from the airport for us.
Update: Grab replied and at least one of the drivers has been issued with a warning.