Freakonomics is debating why there is a huge difference in the way auto drivers in Delhi and Mumbai behave. In Delhi they quote an obnoxious sum to you and then negotiate. Some even refuse to go to certain places unless paid a premium. In Mumbai they are ready to go wherever according to the meter.
Respondents have put forward some reasons:
1. There are too many autos in Mumbai and there is competition between them. In Delhi there is a scarcity of autos and therefore the customers suffers.
2. Mumbai has strong auto unions who ensure that fares are regularly increased according to their demands while in Delhi this process takes a very long time and when the hike put in place it is too late in terms of the running costs of the vehicle.
I agree with both points of view but a major factor is the difference in the working culture of each of the cities. Mumbai is a product of English, Parsis, Sindhi and Gujarati communities that ran businesses over the last 100 years. They have a more practical approach where they do not want to spend time haggling about travel rates. This has taken a strong root and even new migrants find it convenient. The auto drivers are also happy with this system since they are paid well.
In Delhi most people start with an attitude that they are being charged too much and try to reduce the price. In buses many people often lie to the ticket guy about where they have to get off. Even on the Metro I have seen people trying to buy a ticket for an earlier station and then getting caught at the exit.
Also there is a habit of haggling. People actually enjoy the process of negotiating and feel happy when the price comes down even notionally. The shopkeepers and auto rickshaw drivers know this. So they quote a much higher price. If you ever approach an auto guy everyting is negotiated - price, route and even where he will drop you.
However in recent times many auto drivers have started charging reasonably or going by the meter in Delhi. One reason might be stricter enforcement. The other of the coming of the Metro. In many of the routes along the Metro where there has been a drop of people traveling by autos. Therefore they are willing to take you for a reasonable price.
Another trend is that some autowalahs have shifted to parts of Delhi where the Metro is still to reach. This has meant that there are more autos in that area and they are competing for more or less that same number of passengers. So they are again forced to compete thus giving passengers an edge while negotiating.
However come evening most of them still open with a high price and play the negotiating game. Since it the last trip before they head home, they want to make the best of it, they tell you !