Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Cab Rides

David and I called a cab to take us from a business meeting to the hotel. At the very instant the cab pulled up, the meeting got interesting. We kept the cabbie waiting for a few minutes while we wrapped up and apologized when we loaded our luggage into the cab. The cab driver didn't seem to mind, though he did say that the dispatcher was getting itchy.

The cab ride was short. It was only a couple of miles. We were recapping the meeting for most of the trip. When we finished, the cab driver engaged us in the usual type of cab conversation. Where are you from? Why are you here?

At the hotel, the cabbie discovered that his meter hadn't reset from his last fare. It's going to be about $10, he said, but he has to get a supervisor to give him the fare amount. He worked the radio while we waited in the back seat. The supervisor wasn't readily available. The cabbie was clearly embarrassed about the wait and offered several apologies, which we brushed off.

"We made you wait," I told him. "It's okay for you to make us wait." A few minutes later, David offered the same comment.

The supervisor finally returned. The fare was $10.30. David paid $20.

The next morning we needed a cab to go from the hotel to the office. There wasn't a hotel bellman working the cab stand and we wanted a cab with a credit card terminal, so we walked down the line of cabs to find one.

The first cab with a terminal was eight cabs back. We shortened the cabbie's wait by pulling him out of line. His only comment was to grumble that we weren't going a long way.

He said it again before we got out of the parking lot.

"Yeah, you said that already," barked David in a clear signal that his tip was at risk if he continued to gripe. He did.

He griped that individual cabbies couldn't buy a medallion and that the cab drivers didn't stick together like they did in other cities.

"So move," said David.

"This is my home," snarled the cabbie.

So far, we'd travelled about a block. The cabbie commented again that we weren't going very far. He noted that there was a hotel much closer to the address we were going to and we could walk across the street from that hotel. Not quite. And with our luggage, we would've called a cab from that hotel too.

The cabbie informed us that a medallion cost $300,000 in New York and stated his belief that two people driving a cab over two shifts could each make $50,000 per year and pay it off in three years. I could be wrong, but I think he overlooked living expenses and pay for the second driver. I didn't ask about it.

He asked where we were from. David told him Dallas. He said, "Figures. You can always tell the ones from Dallas."

"What does that mean?"

"People from Dallas and Houston. They're different. You can tell."

He mumbled the rest.

Just before we arrived at our destination, the cab driver must have realized he was shooting himself in the foot. He started talking about the beauty of the sunrise and took a picture of it.

When we arrived, the total on the meter was a little less than $10. David paid the exact amount.

You couldn't ask for a different experience. The first cab driver underperformed the technical aspects of the job. He messed up the meter, which required us to wait while a supervisor gave him the fare. The final fare, based on the supervisor's estimate, was higher than the metered fare the next morning. The first cabbie overcharged us. By contrast, he second cab driver was technically perfect and accurately priced.

Yet, the first cabbie clearly outperformed the second. When tips were included, he was voluntarily given double the fare. If given a choice between walking and enduring another ride with the second cabbie, I would seriously consider walking, luggage and all, which is how some homeowners feel about home service companies.

With cabs and contracting, the distinguishing feature of the service is not the technical differences or even price. It's the interpersonal differences.

Technical proficiency is not enough. Offering a better price is not enough. Good human relationship skills are also required. Simply being a nice guy can overcome a technical miscue and allow you to charge more.

No comments:

Post a Comment