Here are some dirty little secrets known only to taxi drivers, but suspected by many others.
- Drivers sometimes leave the âout of serviceâ sign on top of their cab on until they see a profitable fare to pick up.
- Taxi drivers will grease the palms of hotel doormen to direct them to passengers going to the airport or looking like big dumpsters.
- And, finally, taxi drivers know that picking and choosing customers is not only against the rules, but can also fine them or cause their hacking license to be suspended, but they do it anyway. They run into people they fear will get out of the taxi without paying.
As I explained in Tuesday’s column, I took a ride for several hours last week with a taxi driver I call Ibrahim, a Pakistani-American who offered to show me the ins and outs of ‘a business under siege by Uber and other ridesharing companies.
I have promised to keep his identity a secret so that we can speak frankly about some of the not-so-legal tricks employed.
With a strong accent, Ibrahim explained why some taxi drivers have learned the hard way to follow their instinct not to stop for certain fares that give him a funny feeling.
Ibrahim said he recently picked up two “very clean and innocent-looking girls” near the Yotel Times Square hotel on 10th Avenue in Manhattan. The women wanted to go to Brooklyn, so he agreed by taking the Hugh L. Carey tunnel, which has a toll that the women said they weren’t afraid to pay.
“I said [to myself], ‘I have a feeling. [But] I must try my luck. The price was good, âIbrahim told me.
The women began to act in the taxi, appearing to pick up on Ibrahim and ask him if they “could smoke weed”. As they approached their destination in the far reaches of Brooklyn, one of the women said she had to stop and buy some fish for her grandmother.
The other woman was waiting in the taxi. Then the second woman announced that her friend forgot her money. Then the second woman followed her.
Ibrahim soon realized that there was a back exit to the fish market and the two women were gone.
This ride cost Ibrahim $ 65, plus the $ 10 E-ZPass fare and gasoline. Worse yet, whenever this happens the taxi drivers are also unlikely to collect a ticket to the city, so it is also a cost.
Ibrahim says every taxi driver has stories like this. And also like the next one. He tells me about the time he took a passenger to West 233rd Street in the Bronx. While on the West Side Highway, the passenger reached the bulkhead between the front and rear seats and attempted to steal money Ibrahim was keeping in his console.
He pushed the passenger’s hand away. “I [was] wishing to stop on the highway and kick him out, âIbrahim said. But he did not do it. When he got to the passenger location, the guy encountered a woman with a stroller, and the two ran away.
Ibrahim says he called the cops. âA guy was there and he said, ‘Don’t worry, it happens all the time.’ So Ibrahim left without being paid, and he will never go back to this neighborhood.
Let me be clear. I do not condone the practice of drivers choosing passengers or refusing to go to certain places. But I thought people would like to know the other side of the story – why taxi drivers sometimes use their instincts and say no – and Ibrahim was willing to say it.
There is a severe punishment if a taxi driver is caught doing what Ibrahim described.
If a customer complains to the Taxi & Limousine Commission of an “unwarranted denial of service”, the fine for the first violation is $ 350 if the driver pleads guilty before a hearing. It climbs to $ 500 if he does not accept a plea and is found guilty.
The fine rises to $ 700 if the driver starts over within 24 months and agrees to plead guilty. If convicted at a TLC hearing, the fine is $ 1,000 and his taxi license can be suspended for 30 days.
Ibrahim’s 12 hour shift was almost over when he dropped me off. He was going to try to get another ticket if it was on the way home. But that would also require selecting one passenger and denying others, so he was worried.
It’s unclear if the TLC would approve this.