travel-world

How I Almost Became a Human Trafficker and Other Rideshare Stories from Hell

Didn't your mum warn you to never to get into cars with strangers?

by VICE Staff
Jul 4 2017, 3:09pm

Photo by Peter Kaaden

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

Getting into cars with strangers is exactly what our mums collectively warned us never to do, and yet, many of us do it all the time – whether it's taking a taxi or actually hitchhiking. But with the emergence of ridesharing apps over the last few years, getting into a car with a stranger has never been so easy and regulated. Most apps have a ratings system, making it easier to assess whether or not you might be sharing a couple of hours in a small space with someone who smells strongly of soup, or is a serial killer. Still though, weird things can happen when strangers ride cars together.

We spoke with five people who, thanks to different rideshare apps and websites, blossomed sexually, or nearly avoided death and criminal prosecution.

Paul, 30, Was Almost Arrested for a Crime He Didn't Commit

All photos courtesy of the people we interviewed

"When I arrived, at the car park of a furniture shop, it was empty except for a blue Volkswagen. I saw a man and a woman sitting in the car, and first assumed that was the man I was supposed to pick up. But when we made eye contact, they both quickly looked away and parked somewhere else. Eventually, I saw the guy I was supposed to meet arriving, and as he approached my car, I got out to say hello. Within seconds of opening my door, we were surrounded by armed policemen, their weapons pointed at my head.

I was handcuffed and shoved against my car. There were about 12 officers in total, including the two in the blue Volkswagen. I told them I had no idea who the other guy was, but they didn't believe me. They searched my car and questioned me for 40 minutes before I was able to show them the order for a ride I had received from him, proving I was really innocent.

After about an hour, the police finally took off my handcuffs and explained that the guy who had hired me as his driver was a dangerous criminal, and that I had fit the description of this man's accomplice. Only five days earlier, the pair had robbed and injured an elderly couple – stealing over £1,000. In order to track them both down, the police had been observing the suspect and monitoring his phone.

I don't really blame the police for what happened, but I'll never forget the moment I was handcuffed in front of a furniture shop on a Monday morning. When you're staring back down the barrel of a gun, you can't avoid feeling somehow guilty, even if when you know you have done nothing wrong. Both police officers in the Volkswagen apologised to me, but in the end I feel quite fortunate – I could have been the guy's next victim."

Jasmin*, 24, Found Lovers Through Sharing Rides With Strangers

"I live and study in Bremen and often make the trip to Frankfurt to see my family. As train tickets became more and more expensive, I started to use different apps and sites that offered rideshares. At first, I found it fairly horrible to have to spend four and a half hours in a tiny car, making brainless small talk with strangers. But since I didn't have enough money to take the train, I had no choice.

Once, when I had to get back to Bremen, I shared a ride with this guy called Paule. I liked him as soon as I got into his battered old red Ford. It was just the two of us, but we quickly got to talking. He also studied in Bremen and was writing his Bachelor's thesis.

Halfway into the journey, it was clear that I was going to spend the night at his. We spent the next few days together, and, even though we both knew it wasn't going to lead to anything more serious, it was still really exciting.

It wasn't the last time I did that – ridesharing can get particularly fun during the holiday season when many other students are travelling, too. I've had to call my mum a few times to say my car was running late, when in reality I had just made a pit stop to have a quickie with someone I had just shared a car with."

*Jasmin's name was changed for privacy reasons

Moritz, 30, Got Very Close to Unknowingly Becoming a Human Trafficker

"During the summer of 2014, a friend and I decided to go on a road trip around Europe on my minibus. Before we left, I posted my return journey from Budapest to Munich online and accepted a request from a guy who wanted to book the remaining five seats on my bus.

Before starting my journey back to Munich, I couldn't remember at what address I was supposed to pick him up, so I checked our message history only to find it had been erased. I wrote back to him, but he didn't reply. When I advertised my seats again, instantly two people got in touch. They seemed pretty dodgy – I refused the first on principle since he wanted to pay double my asking price, while the other guy just didn't show up when I arranged to meet.

Luckily, two girls got in touch and the three of us drove to Munich. Three days later, I received an email from the rideshare website that said the guy who had booked five seats in my van was actually a human trafficker. Our messages had disappeared because they had deleted and blocked his account. I reported the other two dodgy guys to the site, and found out that they were also traffickers.

I was so lucky that they never showed up – first because I really don't want to contribute to the human trafficking industry in any way, but also because even if I had no idea what they were doing, I could have been prosecuted if we'd been caught."

Christine, 34, Her Driver Got Obscenely Wasted

"It was a hot summer's day in Berlin when I got into a car with a couple – a man and a woman. Our journey to Munich started off great; the sunroof was down, and we were happily driving along.

After a while, we stopped to pick up another passenger. After waiting for 20 minutes at the pick-up point we had agreed on, it became clear this other person wasn't going to show up. For some reason, the couple did not take this well – and that's putting it mildly.

The guy stepped on the gas as his partner rolled him a joint and cracked open the first of many bottles of beer. The sunroof stayed open as we reached 110 mph. I was soon covered in cold sweat, as my driver got progressively wasted.

Even though I felt my head was going to blow off in the wind and I wasn't sure how much more booze the driver was planning to drink, I was still too afraid to ask them to drop me off at the next service station. I just wanted to focus on getting to Munich alive, but the couple's anger didn't subside. Together, they worked on a drunk text to the passenger who had ditched them: "You miserable cunt, I hope your ovaries freeze and your ass burns in hell," they wrote.

Luckily we reached Munich with everyone in one piece and I made a run for it. Sometimes, when I'm having a rough day and there is a lot to complain about, I remember that I made it out of that car alive, and need to be grateful for every day I'm given in this world."

Demi, 26, Was Given Too Much Information

"I had planned a fun get-away to Berlin, and the driver looked normal enough at first. But after a few minutes of small talk, I asked him if he drove to Berlin often, and that's when it all started.

He said he earned a lot of money in IT, and had just met a woman he was crazy about. "She's an orgasm stimulation trainer!" he said, proudly. During her sessions, men are instructed to slowly massage their partner's clitoris for 15 minutes. "It's not about the climax," I was forced to learn, "but about enjoying the experience together."

He went on to tell me that he was in an open relationship with his girlfriend and that they told each other everything. "It really bugs me when she tells me she did something with someone else, but somehow it really turns me on, too."

After several more stories about his sex life, I thought I was saved when another passenger got on in Augsburg. Weirdly, that other guy also happened to work in IT and actually looked a lot like the driver. After about 10 minutes, he asked the same question I did about Berlin and got the same answer. Unlike myself, the new guy was enthralled. "I've been looking for someone like you for ages," he said. He went on to describe how he was trying to rediscover his sexuality and become more open to new people. It didn't take long before the new guy began talking about how he'd recently had a foursome with his girlfriend, his friend and his friend's girlfriend. His friend's girlfriend found the whole thing really disturbing and broke up with him. Since then, he's been "lending" his girlfriend to his mate.

When we arrived, the driver invited us to hang out with him and his girlfriend the following day. I was honoured, but I realised that, sexually, I really wasn't on their "wavelength". I politely declined."