Friday, November 19, 2010

Return of the tips! some good ones, some bad.

Isn't it so strange, it seems whenever I call attention to something, especially something that is only related to things as mysterious and inexplicable as the rising of tides and phases of the moon, that then my hypothesis is turned on it's face, flipped like an omelette sunny-side down.

etceteras etceteras

I was trying my damnedest to figure it out, was it my unshaven face? Was it a led foot? Who knows what it was, as this past week has proven otherwise in tips. Oh there were people who didn't tip, and they did seem to hold to a pattern I've noticed, extremely routine riders who it is both my pattern, and their pattern for us to ride together on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, don't tip, or just round the fare up to the nearest dollar. I wonder if they know that the extra 50 cents on the meter isn't going to me, nor is it an indicated included tip. Either way I avoid holding grudges for them because they don't really make much money, so they really can't afford much more, but still it is bothersome. It isn't like I make more money than they do, and besides they will sometimes purchase a large coffee for themselves before or after the ride. Why don't they get a small, and give that change over?

Anyway I digress, I digress. I had one fare who may have tipped me the highest in terms of percentage I've ever received, I took her down 7th Avenue from 47th Street and Broadway to Penn Station. I happened to be in front of her hotel as I saw her exiting, so I opened the doors and trunk and also helped her big luggage into the trunk and out of the trunk. The fare was 5.30 and she gave me 20, saying "Keep it." She had a big smile on her face. Now I could expect a tip of 3 dollars and even 4, but a tip of basically a 300% was unimaginable especially for such an easy quick ride. I looked at her with dis-belief. "This is 20 dollars," I said, "And the fare was only 5.30. Are you sure?" To which she simply smiled and nodded in approval. What a day maker. I was already really struggling for customers at that hour and it really helped me out huge.

What do you know the next fare was going from the station to Baruch College. They had the european accents, they paid only the exact fare: 7 dollars. I thought briefly that it may have been because I honked at another asshat cab driver who had his off duty light on and drove in two lanes simultaneously, screwing both me and the traffic behind me, and what was worse not only did he refuse to indicate his intentions with signals, he may not have been working, so he was three times the asshole. And for them, I took my frustrations out on the car peeling away from the scene on the slippery streets after dropping them off, as I just had no other alternative, because I don't believe in bottling up my feelings, nor do I believe in telling them about our custom of tipping.

1 fare or 2 after them took some tourists going to a golf store on w 35th. They had the address on paper, and being that it was a crosstown street it was easy to find. On our way we passed a storefront with the same name a block early, luckily we all so this. "Wasn't that the place?" They asked.

"Yes it may be," I said, "But it says retail space for lease. I think they moved one block west. the address you gave me should be on the next block just west of 6th Avenue."

They were very relieved. They got out within sight of the actual store and the fare came to 10 dollars and 20 cents, but you see, it read on the meter as 9.70 with an extra of 50 cents. I can't bring the meter to add them together until I turn it off, which I can't do because they might pay with credit card, and add to that the fact that the meter only briefly adds the numbers to a total before oddly returning the numbers back to their original separate places, and then clearing itself of all numbers, leading the passenger to ask what the fare was. So I don't turn the meter off until I receive payment. Customers have been a very mixed bag of understanding with this method, but is the only safe way for me to operate otherwise I'd be eliminating the opportunity for a customer to pay with credit, which, you guessed it, is not allowable by Taxi and Limousine commission.

Anyhow digressing again, long story short he pays me 10 dollars, I turn the meter off so it briefly shows the full fare of 10.20 and I point to that 20 cents, and ask for the extra change. Hell I used to ignore these rides and just accept them cheating me out of 20 cents. But with all the low tips lately I can't bare to get short changed. To my surprise he emptied his pockets and gives me all his change and laughs it off. This leaves me elated, as he'd just given me 2 dollars or more extra, but I know that they did have a pleasant ride and so it was not in anger that he gave me extra.

Oh and the most, most odd ball ride was this woman who encountered that meter issue when she swiped her card, and it didn't read, I told her to keep swiping. Her boyfriend who I dropped off first was extremely nice, and in his company she too was a very nice person. But somehow when left alone with a glitching credit card reader, she was pissed slightly, and convinced, possibly by the brainwashing tabloids such as Fox and the New York Post, that I was the perpetrator of some brilliant scheme, yeah, a brilliant scheme to steal 40 cents from her, and thusly make millions of dollars.

"umm, the fare just went up." says she

"Yes don't worry about that, it's not a big deal." says I

"Yes it is. It just went up 40 cents!" she adds

"Well it doesn't register on the card." I confirm. Though I guess I have no authority. I could've sworn there was a sign posted at our garage not to hit the time off button on our meters early as the meter doesn't register the added units from that point on. I guess the guys at the garage were wrong.

"Yes IT DOES, I see the extra 40 cents here." She is getting really pissed. I guess I should've stopped in the middle of traffic, and held up yet one more upper east side street. So I ended the debate right there, my week was going to good to let this shit get to me. You see as long as the vehicle keeps moving, the meter is likely to keep turning even when time off is hit, but see there is no alternative when you pay with credit, other than to stop immediately which I don't believe it doing, in fairness to safety.

"well, you can just tip me less then." I say.

And with that she gets her transaction approved with a 60 cent tip. Ahh finally good riddance to you missy. Wow what decent folk, and what a turn for the ill that one took, sheesh.

Another fare gave me his location and was in a great rush, giving me exact directions, he was an older gentlemen in that special class of people like my father who may have actually worked for their money, earned a living at different things and moved up the ladder, a ladder which seems to have eroded over time. It was audible the sigh of unexpected bliss he gave when I hit the time off button a block early for him and had the fare come an exactly even dollar amount. I don't remember what he gave me, but it surely was just a bit more than he usually gave. Like I said before, it doesn't actually matter how early I hit the time off button unless I stop the actual car, but it adds to a piece of mind for people.

These blasted machines!!!
Need I say how much I despise this whole system of meters and their evil partners in crime, the computers that allow credit payment while confusing passengers and bombarding us all with advertisements and unwanted programing? I was onboard with the whole thing, and still I love the idea of credit payment, it's just that it has been engineered so poorly, plus they deduct 5% of each payment from our pay, which includes payment for things that we don't even receive at the end of the day, like tolls and the M.T.A. tax. It is completely despicable, and what's worse is sometimes the computer fails so badly that it just shuts down. I had one rider on Monday who it died on in the middle of our trip to LaGuardia Airport!!! I asked her if her screen was showing anything, and she told me it wasn't. I then had to inform her that my screen up front had just turned off. I had to break it to her that she couldn't pay with a credit card. Luckily she took this news well. she even tipped me at the end which I didn't expect, and would not have been angry in the least if she hadn't. She tipped low, but I didn't care, any tip at all was greatly appreciated due to the lack of service I gave her. She told me that when she got in the screen was saying it was experiencing a fatal error.

Oi!!! you know, you folks at Verifone really should've thought to inform the drivers when this occurs. Why do we receive no warning?? This is just one poorly engineered flaw in a series of mistakes with the equipment. As I pulled into the taxi line at the airport, but I pull aside from a place in line, as I don't know how long it will take to fix the problem. I turn off the engine, pop the hood, pull the extra fuse out and wait for 5 minutes. Another driver walks up to help. He tells me it will be fine, and that I should put the fuse right back in, 5 minutes isn't necessary. I tell him of all the times I experienced a whole mixed bag of problems and how sometimes it seemed necessary to give it more time. He didn't want to get into too much of a debate with me, but asserted that this wasn't such a big deal, and I'd be fine if I put the fuse back in. Sure enough I put the fuse back in after waiting only a minute as he directed me back into the line before more cabs came in, and the system re-booted within another minute or 2. Ahhh I was relieved, although never all completely confident that it would work if someone were to pay credit.

Never until that day have I had the entire system just shut down mid ride as if the car wasn't even turned on. Although I have had the system refuse to operate in the back-seat. It wasn't the first time a passenger has informed me of the system error encountered message. It is these "encounters" that bring us closer to understanding the inner workings of the machines, you see, they run on a Microsoft windows based OS. They are destined for hiccups, and that is just with mild use, but these computers are in service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with hot and cold temperatures. I once had system that decided to expire at 8 in the morning on monday, the worst time for expiration. I waited around the garage for 2 hours until the mechanic realized that he couldn't find the booklet to program the new monitor he just installed to replace the expired screen. These systems have gone so badly that my garage is going to slowly switch all the computers in every taxicab with another brand, there are three different variants of T&LC approved combinations. I had the pleasure of working the newer system, and the meter was easier to read and use, but the credit card reader on the partition was completely broken. Fortunately the reader just below the monitor was working, and wow, did it ever work, the equipment was so much more efficient that the transactions went through faster, and I also believe were easier to understand for the passenger.

Lets end this on a good note
Well I've done it again, turn this blog negative, so lets drop that crap, and go for the good stuff again, the last fare was something to brag about. Tuesday was looking good for a change, but then slowed to a crawl at the end just before picking up to hustle at the end. And I was lining myself up for an income just above the average when I guy comes in and wants to go to South Street Seaport. He specifies it is Fulton Street, and he says just off the drive. So I quickly understand that he is okay with taking the highway there. I ask him though specifically if it is at Water street, or South Street, and he specifies it is near the pier but that he wants the land side, and not the water side, so I am almost certain he wants me to take the highway there. This was a fantastic fare, and not only that he adds 6 dollars to his fare on a credit card.

But the best of all, for the record:
I drive around the block and get a woman to the airport. The cab was due back at the garage just over the Queensboro Bridge in a mere hour, but I was game for the challenge. Dare I say I was feeling lucky. I asked if I could take the Triboro/RFK Bridge, and she said in British form that she was in quite a bind actually so whatever I deemed was faster. That was my okay to gun it as if she was family. I hit the FDR Drive rather than the Brooklyn Bridge, full aware that I would get myself stuck in traffic crossing the Kosciusko Bridge. As I proceeded up the drive I heard on all three traffic stations about traffic on the Brooklyn bound side of the Brooklyn Bridge, phew dodged that bullet, but also the news informed me of traffic just before the RFK Bridge, so I opted for the Midtown Tunnel instead. This was a little taxing. I waited at a total of 7 traffic lights to progress into a very slow merge at the tunnel. And it was only as we did all of this that the news mentioned a back up on the Long Island Expressway, which is exactly the highway which the tunnel outlets too. I figure I'm headed for doom. She's saying on the phone that it seems unlikely that she'll make the flight. And yet through all of this she holds her mood in constant positivity, not getting all that mad about her circumstance. She was probably just telling herself that she should've given more time, and in reality it just wasn't feasible to have expected getting to the airport on time.

To add to all of this I was surveying her the whole time about her flight's location, and trying to determine if she was headed for Terminal A, or Terminal D, soon enough all the pieces came together on the phone and she was headed for Terminal A, definitely to her advantage in traffic when she was pressed for time. I asked her when we got out of the tunnel this:

"So I'm guessing you basically have to be at the airport in like 10 minutes?"

"Yeah pretty much." She frowns.

after finding the toll booth, the cars in front of me made ambiguous maneuvers to the booths, I came out of the gate a rabid dog with his eyes on a prize. I carefully held my place as an expert motorcyclist tried to turn time backwards, and yet I followed him, keeping him within sight. Soon enough he was gone, but still I pulled up to 70 miles an hour speed like I was driving a train high on some sort of paraphernalia. we arrived at the airport within 7 minutes of my goal of 10 minutes. The total ride took a total 30 minutes, which is extremely special for 4pm. She said to me, "You were superb" and I felt as though she may have had her knuckles turn whiter then my own through the duration of the trip.

And to top this off I made it back to the garage in 15 minutes, yeah through all of Astoria to Long Island City in another blink of an eye or two. Fantastic, and it is these moments when I feel like superman.


Star said...

Thanks for a good glimpse into a complex working day, and ever so sorry to hear about the meter problems, which are hard for you and scary for those not used to U.S. taxis. It's amazing that they can't come up with a system that shows clearly: (1) flat pick-up rate, (2) mileage traveled costs, (3) night/holiday supplement, (4) tolls, (5) whatever else you, with your experience, think necessary, (6) total due. I personally would find this very reassuring. So glad the day ended well for you, bye for now, Star

NYC taxi photo said...

hmm, well thank you so much for your continued interest in my blog and everything.

i guess to make it as simple as possible i'd say giving an extra dollar is almost always okay.

at night more people tend to give two dollars extra.

- for rides 20 dollars and up it's more polite to give 10% tip, but not uncommon to get 15% and 20% but also, not uncommon to get no tip either, a very mixed bag there, as there are lots of tourists, and very low income people who take these rides.

-for rides 5 dollars or less, i pretty much expect a round up to the nearest dollar. although some riders give 5 even when the ride is 4 or 3, because really these rides are basically a 5 minute walk-consisting of starting the meter, driving forward for a few seconds and then stopping.

-anything up to 7 dollars or less could be a dollar extra, or just 50 cents, anything helps, and most likely if I'm doing 7 dollar fares, i'm making more money just by picking up people one after the other, and the tips really aren't so important for cheaper rides.