AAFES backs off unpopular fee for calling cab service
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — AAFES officials have rescinded a recently implemented taxi “call fee” as they continue negotiations with the contracted taxi company, officials confirmed Tuesday.
Beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, on-base Worldcup Arirang Tourism Co. taxis no longer were charging an extra 1,000-won fee (about $1.08) to customers who called to be picked up at specific locations.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service introduced a new fare system — including the call fee — on March 15 as a way to save customers money in South Korea. But customers blasted the new policy, which calculates fares based on South Korean won, saying they were actually paying more for the same service.
When asked Tuesday about the decision to suspend the call fee, AAFES spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan Potter offered minimal details.
During one phone interview, Potter said AAFES suspended the fee because of customer and military leadership complaints. He added that the suspension wasn’t necessarily permanent because negotiations were ongoing.
“We’re not sure if the contractor can survive without it,” Potter said of the call fee.
Later in the day, Potter called Stars and Stripes to change his statement, saying his earlier comments were “inappropriate.” He declined to provide any details on the negotiations — including when they started, who was involved, or when they were expected to be finished.
“The fee was taken away, and we really don’t have anything else to say about that due to ongoing negotiations with the contractor,” Potter said during the second call.
“I think it’s good they got rid of [the call fee]. The meter starts at two dollars, so it starts at three dollars when you call,” said Pfc. Oscar Matha, 94th Military Police Company. “Ain’t none of us got that kind of money, especially when the drivers always keep our change.”
Worldcup Arirang officials refused to comment when contacted late Tuesday afternoon.
During a Friday interview about the new pricing policy, Potter conceded that fluctuating won-dollar exchange rates could lead to increased cab fare — something base customers had complained about.
But, Potter stressed, using local currency to charge taxi fares is consistent with what AAFES does in other overseas locations.
He also said several initiatives being considered “will eventually lead to lower cab fares.”
The March 15 pricing policy
AAFES announced a new taxi fare policy for Area I and Area II on March 15.
Under the new policy, the fares for contracted taxis are calculated using South Korean won prices.
Customers still are allowed to pay with U.S. dollars based on that day’s won-to-dollar exchange rate.
AAFES set the initial fare rate at 2,000 won — about $2.17, which they said was cheaper than the previous $2.30 initial fare rate based on U.S. dollars.
They also implemented a 1,000 won — about $1.08 — call fee to be applied to anyone who called for a taxi, which AAFES officials have recently rescinded.
— Jimmy Norris