It’s a Hard Knock Life.

Now, don’t get it twisted…this doesn’t apply to every cab driver out there but it DOES apply to most.  Cabbies here in NYC get a horrible rap for being notoriously rude, trying to deceive customers every now and then, and driving like mad men.  What many people don’t know however is what they are up against.

I’m one of the lucky ones who happens to have their own cab with my dad & his best friend being partners and co-medallion owners.  Because of this, I’m able to schedule my own hours and keep a great deal of the money that I make.  The only issues I have to deal with are paying the MTA surcharge, EZ-Pass (if applicable) and paying a certain amount per week for workers’ comp and helping to finish paying off the entire medallion.  However, the vast majority of cab drivers work for garages who have tons of cabs/medallions.  In these cases it becomes a crapshoot.  You can either work a 4am-4pm shift or work a 4pm-4am shift.  Typically the evening shifts are more popular amongst drivers because more money can be had…but with that it usually costs more to rent a cab for that night.  You also aren’t even guaranteed to begin work on time just in case a cab isn’t available.  Not to mention you never know what type of condition your cab is going to be.  Oh, and did I mention that these fleets will take out even more money from you if you return the cab late or without the tank being 100% full?  The ONLY advantage with driving for a garage that I know of is that you have zero liability if the cab fails on you during your shift or if you get into an accident.

So let’s say on a Saturday night I make a gross total of $400 (which is EASILY possible provided you don’t get taken too far out of your way at key junctures).  If I worked for a garage and they charged $225 to have it for that night; then $30-35 to refill the tank (it’s not gonna go to E but still); then on top of that the MTA surcharges and if the customer pays via credit card…that 5% being taken away…I’m really left with $125 for a 12 hour shift- or a little over $10/hour dealing with all that stress.  Keep in mind though that if you’re a newer driver, preference for weekend night shifts are given to more experienced drivers so there’s NO guarantee that you’ll even be able to drive a Saturday night; you may get a random Monday night where it’s much cheaper (probably $125) but you also make less too (maybe $200-$225).  Not a good look.  In efforts to try to recoup some of these losses this is what cabbies will do:

1) Say the credit card machine is defective.  I was in a cab the other night where the machine wasn’t workin so I could only pay with cash.  Personally I don’t know if the drivers themselves can tinker with it or not so where it doesn’t work because that god forsaken Eyewitness News shit wasn’t working…but it’s a hassle if you only got a CC. Worst part was that I told the dude to drop me off on the corner of 7th and 31st near the Chase Bank but instead the tard drops me off at Capital One.  I ended up dealin with a $2.75 ATM fee from Capital One AND a $2 free from Chase just so the guy could get the $10 from me.  I could have been an ass & not tip him at all but I did anyway.

2) Not turn on the meter on a JFK-Manhattan ride.  The cabbie will tell the passengers that they can only pay by cash and it will be $45+tip+toll ahead of time.  In effect this also helps them avoid having to collect that extra 50 cents for the MTA surcharge. If they have to take the Triboro (RFK) Bridge or Midtown Tunnel (I mean who really takes the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel??) they’ll just go to the cash line rather than use the EZ-Pass.  The $45 flat rate is an advantage to the customer though because if it was via Rate 1…you know for sure cabbies would do anything in their power to take the long way especially to customers who’d be oblivious.

3) The whole Rate 4 controversy. Rate 4 is the rate that you’re supposed to charge only when you leave the city limits heading into Nassau or Westchester counties.  At that point, it becomes 80 cents per 1/5th of a mile rather than the usual 40 cents because obviously you’re only allowed to pick up passengers within the city limits…therefore compensation is needed for the empty trip back.  The papers make it out to be that a lot of cab drivers do this…but in reality it’s only a few that had done it, albeit often.  You won’t catch a veteran passenger with this but you might catch someone who is either piss drunk or a tourist with this move.  If you see that a ride to Penn Station from 14th street & 3rd avenue costs $15…then you’ve got Rate 4’d.

And this of course leads to the dastardly things cabbies will do to get passengers.  Cutting 2, 3 even 4 lanes just to get someone.  They see you, obviously.  They’ll do whatever it takes though.  Does it piss me off? You damn right it does…but only for that initial moment.  But like every cab ride you never know what to expect; sometimes that person who you didn’t get a chance to pick up might only be going a few blocks…while the next passenger you get winds up giving you a $10+ fare.  Does it make sense to do it? Common sense says no but in this industry…time is most definitely money.  When you know you gotta not only satisfy your quota but also a quota of your boss…nightmares.  That’s why you’ll hear the “THAT’S IT??” if the tips are marginal.  That’s why cabbies will cut lanes faster than Bruce Lee with a ginsu knife.  It’s a race against the clock in this concrete jungle…and you’re just the passenger. You’ll most likely never encounter the same driver again.  He’ll most likely never encounter you again.  So all bets are off.

The one thing that even gets me is how because the public bitched about it so much…cab drivers aren’t even allowed to use hands-free devices anymore and make private calls while on the job.  To an extent I understand because you can’t mix personal with business.  At the same time though, working for literally a half of a day without being able to contact your friends or family?? Meanwhile, those same passengers who are bitching are the ones yappin away on their cell phones or texting…then when you get to their final destination stop they’re still yappin.  Double standard?  Sure.  But that’s the nature of the service industry.  They can be as nasty as they want…but the second you talk back there’s a chance you might get reported.  Some of them will get smart…but you need to remember that the only person that has shit to lose is you, the driver.

That pretty much covers it from my end.  I’m sure since I’m a rookie that I missed out on other shit but with my partner being a 20+ year vet as well as my dad having previously worked at a garage for a little while back in the 80s…I have a pretty good idea of the behind the scenes hell cabbies go through.  It sucks that it gets taken out on the passenger sometimes but next time…don’t pit all the blame on them.

And so on.


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