Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Fare's Survival Guide, part 1.

"Now don't you take any detours. The quickest, cheapest way, all right?"
"When you go to a restaurant, do you usually tell your waiter not to spit in your food?"


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The Fare's Survival Guide 
- How to get the most out of your taxi-trip without getting cheated or put on a hit list. 

So you've decided to take a cab! Good for you! Taking a cab has several benefits that other modes of transportation do not. As opposed to public transportation, taking a cab poses no risks of strangers falling asleep on your shoulder, or stressed out parents accidentally bumping you with their strollers. The cab will also not stop at set intervals to pick up yet more strangers who further increase the likelihood of encountering said risks. It also has the benefit that you may sit down during your entire trip! No standing up in a crowd of stressed commuters for you! 

Although sometimes sitting has its drawbacks.

Taking a cab is also far superior to walking. You know who else spent a lot of time walking? That's right, cave people. You're not a neanderthal, are you? Would you rather be travelling on foot for an entire day, wearing down the soles of your feet, (while potentially being stalked by sabre-toothed tigers and vengeful mammoths), or would you rather get in a moving wheelbox and get to where you're going in ten minutes? No fuss, no muss, and all it takes is some sweat and time converted into currency.

Who in their right mind would ever say no to a deal like that?

Pictured: the worst case scenario.

Of course, while a modern traveller such as yourself can plainly see the superiority of paying a stranger to drive you, cabs have their share of risks too. Cabbies are a peculiar breed. Indeed, it takes a certain kind of mental twistedness if you voluntarily spend a significant part of your life driving potential lunatics around a city for what often amounts to peanuts. As some of you already know, the way the cab business is structured offers incentives  to play fast and loose with legal, economic and social rules of conduct. Sometimes this can be for your benefit, and sometimes it can be to your horrific detriment. After all, you're about to spend some time, often alone, with a person who is literally chasing his money, and has power over whether or not you'll be walking home. Indeed, there are other, more horrifying things that might happen when you're alone in a car with a stranger.

So, in order to ensure that both you and your driver get the most out of  the fare, I present you with some helpful tips and guidelines. Follow these, and I guarantee that the risk of you getting cheated, assaulted, thrown out or (rightfully) shanked will decrease dramatically.

Part One: Caveat Emptor
There are several perils associated with being a fare. While these can range from the relatively innocuous (your cabby hasn't showered in a while) to the horrifying (your cabby is a cannibal), there are two major areas where most people suffer for choosing the wrong cabby: being cheated, and  harassment (including sexual).

Let me be perfectly clear here: cabbies are not, as a rule, prone to harassing their customers. But there are a lot of assholes out there and some of them drive cabs. It is far more common that a cabby abuses your wallet than your personal space, but that being said, the phenomenon is common enough that it warrants a discussion.

All right. So! How to deal with a cheating cabby.

All cabs traditionally have a meter. The meter measures the distance travelled and the time it takes to travel. Thus, the further you travel (or the longer the fare takes) the more money it will cost. Every meter has different tariffs, which may change depending on time of day, if its during the weekend or during some major holiday. Thus it is far cheaper to take a cab during a regular Monday than it is during New Years eve.

With me so far?

Thus the simplest way to con somebody out of their money is to make the fare as long as possible and/or use a higher tariff than is allowed. Thus your regular Monday morning trip to work becomes an expensive New Year's Eve sightseeing tour of the city.

How does a wise fare ensure this doesn't happen?

Well, on the meter, next to the cost, will be a small number which indicates the tariff. And within the cab, plainly visible to the passengers, is the price list. Thus you can check the tariff, compare it to the list and determine whether or not it is correct. If it is, you're fine. If it isn't, point it out. If the cabby has any decency, he will apologize and correct it. Don't count on that, though. I have friends who have been thrown out of the cab for daring to politely ask that the cabby charges them correctly.

All right. So that's step one.
Get in the cab. Check the tariff to the price list. If correct, relax. If not, call him out on it.
Easy peasy, but its something most people don't even think about (indeed, most aren't even aware of it).

What's the worst that could happen, right?

All right, so you've made sure your cabby is charging you correctly, but you're still uneasy about the price. Is he taking a detour? Doesn't that building look very much like the three other identical ones you passed by earlier? What to do!

The detour is another easy way to cheat someone. Instead of relying on extra money per mile/minute, the cabby relies on extra miles and that the fare isn't aware of it. The cabby may drive very slowly too, to make sure he gets as much milk out of the meter-cow as possible. So what's a clever fare to do?

Well first and foremost, if you're a local and know the way, you can ask ahead of time that the cab takes a road you're familiar with and know well. If he's taking a road you're not familiar with, ask him (politely) why he's taking this particular road. It could well be that he's new on the job and is either winging it, or taking a road that he is familiar with.

If you're a tourist, then things get a little tougher. After all, you don't know shit about this city and for all you know, your destination might just be a block away. My advice to you here, if you're unsure, take a look at a map.

"But Crabby! I don't have a map! And besides, I don't know how to read one!"

All right, sure. But unless you're a minority, you do have a smartphone, don't you? Google maps is your friend. Get it into navigation mode, and ask the cabby to take the road you specify. Some of them might get a little offended by it, but if they're professional, they'll do it.

Now, as for harassment in the cab:
Cabs, like all places where you find yourself alone with someone, are a risk zone when it comes to harassment, sexual or otherwise, and many is the woman who has suffered inappropriate comments, touching, and yes, even rape from their driver. The only concrete cab-related thing you can do to avoid this is to sit in the back seat. This puts the onus of defense on the victim, which is of course wrong (after all, it is not the fare's duty to avoid harassment, but the cabby's to not harass). I personally always find it a little disheartening when a female passenger chooses to sit behind me, but I understand it. Aside from whatever skills you may have in self-defense, or staying on the phone, there's not much else that can be concretely done during the event. There is no "in case of grabby cabby, break glass" - case in the cars.

However, let's say you've had a miserable trip for whatever reason (you've been cheated, or harassed). There's plenty of things you can do afterward. The simplest (but also the least effective in the long run) solution is to simply leave the cab and refuse to pay.  This is definitely a viable method, provided the cab company doesn't save your number and sends you a bill later. Or perhaps you decide to not take the fight and deal with the matter later. Also a valid (and safer) choice. And there are several things in that very cab that's there to help you.

1. The ID: Every cabby is by law required to display his license. Here you'll find his name, and his ID number. If you end up paying far more than you think is reasonable, or if  you step into a cab, and you feel unsafe, then write down the number (or take a picture). If you can't see an ID, ask where it is. If the cabby doesn't produce it, call another cab.

2. The receipt: The receipt is your FRIEND, people. Here you will see
how much the trip cost,
how many miles it took,
how much time it took, and how much money those two racked up.

Here is also the number of the car that you rode in, when you took the trip, and- most importantly- the ID of the cabby. So say you've had a miserable cab ride, and you want to put the cabby up against the wall, then there's only one sure-fire way to do it:


Here it says in black and white, all the particulars of the trip itself. This is also why you should never accept it when a cabby wants you to pay off the meter. Never mind that it is illegal: if something happens to you, economically or otherwise, then the receipt is a viable piece of evidence in bringing the cabby to justice. A friend of mine did just that after a cabby got handsy with her. Rather than fight him, she grit her teeth, until he took her to where she was going. Then she paid, took the receipt and successfully got him fired. I don't know if she managed to take him to trial, and I most certainly don't recommend sitting out harassment, it does prove the usefulness of that flimsy piece of paper most people just throw away.

And on a final note, most cabs that belong to a company (or have some kind of app) usually also have some kind of GPS service. That means that if they have an HQ, HQ has an eye on them. If worst comes to worst, you can always ask HQ to look at just what route the cab took. While I'm no fan of surveillance in general, in this case it is a very, very good thing.

Quick repetition:
Check the tariff and the price list.
Try to have some kind of foreknowledge of where you're going (if worst comes to worst, use google maps).
If you're unhappy with the trip for whatever reason GET THE RECEIPT.
Check the ID - if there's no ID, ask for it. If none can be produced, call a different cab. You are under no obligation to ride with any given cab.

All right, by now I should have given you all the tools you need to deal with the most common troubles you as a customer may run into when taking a cab. Bear in mind, most of us are just people trying to do our job and get paid. But there's enough bad apples in the bunch for this to be valuable information regardless.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'll tell you what you need in order to avoid becoming the victim of the righteous fury of the pissed off cabby.

Click here to read Part 2

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