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TourismIamA former Toledo, Ohio cab driver who has driven to Chicago then NY on the same shift, seen the horrors of the night and seen Uber put almost 80 drivers out of business, AMA!

Mar 8th 2016 by bwcabbie • 8 Questions • 124 Points

Hey guys. I used to drive for Black and White in Toledo, Ohio from Summer 2012-Summer 2015. Toledo is a mid-sized city in Ohio with a metropolitan population hovering around 350,000 people. It is a heavy crime city with a lot of poverty and "unspeakable" areas.

I was 25 when I started (making me the youngest driver in the fleet since you have to be 25 to start) and was shocked at the system. I drove both nights and days, obviously night stories are filled with danger (I was kidnapped early in my career), big money out of town runs, sadness (taking a hooker home after a "hard days work") and a lot of drunk men and women who wanted everything from punching me for taking the wrong road to pulling me in the back of the taxi for a roll.

The big thing I want to expose people to is the abuse of the contract system. BW's entire business is built on contracts, about 90% medical contracts and about 80% of those medical contracts are through Lucas County Job and Family Services. Within 1 week of driving I figured out people were scamming this system to death. Placing fake medical runs to locations near the shopping malls just to go shopping, asking drivers to drop them off at their dealers house instead of take them home and laughing about it, or the medical facilities having people come in for totally unnecessary visits (one individual would get driven $60 each way to have his boot tightened in a 10 minute procedure and one time he said they didn't even tighten it, they just sent him back out) not to mention the growth of the methodone clinic downtown, again on Lucas County Welfare, with people (about 250 people per day) being driven up ($15-40 each way) 6-7 days a week every week.

I was recently driving around with a fellow driver at night and Uber has totally decimated the night business with 2 companies going out of business (Checker and Yellow) and dozens of operators and drivers for the surviving companies hanging up their boots.

Since I'm sure one of the first questions I'll be asked will be about my thoughts on Uber here it is up front.

What you don't see about Uber is that they are not properly insured and there are dozens (maybe hundreds) of cases where the drivers are being totally shafted by the company and left out to dry. They are not screened with background and drug checks (lots of incidents of Uber drivers stalking and harassing female passengers) and above all they are not making any money.

I was in Toledo/the US recently for the holidays (first time back in 16 months or so) and I took Uber and Lyft to save money (because it is cheaper) and the drivers are literally pulling $5 an hour on average.

The cab industry is regulated by the city (this means the charging price is locked at $2 jump, $2.30 per mile and I forget the exact time charge) so even if a BW (or MNM or any company) wanted to compete they wouldn't legally be allowed but you wouldn't want to because your not making any money.

The average ride in the city of Toledo (I can't speak for other cities) for Uber is about $12 (figured this out by 2 nice Uber drivers letting me see their ride histories out of anonymity) (and BTW this $12 ride with a Cab Company would be around $22-25), they keep 80% of that (so about $9-10). Gas will eat about 20% of that, now we're down to $7.50 or so, car maintenance has to be factored in at about 15%, down to $6, and taxes, even after expenses, will bring you down to $4.50 for a 45 minutes ride (factoring in driving to the individual and dropping them off).

I have 2 close friends who did this job (one did Uber, one did Lyft), and they realized within 2 weeks that there was no money to be had. It is a marketing brainwashing scheme to take advantage of the young, old and unemployed to scare up fast cash without them seeing the long term taxes and car maintenance costs that will eat whatever profit they may be getting.

The only thing making this up is the surge pricing but in Toledo (this is from first hand accounts, I'm the kind of guy that bugs everyone I meet for first hand experiences of unique situations) the surge pricing is few and far between (only on a Friday for 20 minutes when the bars let out) and the surge pricing is the one area where Uber is definitely ripping the consumer the fuck off.

The whole "cash only" thing stems from the fact that BW charges the cab owners 15-20% (was 15% but pretty sure it is now 20%) to cover the credit card fees. If your run is, say, $7 that is a pretty big hit. I don't condone demanding "cash only" but I think we can all understand why, given the option (which Uber drivers don't), they would do this.

For all intents and purposes Uber is the "big guy" pushing around the "little guy", waltzing into town, refusing to adhere to laws and regulations that DO protect consumers (with background checks, as stinky as your driver may be he has passed a multitude of criminal and health checks) and drivers (by guaranteeing a fair rate to charge) and having a massive stockpile of investor cash to cover credit card fees and create a marketing campaign that brainwashed poor college students and the retired to go out and destroy their car for $5 an hour.

I think Uber is a great system and I use it to save money but I do so well aware that it is a system fucking everyone under the sun the same way you know your phone was built with tiny Asian hands making pennies an hour.

It is currently 8:32 AM where I am but I should be able to stick around for about 3 hours.

Here is my taxi license and a shot from right now http://imgur.com/LW6pTTj http://imgur.com/4s7ZXQu

EDIT: I know you all love Uber because they provide clean cheap rides but please read my responses and don't just kneejerk with brainwashed answers.

EDIT 2: It is currently 9:52 PM EST, I think I can stay another hour before I hit the gym

EDIT: I'm gonna call this over since it has deteriorated into a taxi bashing/Uber sucking fest. Thanks to the people who wanted to know about what it was like being a cab driver.

Q:

I travel for work, and have tried both Uber and taxis in different parts of the country. I almost exclusively take Uber now, because I've had many can drivers try to not turn on the meter (dude, I live here, I know it's not a flat rate), try to take an outrageously long way, and straight up lie to me about fees.

I've only had one Uber driver that I straight up reported and argued with, and it was a guy who insisted he knew where he was going because he "drove taxis for 14 years" and yelled at me for 5 minutes straight until I told him just to let me out where we were.

A:

During New Years me and a friend went to Reset and my friend left his phone in the Uber driver's car. We had to login to his account and find the driver in his history. The Uber driver said he wouldn't get us until later but we said we'd give him $10 cash if he came back. When he arrived we asked him to take us up the road to Chuck's.

He was a rude asshole, said that he was about to throw the phone out the window before we called and had given himself a 5 Star rating on my friend's phone.

He called Uber the next day and they ignored him citing said 5 Star rating. He switched to Lyft from then on.

The longer someone does something as a "job" the more they will hate it. The rating system keeps the "rude" driver's out of the loop but all it really guarantees is that the driver's will have a forced short shelf life and you are always driving with a "wide eyed newbie" creating an artificial sense of only having "friendly" drivers.

Does that make sense? It is a system that works but trust me, there are plenty of rude (and dangerous) Uber driver's out there.


Q:

I acknowledged in my comment that there have been incidents with Uber drivers. What I'm really wondering is why taxi drivers are so consistently huge fucking assholes. I run into people all day long that are doing their jobs, and they're not wide eyed newbies. Sure there is a jerk here and there, that's life. Why is it almost every single time I'm in a cab that the driver is rude, condescending, driving like an asshole, etc.?

A:

Uber drivers don't have to deal with the bullshit cab drivers do. They don't have to deal with stiffed rides, $4 fares around the ghetto with drug addicts and the mentally ill, they aren't in jeopardy of being robbed. the simple fact you need a working credit card and smart phone to ride with Uber cuts the shared clientele in half and taxis driver's have to keep the bottom of the barrel.

Your "friendly drivers" come at the expense of keeping the bottom rung of society locked out.

I won't defend driver's I never met but I always bent over backwards to be a nice guy. I quit and moved on the second I realized if I did this any longer I'd snap. You either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain.


Q:

Ok, so maybe I can try this one more time. I'm not asking about a comparison to Uber. I hate Uber as a company, and I don't use them. Let's not talk about Uber, since I haven't asked any questions about Uber.

I'm asking why cab drivers in particular, are such giant assholes all the time, despite the fact that the vast majority of other service workers (who yes, have to work the night shift, work in places that are terrible areas, deal with all different segments of the public, are not on their first day of the job, etc.) basically act socially normal? What about driving cabs attracts these people?

A:

Cab driving attracts the laziest of society. You set your own hours, little physical labor involved if any, you have a lot of control over who you pick up and don't pick up and there are high rewards ($350-400 a day can be easily attainable) and horrible lows (staying out from 9 PM-7 AM for $50 in hand).

One time on NPR there was an animal rights activist who went undercover in a meat processing plant. He made the comment most of the workers are nice normal guys but they want to go home after a hard day. Imagine your job is yo move boxes and those boxes are what keep you from going home. Of course you'll grow to hate the boxes. In this case the boxes were chickens so they kick and abuse the chickens. It was a form of stress relief like the printer in Office Space.

The cab passengers are boxes. It is our job to transport these boxes. If these boxes give you shit or keep you from getting home on time you will take it out on the next box.

Add about 5-25 years and you have a crabby bastard.


Q:

I guess I just don't understand the mentality, but this does kind of answer my question.

A:

I'm going to preface this by saying Uber has done a masterful job in brainwashing the public.

Cab companies DID have competition, other cab companies were the competition. There weren't always these regulations on the books, they came about because the other companies were undercutting each other and screwing their own employees as well as consumers. You think surge pricing was invented by Uber? The company I worked for, Black and White, dates back to 1911 when it was horse and carriage. The modern taxi regulating started in the 60's.

Even now a good chunk of Uber drivers online (and you can find a lot of discussion forums for drivers) are calling for higher fares and restrictions on the number of drivers allowed at any given period.

Uber is simply the newest competition and they are operating illegally, at a detriment to their employees and have a money machine behind them for marketing and fighting legal battles. If Uber was a mom and pop operation out of Minnesota everyone would be up in arms at overcharging consumers when demand is highest and paying their employees less than minimum wage.

I USE UBER! But let's not fool ourselves, they are what they are, an opportunistic tech startup with a billion dollars of play money lowering the expectations of what a driving-based job should pay.

EDIT: To add to that whenever someone says Why don't the cab drivers quit and move to Uber!" Would you happily trade a 60 hour a week job that pays a liveable wage with legal regulations that cover your ass in the event of accidents to make half as much money and lose coverage?


Q:

No love for Pacos? Or driving east an hour to Cedar Point?

A:

I'm a vegetarian and have never eaten at Tony Pacos but I can't imagine it is much more than a hot dog place with pictures of MASH stars.

Cedar Point is as much a Toledo attraction as it is a Columbus or Cleveland attraction.


Q:

What was your favorite type of passenger?

A:

I'll start by saying DON'T TAP MY FUCKIN CAR WHEN YOU GET IN OR OUT! Don't call me "cabby" or "driver" either. I would put a sign in the back with my name and picture, call me Steve, asshole.

My favorite passengers were either the ones who didn't say a word, didn't mind my mildly loud classic rock/alt. rock radio station and didn't demean me with questions about "when are you gonna get a real job" OR young people who wanted to hear stories about hot chicks and appreciated I was young, out of work and just looking to make some money to pay the rent. You get judged a LOT as a cab driver but I think because I was so young people just wanted to see me get out of a dead end business and I appreciate that but don't rub it in.

If you get in my car immediately complaining about something in the cab I'm going to just ignore you, do my job and drop you off.

I would do 20-30 rides a day on average, be one of the good guys and keep me smiling for that 30th ride.


Q:

I understand your point of view and disapproval of services such as Uber and Lyft but let's face it they are here to stay. That said what do you think cab companies need to do in order to become competitive and gain back customer loyalty?

A:

Oh cab companies are completely dead in the water, no doubt about it.

Cab companies in Toledo are completely dependent on contracted rides, the majority of them medical rides. If I did 20 rides a day during day shift 18 of them were contracted to Lucas County Welfare. Cab companies operate as non-emergency medical transport and that business is expanding every single day.

I don't necessarily know why Uber can't crack those markets, I'm sure it is largely political, but part of it may be cabs are required to have fireproof blankets, first aid kits, driver's who ant to take those rides are CPR certified, trained to handle wheelchairs, etc.

But every day (EVERY day) 500 orders come out (250 going to and 250 coming from) the methadone clinic in downtown Toledo. That alone will keep them going until the cockroaches are kings.

I racked $400 a day in medical contract rides like it was nothing. We would take people to Cleveland Clinic for $300 to get their braces tightened for Christ sake, on the welfare dime, so as long as that business is there they will survive but the night time business has been cut by what seems like 75%.


Q:

I think your right about the political nature of those. I know here in Boston the cabs have priority for pickup at the airport for example. The only Uber drivers allowed to pickup there have to licensed livery drivers. Uber has also started charging a premium to get dropped off at the airport to make up for the toll road set up just outside the airport here, which makes cabs and uber cost relatively close to get to and from the airport.

I also heard that the cab services in Boston are working on using app dispatching instead of the required radio dispatch. But I'm not altogether familiar with the current requirements as I just recently moved to the city.

A:

Yeah, it is evolving. Like if I would drop off at the Detroit Airport it was FUCKIN ILLEGAL for me to pick up (I think the fine was $1,000) so the licensed Mich. drivers had control of the area. Which makes sense. But overall I think in another 5 years taxi companies as we know them will be dead and gone, replaced with dedicated medical transport and delivery systems.

I used to live in a town about 15 miles south of Toledo called Bowling Green and I would take my Toledo licensed vehicle down there on Saturday on my way home at 2:30 AM and illegally scoop up passengers hailing on the road.

Municipalities obviously want to protect their own businesses.