Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why you can't let them win

Who? The passengers. Why? Well, if it's a win/lose issue, it's a scam. How can I be so sure?

I wasn't until I'd rewritten this about 3 times, and finally saw that the 2 guys I went up against on Wilson st. and the Nigerian woman were exactly alike. They had a plan, they knew what the plan was before they even called and ordered the cab. They'd worked the plan before, it was practiced. The plan had always worked too.

For the Nigerian woman, it was simply a refusal to pay. She knew that she could get away with paying about 1/2 of the fare, and all that would happen was is the driver would say he'd never take her again. That's ok. There are lots of cab drivers.

For the 2 guys, the plan was a little different. They planned on getting kicked out of the cab for being obnoxious about 3 blocks from home and walking the rest of the way. A lot of people work this scam, it's a very common student scam. Enough, so that I'd decided many years ago that if I was kicking someone out of the cab, I was also taking them back to where they came from to do it. Imagine being in the middle of trying to get kicked out of the cab and have the cab do a U-turn and the driver tell you he's taking you back to where you came from. Usually they say they'll behave, and you collect the money right then and there. The guys who went to Wilson st. probably set the protocol for dealing with people like them in stone.

What's most pathetic part of these scams? You can call up after the ride and scream bloody murder because the scam didn't work, or it didn't work as good as it could have, and the company will actually sympathize with you, and might even punish the driver. Who makes the first decision on dealing with the after scam complaint? The guy answering the phone usually. Is he trained to deal with anything like this? Not that I know of, not at any of the companies in town that I know of.

Is there any solution for this problem? The only solution I can think of is for there to be a shortage of drivers. Right now, you fire a driver and their are 5 people anxious to take his place. Do they need to know the town? No, a street directory will take care of that. Do they have to be great drivers? No, they need to have a clean driving record. Someone who has driven very little, can have a great driving record and be a disaster behind the wheel. Do they need to be good at dealing with the public? No, there is no test or criteria for that beside the job interview and everyone is nice in a job interview.

Sad, isn't it................................

Sadly, the majority of drivers will just go on to the next call. Consider it a small part of the price of doing business. At some point, it will grow in magnitude to the point where the only rides who can be counted on to pay will be charge accounts and hotel rides to the airport. Perhaps that's the way it should be, but if that's where the business is going, at least 1/2 the cabs (not drivers, cabs) will be sitting idle, and ultimately the owners of those vehicles will lose a bunch of money. Are those owners the people who drive them? Of course not.

Friday, December 3, 2010

This is MY CAB!!

Sooner than later you will hear some passenger say this. They don't need to be drunk, but if they are drunk, they'll say it with even more conviction. I've heard it a countless number of times.

The issue is, the passenger wants to do something you don't think is a good idea, or they want you to do something you know you shouldn't do. People out to steal or rob have always been more subtle in my experience. When you don't snap to immediately, they'll tell you you're fired just as soon as they can get your boss on the phone.

Of course it is the drivers cab. Just ask any cop, and he'll tell you the driver is responsible for the vehicle and the passengers. But the passenger wants to do something reasonable! They have a right to do ___________. Nope.

I don't recall why I decided to never roll the windows down, but one day, years ago, I did. The cab is air conditioned, so why not? Rolling the windows down became a big issue a number of times. And when I got this, I'll get you fired crap, I used to tell them to go ahead and do it. Sitting there reading this blog, can you imagine wanting to take somebody's job away from them over not being able to roll down the window, during a ride that will take perhaps 10 minutes? Sounds really petty doesn't it?

That's the essence of J. Q. Public.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I found a direction to write in

21 years is a long time, but I mostly ran out of anecdotes about passengers. I've got more than enough passenger material for a book, but most books are more than collections of anecdotes.

While watching one of the many cop reality shows on cable TV, I saw something interesting. Something that made me think of the new direction to write in. Did your mom and dad teach you about dealing with the cops when you were a kid?

There are a bunch of other skills you'll need if you're going to drive a cab for very long, I'll get to them too, but dealing with the police is the beginning. They have expectations of you. They expect you to know they're behind you, for instance. And if you've been driving too fast, or ran one of those "pink" lights, you might as well simply pull over before he turns the cherries on. You can always claim you needed to look at something in your papers if he acts like he doesn't know why you pulled over.

FIRST: When the cop reaches your window, you need to have your drivers license between your first 2 fingers, and your arm needs to be out the window, your hand up as far as possible. Your other hand needs to be on the top of the steering wheel. You should be calmly looking straight ahead. You assume this position as quickly as possible after pulling over. It doesn't matter if it takes the guy 10 minutes to walk up to the window, stay still, and maintain this position. He'll take your license from your fingers, look at it long enough to read your name, and the expiration date. He will then speak, you ALWAYS let him speak first. You should have been watching him walk up to the car in the mirror, he will assume you did. No matter what happens, you only answer him, and you speak calmly.

SECOND: He may ask if you know why he stopped you. This is an opportunity for you to either commit a crime, or make him seriously angry. If you tell him you committed some specific crime, like going 16 over; well you just told him you committed a crime, he needs to write you a ticket, and usually he will. If you tell him you don't know why he's stopping you, you're obviously lying to him, and he doesn't like that. Something like, I was probably going too fast, is about the limit of what I ever say. If he comes back with a direct question like, "Well, how fast?" I tell him I was looking at the road, not the speedometer, but I must have been going fast enough for him to want to talk to me about it. They usually give up at this point, and either write a ticket or scold.

In my personal car, they frequently want to 'look over' the vehicle. They don't know what they're looking for, but they'll know it when they see it. So, what happens is the guy who pulled you over waits for another cop to come in a second squad, and both of them approach the vehicle, one on each side. You hand should still be on the top of the steering wheel, and safest place for the hand you gave the license with, is right next to it. Being able to see your hands is real important to a cop. They'll look in the windows, and if you act the slightest bit nervous they'll want to search the car. Calmly look straight ahead, don't give them an excuse. If your care was messy in the first place, it will be VERY messy after they 'toss it'. If they're simply going to toss it, they won't bother asking for permission. Politely say you'd prefer that they not contribute to your messy car becoming even messier.

This will get changed a little, I decided that I'd present the anecdotes of police contacts in individual entries. Putting them into a single entry would make this way longer than I like.

When dealing with the cops in a situation other than a traffic stop, being nice goes a long way. I pulled into a precinct station in Chicago one night, and the guy smiled and said he couldn't help me collect my fare. I told him the fare was collected, what I needed was propane, could he tell me where I could find some at 4:00 am. He said he didn't know, but offered me a desk with a phone and phone book, and told me I could call around and try to find some. Very nice fellow. It solved my problem, I thanked him, went and bought my fuel, and drove back home.