Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sharing a cab, from the passengers perspective

You just landed in Albany, New York.  You're there to visit your son who is a sophomore at the local university, so you've been there before.  Once you're downtown, you'll meet your son for dinner, and walk to your hotel.  The problem is, when the plane lands there are only 3 cabs out there.  You and 6 other people want a ride downtown.  Do you share a cab?  Call a cab on the phone.  Patiently wait for more cabs to come to the airport?  What?

You try to get one or 2 of the other passengers together in a ride to the same destination downtown.  Then you take local cabs from the lobby of that hotel, to your actual final destinations.  It's the fastest way for everybody to get into town.  It's the cheapest way, the person who gets the receipt gets cash from the other passenger or 2.  You don't get a receipt?  You're there to visit a relative, right?  Why do you need one?  If you're the  business man, you can make it sound like you're being a real great guy, offering to share  your cab with somebody who has 2 suitcases.  It's a very easy deal to make.

Can the cab driver say no?  Not really, not if he values his job.  He can not only get fired for refusing, he can get his cab permit revoked, which is worse than fired.  You might talk the company into giving you a break, you will not talk the permitting people into reconsidering.

Should the cab driver refuse this arrangement, take a photo of his face with your phone.  Also take a photo of the number on his cab, and his license plate.  Make a note of the time.  Forward this documentation to the customer relations people at the airport.  He's looking for a new job, real fast.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

There are not enough cabs at the airport. Why?

Usually, this is a consequence of flight scheduling.  3 planes come down within 10 minutes of each other, and as fast as people get their luggage, they're in a cab headed for their hotel.

Do most people take cabs?  No.  Most people have a car in long term parking, a family member picking them up, or are renting a car.  If every passenger got in a cab, the airport could tell the cab company they have a certain number of people needing rides next Friday at noon, and the cab company would find a way to have the cabs there to do it.  In fact, if it were done that way, all those people would probably be loaded in a bus and taken to a central point downtown, like the train station in Albany, New York, for instance.

How it works is, this time there are 10 cabs at the airport and only 5 people want rides.  No more flights for 90 minutes.  Do the other 5 cabs wait for 90 minutes?  They might, but they are not making any money.  You go to work to make money, and you can't afford to spend the majority of your time reading the Times Union newspaper.  If there is something else to do, more than half of all drivers will leave the airport empty.

Sometimes, there are 10 people wanting a cab ride and only 5 cabs.  What happens then?  The cabs will load 2 or 3 of them, until they are all in a cab.  That 5th cab might get nobody, and when that happens, that driver is not real happy.

The other main cause is weather, and usually that weather event is snow.  If the snow is going full blast, people will beg you for rides everywhere.  There won't be enough cabs at the airport.  People will walk out into the middle of the street and block your way, to make you stop, so they can demand a ride.  It's crazy.  It doesn't happen often, but it's crazy.  Snow doesn't give you a right to overcharge people.  If you're running a meter, the cost will go higher because it will take longer, but snow doesn't justify taking the scenic route or charging a snow surcharge, you just pay the meter rate.  The point A to point B rate in a non metered cab, is the normal charge.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fast Eddie's spin

Fast Eddie remembers the gate at the airport that was operated by quarters.  That gate was before my time.  The idea was, you needed to give the airport $0.50, every time you took passengers out of the cab stand; the gate took quarters, and you needed to plug the little box with 2 quarters to raise the gate.

There were problems with this system.  The one I always hear, or heard about, was that the coin box on that thing wasn't big enough and it would get jammed.  He also mentioned, who got the money?  Who cares.  The passenger is ultimately going to pay it.  No matter how you slice it, or describe it, the Dane County Airport was attempting to control or regulate the cab business on it's property.  Which is OK, the goal is good service for the passengers, right?

The airport also has concerns about security.  They don't want to be the subject of a front page article in the New York Times, describing something bad that happened there.  Unfortunately, in the modern world, we have weirdo's who do bad things.  But I ask myself, what makes the airport any different than anyplace else where a lot of people are congregated in a small area.  Not much difference.  And do I want to be protected, for my own good?  I haven't liked being protected since my earliest recollection of it at 4 or 5 years of age.  Do other people feel the same?  I think most do.  But I was going to discuss the Albany, New York airport for a few blog entries, wasn't I?

They've chosen to deal with a single cab company, and the complaints I've read about recently tell me the cab drivers at that company draw complaints that are hard to dismiss as fiction.  Are those drivers any different than the drivers here?  I doubt it.  Are they different than the drivers at the other area cab companies?  I doubt it.  Is the current system in Albany working?  Doesn't sound like it.  What do you do when the system doesn't work?  Usually, you try something else.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Metered vrs. unmetered cabs. Not all cabs use meters.

I've never driven a metered cab, and I drove cab for 21 years.  Do I know how they work?  Yes.  When I was first learning the business, did I think it would be much easier to drive a metered cab?  Yes.

Driving a metered cab should be easy.  You turn on the meter, put the cab in drive, and away you go.  When more than one passenger is in the cab, it gets complicated for the passengers and the driver.

Meters assume a single passenger.  Ban the practice of taking multiple passengers, and you will go a long way to insuring nobody ever gets ripped off.  A meter can't prevent the driver from taking the scenic route, but getting a receipt for the ride allows the passenger to call the company and see if the fare was reasonable.  The company will tell you the truth, they don't want their drivers ripping off the public, and they will fire a driver for doing it.

How does a non metered cab work?  Simple, you pay for the ride from point A to point B, no matter what route is taken.

How does it work when a metered cab takes multiple passengers?  Good question.  There is going to be a policy that will cover that, but it's open a lot of abuse.  The Albany, New York area airport has a policy to cover that, but is it followed, so the customers get charged fairly?  Probably not.  Why?  Airport people are frequently visitors.  The cab driver casually asks the 2 passengers going to different locations if it is their first time visiting Albany, New York.  They say yes.  They just told that cab driver he can rip them off for as much as he thinks he can get away with, if he's a crook.

If those passengers ask for separate receipts, which they need for their expenses, they are going to get charged for the maximum amount of money the driver can rationalize.  They wanted receipts, and they got them, and those little pieces of paper cost them a small fortune.  The most honest, god fearing driver I've ever met, considers receipts the threshold, if you need a receipt, you pay full fare.  He drives a metered cab, so that full fare receipt is an expensive full fare.  Will his company back him up?  Yes.  Technically, he's done nothing wrong.  Moral of the story?  If you are sharing a ride with another business man, flip a coin to decide who pays and gets the receipt.  Let the other fellow give you a 10 spot out of his petty cash.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Albany, New York

The capital of New York is Albany.  The capital of Wisconsin is here, Madison.  So what?

I read some blog posts in the Albany, New York area, specifically about cab rides to and from the airport.  WOW.  New material to cover, not because it's new to me, it isn't.  It's part of the cab business, but it might be new to them.

They speak of passengers getting ripped off, and ripped off in a big way.  If we were standing around the cab stand at the air port, gossiping about it, we'd be laughing, it's that extreme.  It would seem, it's time to explain how the ride should be billed, and what to do about it if the passenger feels he's being ripped off.  It's also time to discuss what to do, if you the driver feel you're being ripped off.

If I have this correct........  In Albany, the airport contracts with a single cab company to work the cab stand.  If you take a passenger to the airport, and you're not driving one of those cabs, you leave the airport empty, even if there are people standing there begging you to take them.  The reason they do this is to prevent passengers from getting ripped off by some random driver from some random company.  Still they get complaints from passengers, some complaints about huge amounts of money.  They've even tried using investigators posing as passengers, and it hasn't gotten them results.  Let's start with what's wrong with this policy.

Why do I want to take somebody to the airport, if I'm going to drive out of the airport empty, every time?  Can I charge that passenger an extra fee?  Probably not.  The way to make money in a cab is to keep it full as much as possible, and the airport is an out of town ride.  Going there is one of the last things I want to do, all other things being equal.  Let that CHOSEN cab company provide the rides out there, and I'll stay here in town making some money.  That doesn't work, because the passenger calls on the phone, asks for service, and the guy on the radio says if somebody doesn't take the ride, he's going to stop dispatching, so somebody is going to get stuck with that ride to the airport, and let's say it's me.  What fun.  An unprofitable hour.

So, the first thing wrong with this policy, is it negatively effects service GOING TO THE AIRPORT.

There's too much to say about this in a single post, so it will be a series of posts, here ends the first of the series.