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Few expats call Shanghai's non-emergency hotline; most of calls about taxis

By Zhao Wen  (Shanghai Daily)

09:35, November 14, 2012

Shanghai's non-emergency unified hotline, 12345 (File Photo)

Expats are welcome to call the Shanghai's non-emergency unified hotline, 12345, but few are doing so.

The hotline, which is government-backed, was opened on October 8 to help local residents with government-related issues and non-emergency services.

By Sunday, the hotline center received a total of 63 calls from foreigners. There had been around 103, 900 calls from Chinese.

"Maybe this is because the hotline was just launched and many foreigners still don't known about it," said Chen Fang, director of the hotline operation center.

Of all the foreign phone calls, most are related to taxis.

One Spanish mother forgot her baby's jacket and scarf on a taxi and called to try to find the items on October 21. The mother, identified as Claire, provided the taxi receipt which the center passed it on to a related department.

Claire couldn't be reached yesterday but her husband, Miguel Camara, said they haven't heard anything. Camara said the hotline service was good and maybe they were just unlucky.

In another case, an unidentified foreigner complained that a taxi at the Shanghai South Railway Station refused to take him. The expat said the driver claimed the meter was broken and wanted him to pay 80 yuan (US$12.84) to go to downtown.

"Most foreigners called to seek help or make a complaint, but few of them would ever think they could also offer solutions if they knew how to curb the situation," Chen said.

"Take the taxi as an example. I bet the phenomenon that local taxi drivers overcharge non-local passengers also exists in other countries. If expats know any effective solutions used in their own countries, they are welcome to share the idea with us and we will deliver it to related departments as soon as possible," Chen said.

"We believe expats in Shanghai love the city as we do. We will cherish their ideas and thoughts on the city's development," he said.

The hotline has expanded its foreign language services from English only to Japanese and Spanish. The operation center has 35 foreign language operators, all student volunteers from local universities. Expats are advised to be patient over the phone as they will be in a three-way call with Chinese operators and student translators.

Zhang Yuhui, a local student majoring in Spanish, said she had seen some students very nervous and busy looking words up in the dictionary.

"We want to help foreign friends out very much but, as students, we are incapable of understanding some professional phrases. ... We hope expats can understand," she said.

Zhang said she sometimes felt pressure listening to complaints all the day. So far, the center has no plan to recruit native foreign-language speakers. The hotline is available from 8am to 8pm. Chen said it will be extended to 24 hours next year.





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