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Taxi Thieves

As my dear readers know I live the same life George Clooney’s character does in Up In The Air. Except instead of being in a plane, I’m in the back of a yellow cab. I spend many an hour back there, contemplating my fate, tapping the “off” button on the TaxiTV screen over and over and over again.

So imagine my interest in a recent report from the New York Times that alleges hacks here in the Big Apple have been ripping off riders for two years. Their methods were relatively straightforward – hit the button for rate 4 (used for far-flung destinations and meant to be triggered only after crossing the border into Westchester County, for example) rather than rate 1 (Standard City Rate). Rate 4 is higher, of course, and thus those who were fleeced paid an average of $4 to $5 more than they should have.

Unsurprisingly, the taxi driver’s union, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, has come out behind the drivers. Their statement basically says, “hey, this is like 3/4th of all the hacks on the road doing this. Surely that’s gotta be a mistake. 3/4th of all cab drivers aren’t thieves! Big misunderstanding you guys, those buttons, darn, they sure are close together. And the same color too! And small, so small. Yikes! Where are my glasses? Wait, I knew they were around here someplace…”

Right. Except they’re guilty as sin.

To determine the veracity of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s statement, I went through my taxi receipts from January 2009 to the present. Such a task is made easy and somewhat pleasant when all one needs to do is flick through a bunch of sorted images on a screen. Shawna has everything scanned and classified so the whole task took me no time at all. In my quick sample, I found that not one of my receipts indicated that I had been charged on a rate 4 fare. Doesn’t that seem unlikely to you? 35,558 out of the city’s roughly 48,000 drivers had applied the higher rate over the last two years and yet leafing through hundreds of my own receipts I could find not even one instance of overcharging.

How could this be possible? It should be obvious but on the off-chance it isn’t, here’s my theory: the hacks only ripped off the out-of-towners. When a New Yorker hops in and barks (not me of course, I’m sweet as molasses pie) an intersection followed by a preferred route (No! Grand does NOT go through! Take Delancey!) I suspect they figure they’d probably best charge the going rate. But when they get a fare that’s clearly an out-of-towner, or a stumbling drunkard, or the Swiss Family Robinson… well, that’s another story.

And even though tourists and visitors and such keep our metropolitan’s economy moving, I’ve got to admit I started caring a lot less when I figured out they were the ones getting ripped off.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must try to hail a cab before I’m late for dinner.



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