I work in an industry that admittedly does not have a good reputation. I am a cabbie. Before you roll your eyes and label me as a rude SOB, maybe you should know that not all cabbies are rude, most are honest, and many can be downright friendly. Most of the time it is what you bring to the table that will determine how you are be treated by a cabbie.
Now, I know that sounds like a cop out, but it really isn’t. You see, fares can be broken down into three distinct categories: The Talkers, The Squawkers; and The Stalkers.
Obviously we cabbies like The Talkers most of all. These people engage in conversation and allow the cabbies to impress you with local knowledge or maybe a joke or a story. Generally rides with Talkers are a lot of fun, and usually most productive for the cabbie and the rider.
The Squawkers present an interesting challenge for the cabbie. If a squawking person (someone who complains about everything) can have a grievance addressed and remedied, the cabbie can look like a hero and the rest of the ride can go well. Sometimes it is all a matter of resetting expectations, “You didn’t think you would come to Las Vegas and walk away a millionaire did you?” This line gets me into a lot of fun stories and usually by the time the ride is over they are not squawkers anymore. In fact, the nicest compliment I got was from a Squawker. He said, “You know, I usually hate Las Vegas, have a terrible time, but you and this ride made the trip bearable and a pleasure.” At this point he threw me an extra $20 for tip. Mission accomplished.
Both the hardest and easiest fares to deal with are The Stalkers. These people get into the cab, give a destination and then do not respond to anything. I usually give three tries to engage people, “So, how’s Vegas treating you?” “You know a lot about Vegas, are you a native?” “So, how’s the weather where you’re headed?” or some such leading questions. If after these there is nothing to talk about, it is a quite ride to the drop off. These are unsatisfying and frustrating fares to deal with and the cabbie usually feels screwed no matter how good the ride was monetarily.
OK, that covers the basic types of fares and how good cabbie deal with it, but what about the rude cabbie that are rude for no particular reason. Well, there are several type of these: The Inattentive, The Jaded, and The Peeved. All three have a common root as to why they are that way, and all three are hard for a rider to deal with. The root of rude cabbies is money, specifically not enough of it. Let me explain:
It is a false but widely held belief that cabbies in Las Vegas make a lot of money. In fact you go on the internet and look how to treat and tip cabbies you see the mention that we have a high paying job and lots of tips. This is not true. If a cabbie does $30 on the meter in an hour he may wind up with about $7.50 of that. If you add $2.00 per tip you would assume that he is then making $13.50 an hour. But at the rate you are talking only $27k a year. Is that really a lot of money? But here is what you are not counting, he has to pay for his gas. He has to pay taxes on those tips. As much as we dread them, we all get tickets, they are part of the business and those fines need to be paid.
There are other costs and expenses along the way, hidden costs that eat into his job, like dead-heading back from a long drive. Not only does dead-heading cost time not on meter, it costs fuel. If the ride out did not tip well, the driver could literally be losing money for taking a long ride. Consider a 30 mile ride in a cab that gets 10 MPG (yes, the cabs suck in this department). The meter would be about $65, a good ride for about 40 minutes work. But the tip is $5, ouch. Well, the cost for fuel going back is going to come to about $8 and a loose of about 40 minutes. That trip did not pay for itself. What do you get? A grouchy driver.
In fact, most of the time the rudeness comes because the tip received was to low. Too low may seem a relative term, but to a cabbie it is anything below 22.5% of the meter. Why 22.5%? Simple, that is what we pay in taxes for tips. If a cabbie takes a $10 ride and the tip is $2, you have shorted him, yet this is exactly what the internet sites and tipping guides say to do. If you do not tip at all, we still get taxed as if you did, a fairly raw deal.
On slow days, the hourly on the meter may drop to as low as $5 an hour. That is one trip in an hour and usually the tip there is just $1. This means the cabbie made a whole $2 for the hour. Could you live on $2 an hour? This is time that can not be made up. Time is a cabbies most precious resource, once it is lost, it is forever gone, and so are the potential earnings. Once again, you could get a crabby cabbie.
Let us dispel a myth: At one time cabbies did receive kickbacks from certain gentlemen’s clubs, but that has not been the case for a while. These kickbacks were generous and may be the root of the false belief that cabbies made a lot of money. But even when they did pay, they did not pay in daylight hours, and there were never enough rides for these extra kickbacks to be a substantial part of a cabbies income. They were a bit of added sweetness, not a living.
So, the solution… whenever you read the same old lines about a $2 tip for cabbies (written about 10 years ago and copied ever since from Berlitz) change it to a more up to date $5. This is especially true on slow days and short rides. In any ride over $20, be a little more kind because the cabbie is going to have to dead-head. You will never get a rude comment from a $5 tip, and in fact you will probably get a smile, a kind thank you, and some wish to return or have a safe trip. Trust me when I say it will be worth it. I will explain later.
So, how do you handle rude cabbies? Simple, if they do not offer to handle your luggage, open the door for you and treat you with respect and kindness, you can treat them as rude cabbies and DO NOT TIP THEM. If they take you on a trip that is way too long and over charge you on the meter, DO NOT TIP THEM. If they take you for a ride and the meter is not on, technically you do not have to pay them. However, pay them up to about $15, but no more and DO NOT TIP THEM, they are stealing from the cab company and call the Taxi Authority (the number is on the Hack Permit at the front passengers seat) and tell them the cab number and the route you took.
Warning: If you make a power play and threaten to call the TA and the driver says go ahead, you will be in the wrong and the TA will side with the driver. The drivers know all the laws (they have the permit after all) and know when they are in the wrong. You on the other hand could be arrested for petty theft of services if it is found that you did not pay.
In short, if you get good service, a safe ride, and pleasant experience from your ride in a cab, tip the driver and do not cheap out on him/her, they will be thankful. On the other hand if you have a bad experience do not tip and tell them you had a bad experience. It is that simple. It is those people who treat a driver proportionally with a tip where trouble occurs. Very small tips are considered insulting and the driver could drop the bomb on you, and you do not want that. So, tip well or not at all is the rule.
The Bomb: I alluded to the fact that there was something a cabbie could do that you really would not like, it is called The Bomb. Here is how it works: So, you have had a decent ride, the cabbie did a decent job and feels that you insulted him with such a low tip. If you have any emotions at all, the cabbie could pull this line, “I hope you feel so good about yourself, because you have come to this city and treated an honest, hard working, fair and polite person serving you well with disrespect and loathing. I hope you feel good about that because you can and there is nothing I can do about it. I hope you feel good about that.” Believe me when I say a line like this can ruin a perfectly good and wonderful vacation, because when you think back to your time on that vacation you will only remember the fact that you treated someone like dirt, nothing else will matter and the good memories will be tainted and the money you spent to get them down the drain. Think about it, would you really want a cabbie to drop The Bomb on you?