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June 3, 2013

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Parents of college exam takers grab all cabs, even 'unlucky' ones

SHANGHAI'S four major taxi fleet operators had all the cabs they had set aside for the upcoming college entrance exam booked within six hours of opening reservations at 12am on Saturday, the companies said yesterday.

The companies also said superstitious parents trying to avoid cabs with license plates containing numbers considered "unlucky," such as four or six, may be out of luck since the companies won't change reservations for such reasons.

Dazhong, Qiangsheng, Haibo and Jinjiang taxi companies said the taxis set aside for parents and exam takers were fully reserved, despite a booking fee of 4 yuan (65 US cents). Haibo said its 300 cars were fully reserved in two hours.

The test is on Friday and Saturday, and demand will be higher than normal on Saturday because many people work to make up for next week's Dragon Boat Festival holiday.

Shanghai Dazhong Taxi Co had all its 4,000-plus cabs - 20 percent of the company's fleet available for reservation in a day - booked by 6am even though it "already added an extra one-third of cars into service compared with last year," said Chen Duojia, the company's deputy manager of the operation and management division.

Gao Liming, an officer with Haibo, said the number allotted for test takers is limited in part because the company arranges only cabbies with long experience and outstanding performance for that service.

Taxi operators said some parents wanted to avoid the number four or six, which are believed by some Chinese as inauspicious digits. Four sounds like "die" because of its Chinese pronunciation, while six sounds like "fall or slip away" in Chinese.

"I will try to avoid these two figures when booking cars because the numbers sound not good, but if there is no other taxi available, I will give up that request," said a local mother, Dai Ailian, whose son will sit for the exam next year.

But these parents have been told that the taxis are randomly arranged, and the car plate number could not been chosen.

Chen said one mobile phone number could reserve only one taxi, but there is concern that some parents booked taxis with one number at different taxi operators or use different numbers to book several taxis at one company to ensure they have cars.

Those booking taxis are advised to talk with cabbies about the route early to avoid traffic congestion during peak hours. The exam will start at 9am.

About 78,800 students will sit for the exam, according to local education authorities.


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