Let me start this off by saying that I first heard about this story because of the ads I heard on the radio while driving my cab. The commercial played all day and on several different stations. So I know it was playing in taxis across the city. The commercial was alarmist and sensational and made it seem like all taxi drivers are crooks out to get the people of New York. Great for a passenger who I am depending on for my pay to hear. Honestly, the first thing I could compare the sound of this commercial to was when the KFC in the Village had a rat problem and the news sensationalized it. In this case, I was among the rats.
As much as it pains me to share the links to the story, I don't want to be like the reporter who was very one sided. So for journalism's sake, I am sharing these links.
Hack Job Part 1
Hack Job Part 2
Hack Job Part 3
Let me start out by saying that I get it. Cabbies have a bad reputation for not wanting to go to the outer boroughs. And there are certainly drivers who "cherry pick" for fares so they don't have to go to Brooklyn. And I know that on certain nights, this is more common. But this is not news. I should also say that when I am out driving, I see other drivers who "cherry pick" and it pisses me off. I don't like it. I don't agree with it.
What I have the most issue with in these stories is how it makes all drivers out to be bad people, just trying to take advantage of our customers. It over exaggerates the frequency of these instances making the few who do it some of the time into all of us who do it all the time. Obviously for the people this happens to, that is what will stick in their mind rather than the dozen other times they get into a cab and have good service. People don't remember good service in this industry. They remember the bad because it gives them a story about 'that bad driver that one time who was oh, so awful'.
All these stories do is vilify an entire industry, including the good drivers. It will make people think twice about taking a taxi. And all that does is penalize the good drivers. There are plenty of drivers who will take passengers to any destination without question. But this story simply ignores us altogether and highlight the few bad apples for the sake of a sensational story.
In the second installment, they show TLC Commissioner David Yassky trying to hail a cab to Brooklyn during the evening rush. First of all, some of those drivers may legitimately be "off duty" at that time because that is the shift change. Second, as Commissioner, he should know that you should get in the car before telling the driver your destination. I tell customers all the time who come to my window to ask me to take them somewhere to get in and THEN tell me where you want to go. The second you ask me to take you somewhere and you aren't in my cab is the second you give me the opportunity to drive away from you(I won't, but other drivers might).
Thirdly, and this is the biggie, why is he so shocked and bewildered that any of this is going on. You are the Commissioner! You should know this is going on! It is your JOB to know what is going on in the industry you are in charge of! And honestly, he does know whats going on. But instead of fixing the problem by doing more stings like the one shown, and catching and penalizing the drivers who are in the wrong, deterring others in the process, he issues policies like the new roof light system.
I am very skeptical about the new roof lights. It may make it a little more difficult for the crooked drivers to cherry pick, but I think the ones who are determined will find another way around it and carry on. Instead, it may end up penalizing the honest drivers who as it stands now, as they are going off duty can pick up a fare if it is on their way home putting those last few dollars in their pocket which can sometimes make a day. How it will work with the new system is yet to be seen. Also, they say it is supposed to make it less confusing for passengers, but those who are used to the old system will have to now re-learn the lights, and for those who are on their way home, people will be less likely to stick an arm up to hail them thinking the car already has a passenger.
Honestly, I think it is a band aid on a much bigger wound. For the sake of the honest drivers, they need to actually do something actively to catch the rule breakers instead of use a small deterrent which in the grand scheme of things, hurts the good driver.
What it all comes down to is the reporter, the Commissioner and the public of New York need to realize and acknowledge the fact that the bad drivers make up only a small portion of the taxi fleet. There are lots of decent, honest, hard working drivers who are not out to get you. They keep the city moving. They put up with the police, rude passengers, traffic, bad drivers, high fees, and a million other variables just to get people where they need to go. For some, like myself, it is a choice to join the industry. For some, it isn't. They may not have other job skills or connections, but they do this job with a smile and put up with all the crap that comes along with it so they can feed their families. I do wish that the dishonest drivers weren't a fact of life, but in any industry you will have your bad apples. But then you have lots of other shiny, bright and delicious apples. They may not be the ones you remember, but they did their job and they did it well.
|Not all drivers are bad guys! (photo courtesy of USA Today)|