Joined: 06 Jul 2005 Posts: 400 Location: Tempe, AZ
Posted: Tue May 25, 2010 1:41 pm Post subject: Cab drivers going rogue and why it bothers me
The taxi industry hasn’t been what it’s always been lately. Drivers have been seeing a marked decrease in fares and money made against the costs of maintenance and fuel over the past few years. The economy’s current confidence crisis certainly hasn’t been helping the matter either.
With more than 5,000 licensed taxis, limos, and other service cars driving around the state, knowing your rights when you take a ride can make a difference when it comes to paying the right price, getting proper service, and making sure you get home safely.
The ABC15 Investigators rode undercover, flagging more than a dozen taxis near bars, sporting events, and popular hang-outs in Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix and discovered you may pay a much different price for the exact same ride, depending on the taxi you take.
How can you protect yourself from this behavior and why should you? For one, because it’ll save you a pretty penny on cab rides and as I understand it all of us are spendthrifts now (plus saving money by not taking a dishonest cab, hopefully you’ll have a little extra for my tip.) For two, it’ll send a signal to these sorts of people that the population is on the lookout; it’ll help nudge fares towards more honest cabs and cab companies and make the entire playing field more fair for everyone.
I’ve been driving in my father’s fleet long enough to see a lot of different types of cheating and competition between cabbies from scooping fares to running off-the-books meter scams on the company. Still, I think the worst of it is when a cabbie dishonestly squeezes a fare for extra money on top of what they actually owe. If my readers would like, I could write you a brief article sometime on the types of scams you might run into and how to recognize them.
(1) Before entering the cab make sure they’re license is prominently displayed and up-to-date, it’ll be a sticker on the outside of the cab displayed prominently on a window that looks like the state of Arizona. The year is easy to read.
(2) Be sure to double-check the fare schedule listed on the side of the cab; this should be even more obvious than the license. It’ll give you a good eyeball of how much it is likely to cost. Also, if you get into the cab and there’s no fare schedule inside add that to a list of suspicions.
(3) If the meter isn’t immediately visible and easily read from the back seat say so and if you don’t get a good answer, just ditch the cab. The meter and its operation is heavily regulated and any cab you flag from the street had better have a working one. Without that, they’re not legal.
Also, don’t take deals unless you already know the driver. Really, it’s illegal to run with the meter off, plus if the cabbie works for someone her boss won’t like getting short-shirft on a fare—but some of us will run special rates for our friends and family (often for me it’s just gas money) but not when we’re on the clock. If you really want a particular driver under most circumstances it will cost you extra, not less. Strangers offering deals are skimming someone: if not you, then they’re employer or their next fare.
I understand that a lot of you use cabs at night to get home after a slosh at the bar, and this makes you more vulnerable to a scam so you might need your friends to look out for you. Fortunately, Valley taxi services are some of the safest in the world (and the US) and while they might stiff you a few dollars it’s still a hell of a lot safer than driving drunk for everybody. I don’t want the persistence of these dishonest drivers to ever dim anyone’s resolve to drink safely.
If you do think that you’ve been ripped off, make sure to take down the cab company, the cab number (often painted on the side and tail), your pick-up and destination, when you were picked up, and the final fare. Then report everything you remember, especially this information, to the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures. You may have lost what you did to the scam that ride, but it’ll help all of us clean cabbies out here keep our honest living.
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