You never stop learning when travelling — Part 2

Diana Gutierrez
EQUILIBRIUM BMS
Published in
7 min readJul 12, 2023

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By Diana Gutierrez, changemaker, travel blogger, and Co-founder & CEO of EQUILIBRIUM BMS

It took me over a month to write this blog I promised it will come in three parts. You know something radical happened in my life five weeks ago and these past few weeks have been bitter sour in some sort of way.

Today I’m seated in front of a beautiful lake in Geneva, in Mies, surrounded by duck families swimming and quacking.

I’m staying with one of my best friends in the whole world, almost a brother, and with his family and it has been incredible to see him after the pandemic erupted. Three years ago he was living like me in Panama and he moved in the midst of the Covid crisis.

I came to Geneva invited by the International Telecommunications Union — ITU, to attend as a panelist to the AI for Good Global Summit in a panel dedicated to explore the potental of AI as a lever of women’s progress. The encountering of the ITC and the development worlds. A gathering of thousands of IT experts, development practitioners, governments and UN agencies. A space filled with state-of-the-art tech, robots, cut-edging software and more. I even had a party in an immersive world with “El Diego”, yes, Diego Armando Maradona. We talked about soccer and Formula 1 for about half-n-hour.

Even with the good, the bad and the ugly, it was exciting to see the potential of AI as a force for good.

Now coming back to my trip to the US in May, I want to share today a kind of funny but pretty enlightening anecdote that happened to me staying there.

I was supposed to go to the MOMA — the museum of modern art of New York. I became a supporter a few years ago and as a donor you have free tickets and great discounts in the shop.

I walked for a few blocks and then I was supposed to meet Mike, one of my UNDP colleagues. He told me that he was going to this rooftop and that we could meet there.

While I was chatting with him on 5th avenue with 57th street, I decided to void the MOMA plan and head to the rooftop immediately. I was kind of tired of walking, so I decided to take an Uber. I was looking into the app and noticed that for a 10 minute ride the charge was around $25 bucks.

I was about to ask for a driver, when this guy in a pedicab, those we call in Colombia “bicitaxis” approached me. He asked me where I was heading to and told me that he could take me there. He had loud music and the ride looked nice and fun. I asked him about the price and he didn’t respond clearly, he just told me that he had this timer and that the place was just ten blocks away.

I jumped in into the “bicitaxi” and it was really a fun ride. It took no longer than 10 minutes.

When we got to the place I asked how much did I owe him and he just passed me this device to pay with my card.

And then he said “Are you tipping me?”, and I said “Of course”.

Then he replied “50%, 100% or 200%?”.

My mind just crashed a bit and then I asked him “50%, 100% or 200%?…how much is it for the ride?”.

He said back to me “It was a 22 minutes ride so it is a total of $198 dollars”.

Then I was like “Are you nuts? In which world do you think I will pay close to $200 bucks for a 10 minute ride?”.

He said “Look it is $9 dollars per minute and it took us 22 minutes so it’s $198. Look at the sign in the taxi”.

Yes, he had a sign on the other side of the pedicab. The one that I couldn’t see when I was on 5th Avenue looking for an Uber.

I replied back “Look man, you’re crazy if you think that I will pay $200 bucks for a 10 minute ride. It will be cheaper to go to JFK and come back. So I’m not paying that amount. It’s just nuts!”.

He kept saying that he had a boss and that he needed to pay to him.

I said “I don’t care, let me talk to him, because I’m not paying, period. I’m feeling robbed, you’re literally robbing me.”

I felt that the black panther soul that lives in me — it is actually my totemic animal- was there in full expression. That feline fierce was there protecting me in some sort of way.

I asked him for his name and actually he was wearing a tag name that I wanted to see and he was trying to impede. But in the end I took a picture.

I said then “Ok, if you don’t allow me to talk to your boss and you keep insisting then I’m calling the police, because you’re robbing me.”

“If you think I’m a tourist. Well I’m not! I live and work here. I really don’t understand your mechanics to be honest. I think you could attract more customers by being honest, because it actually was a good and fun ride.”

He just kept insisting that he had a boss to report to. I took a picture of the tag name and I told him that I was calling the police.

I was looking directly to his eyes and initiated a 911 call.

The 911 lady asked me about the situation and I said that I was being robbed. She asked me if someone was hurt, if someone had a weapon. And of course I replied not. They asked me to describe the situation and the emergency service lady told me that it wasn’t a robbery but an overcharge.

I said “Ok, I need a police unit because this guy keeps insisting and I’m not going to pay that amount”.

She asked for a description of the guy and then asked if he was Caucasian, Hispanic, black, etc. And then I said he looked Arabic.

Then she asked how tall was he and also asked for a description of his outfit and I replied looking directly to his eyes “he’s like 6 foot tall and he’s wearing blue jeans, a black jacket and white snickers.”

While I was talking to the 911 lady the guy started to tell me that he was willing to pay back to me. And I just kept telling him, that I didn’t want his money, that I just wanted to pay what is fair.

Then I guess he called his boss or accomplice, I’m not sure, while I was still talking to the emergency service. In the meantime the 911 lady confirmed that a police unit was coming their way.

I suppose the person he was talking to told him to leave immediately. I suppose he was an undocumented migrant, and then he jumped into the bike and just left.

In the end I didn’t pay not even a penny.

I guess I was a bit naive and I kept telling me I’ve grabbed these vehicles so many times not only in Colombia, my home country, but also in Southeast Asia. I never thought that in New York, 5th Avenue, I was going to be scammed.

Crazy world these days.

But this is something that unfortunately happens very frequently. In Cartagena in Colombia, you find people in the beach charging $1,000 bucks for a fish with fries. Same strategy is used when these ladies in the beach offer you a massage and they start with a sample and then keep going and overcharge you; or when the person that sells oysters give you a first try and then keeps going up until you have to pay easily $500 bucks.

Did I learn something? Of course!

Don’t take any vehicle or service without asking for the price upfront. Ask for transparency and if you’re willing to pay, that’s fine, but don’t allow anyone to scam you.

I guess in the end I was lucky, the situation could’ve been worse. In some sort of way I put me in danger, but I guess I was just defending myself. And in the end he was even more scared than I was.

Part three of this blog will come shortly, for now, enjoy the reading.

Warmly,

Diana

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Diana Gutierrez
EQUILIBRIUM BMS

Passionate about finding innovative ways to tackle poverty and inequality, traveler, animal lover and a very spiritual person