Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Are All Taxi Drivers Crooks?


For some, thinking of taxi drivers will conjure up images of crooked swindlers and professional con artists.  People think of characters like Louie De Palma and Danny DeVito's Character from the TV show “Taxi” and, imagine that any person in this profession must be just like them; an opportunistic, greedy, and completely self-serving thief who has no issues with stealing the money off weary travelers.  A few trips through a big city like New York can easily make this stereotype seem like fact.  The problem is the stereotype fails when you ask a single question; if all taxi drivers are crooks, why do people still use their services?

The Scams

People who live in cities rarely have issues with local cabbies that tourists and business people do, simply because the locals know the layout of their home.  In New York for example, the use of cab drivers is practically a tradition; it’s hard to swindle someone who knows what the quickest route is and, knows when their driver has suddenly opted for a longer trip.

What visitors rarely realize is that they often stand out as a tourist.  This makes them attractive customers to the few drivers who are looking for an easy target.  It gives “cabbies” the option to take longer routes that eat the meter, or to “assume” that they were supposed to keep the change as a tip and drive off before the mistake can be corrected.

Do Some Research

With scams like these, it's no wonder that some people regard taxi drivers with such suspicion.  Many drivers, however, are friendly, honest, and forthright.  Often, the problem is that tourists and business professionals who use taxi services unknowingly communicate that they're easy marks.  Some research can go a long way in making sure you get honest cabbies and thwart the couple of sneaks you might come across.

In any area where you’ll be spending a lot of time, do research on the taxi licenses that drivers should have.  Know what they should look like and know where the important information should be displayed upon them.  If the Taxi doesn't have a license don't use their service, most of the more dangerous and threatening cons are pulled off by unlicensed cabs!  Once you determine your cab driver has the right papers and permits write down the name and license numbers, the simple act of recording this information will show any dishonest drivers you may be dealing with that you're paying careful attention to what is going on; many tricks require oblivious or unaware customers.

If you have a smart-phone, use a GPS application to track the route they're taking.  When the driver diverts from the most efficient route promptly ask why.  You don't need to be suspicious right away as there can be completely legitimate reasons (such as closed roads) to change routes.  While you can use a paper map for the same thing, a cell phone is less obtrusive and maps kind of defeat the object of not drawing attention to yourself.

These few steps will help you thwart the handful of dishonest drivers you may come across on your travels.  Just pay attention to any red flags that come up during
the drive and you'll be fine.  Cab drivers are people and, just like any profession, they have their fair share of crooks.  The ones that are trying to swindle their customers are keeping their eyes out for easy targets, being informed will help you deflect the dishonest ones.

More Advice

Most cab drivers are honest men and women just trying to make an honest living.  Do yourself a favor and think of a few “ice-breaker” questions that seem like idle conversation but, will allow you to subtly gauge the integrity of your cabbie.  For example, find a landmark close to your first destination.  Tell your driver you are thinking of seeing it and, ask how out of the way it would be for you to drive past it so you can have a quick look.  An honest cabbie will give you the answer you already know is correct; a dishonest one may attempt to use this as the catalyst for manipulation.  These questions will allow you to get a good feel for who you are dealing with and can be researched in seconds.  Again, smart-phones are very handy for this.

Once you have confidence that you're dealing with an honest person talk to them.  If you're going to be staying in your destination for any length of time, try and build a rapport with them because a trustworthy cabbie is a great resource to have.  You'll appreciate their knowledge of the city you're traveling through and, they'll appreciate return business from someone who doesn't try to stiff them on the tip.  If you find that this sort of arrangement will work out, make sure to record the service they drive for and get their name after all, you can’t give repeat business to anyone you can't find!

Not All Taxi Drivers are Crooks

There is no doubt that any cab driver appreciates reliable, return business.  Many people have anxiety dealing with strangers; imagine the sort of stress a cabbie must feel as they deal with hundred of strangers every week? Some customers will scream at their cabbie because they’re stuck in traffic.  Others will flee from the scene after arriving at their destination and skip paying the driver.  Still others will cause all sort of messes or damage to the taxi itself.  Cab drivers end up as the victim of quite a few cons themselves, so steady and reliable fares are greatly appreciated.

The stereotypes we pull from sitcoms and movies are funny, but they aren't typically based on fact. Cab drivers aren't any more inherently dishonest than pizza delivery guys, gardeners, or plumbers.  A few use their position in order to milk a few dollars from the unwary, but they are the minority.  By making your-self aware the chances are you’ll find an honest driver you can rely on.

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