Friday, February 17, 2012

Technical Difficulties: A Day in the Life

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Photograph explanations:

  • Right at the height of rush hour, something went wrong. Perhaps the tv wouldn't shut off. I never know for sure if this translates into a problem with the meter, or with the computer. Most likely  there was a connection failure between the tv and the meter. Most of the time I found it wasn't actually a problem, and the next hiring of the meter syncs with the computer system. But even still, the tv could be stuck in the on position without an option to turn it off. sometimes the volume gets stuck on LOUD!! yeah loud, like that.
  • The problem in photo #1, was not a problem at all most likely, as photos 2 and 3 are at the end of my shift. Something might have gone wrong again, and I decided to set my meter up for a a flat fare of one penny. It takes a while for one the flat fare to engage on the meter, and also I have to jump in the back seat and act as my invisible passenger to accept the fare on the tv monitor. The purpose of this was to see if starting the meter would re-engage synchronicity between the computer and the meter, and rather than having to report 2.50 cents to the IRS, income i never made, I'd sacrifice a penny. Most likely I gave up on taking another ride, as it was about time to return the car anyway.   
If you like this rant on taxi tech problems, then read on:

Taxicabs have tended to be an oasis away from the busyness of modern society. And particularly in the technology department, taxis have stuck in their ways, keeping with the large Crown Victorias for example. Reasons for that were clear: If it ain't broke don't fix it.

In around 2010 our taxis got fitted with $5,000 dollars worth of equipment:

  1. Tracking taxis via GPS signal, 
  2. Accepting credit cards
  3. Blasting advertisements, news, and little blurbs from late night tv, 
into the back seat of the cab. Problem of course is it being new technology, so many things can go wrong, and these taxicabs are selected and configured and maintained to run in very good condition 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No other car does this job so well, and cars have been around for quite some time. The powers that run the taxi business have passed it through generations, and so the bloodline of taxi moguls might be as old as the automobile itself. I joke, I kid, I digress. But computers, and the internet, GPS technology? It's all very new stuff in relative terms, never mind the old habits die hard mentality of the taxi owners. Things were bound to go wrong. Several times within the year I lost significant dollars because while the car itself was in the best almost mint condition, the technology had hit a snag.

The server which connects all the computers in one fleet can go down for as much as a whole 12 hour shift! And the cab company without giving a discount would tell me to push on with no ability to accept credit cards, which is illegal. other times the computer would sign me out for the day, and I wouldn't be able to sign in. Or most commonly the meter would have a connection failure with the computer. I know you've experienced such a problem with your computer and printer at home, it's a little more frustrating then that. Imagine driving around in a fine specimen of a taxicab, and having to tell people that your meter doesn't work!!?? Which, again, is illegal. This was the beginning of the end for me, it was the introduction of a technology that was most certainly built into cabs to help somebody, but who? The cab owners take a cut of the percentage subtracted from my gross credit card transactions, and they also take a cut of the advertising money from the television sets. Don't forget that the Cab companies were already making money from the advertising on the rooftops as well.

Don't get me wrong, I actually like the idea of the technology. I even like the idea of a television back there, because I don't have the gift of gab. But what I want is a machine that has a 99.9% success rate with credit card transactions, I want the cut from my gross income to be a 1.8% deduction rather than 5%. I would be much more happy if that deduction was passed on to the customer, a credit card fee for the customer, NOT ME! After all, the credit card is more convenient for them, why shouldn't they be paying the surcharge? and last but not least, remove all advertising. People pay a premium for a taxi ride, they are trying to get away from the headaches of New York crowds and signs, so how about a tv monitor that doesn't break down? How about making the transaction the priority? nobody wants to have to deal with the tv monitor all the time.

Posting pix is easy, it's the descriptions that accompany the pictures that slow me down. It's been too long for a post, so I figured it's best to just publish this already, perhaps within a day, after I send out another post I'll explain these. Or is it more interesting without an explanation?

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