Every job has its ups and downs and, as most of us know, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Recently, though, I’ve heard reports of people taking advantage of others when the going gets tough: cab drivers.
About a month ago, two women spent a weekend in my home setting up equipment for an interview. The women stayed at a local in town, less than one mile away from my house. While the walk between the destinations would have been lovely — about 15-20 minutes — their equipment required a four-minute cab ride.
Several taxis line up every day in front of this hotel, no doubt waiting for a fare to either O’Hare Airport (approximately $35) or Midway (about $55); the fare from the hotel to my house runs approximately $5. Cabbies wait anywhere from one minute to several hours for a fare, depending on the season, the weather, the number of other taxis, etc. It’s a game of rider roulette with no guarantees on which fare lands in which cab.
Over the course of the weekend, my visitors made several trips back and forth from my house to the hotel. To my embarrassment, each time they took a ride from the hotel to my place, they said they were accosted by irate cabbies complaining they’d waited for hours for a disappointing $5 fare. One driver went so far as to “forget” to turn on the meter, intentionally putting one of the out-of-town visitors in the awkward position of not knowing how much to pay.
It got so bad that, after one long day of work, I offered to drive the ladies to the hotel myself, thus avoiding more harassment.
Were they hassled because they were women? Was it because they were clearly out-of-towners? Or were they just innocent victims caught in the crosshairs of a profession touched, like so many others, by a stalled economy?
After the women left, I shared this story with some friends in town.
“Those guys are ruthless!” one friend said, referring to the local cabbies. “They’re disgusted with you when you don’t have far to go. As if you’re wasting their time.”
Another friend mentioned that his mother, who’d been staying at the , took a cab to Walgreens every week to get her prescriptions filled. When he drove his mother to the local Walgreens to save her the cabfare, she announced, in the parking lot, “This isn’t the place the driver takes me.” At that point, my friend looked at his mother’s prescription bottle and realized the cabbie had been driving his mother to the furthest possible Walgreen’s within the city limits.
Was the elderly woman taken there because she didn’t know better? Or was she just an innocent victim once again caught in the crosshairs?
I used to take cabs when I worked in Chicago. Sometimes, if the ride was 10 city blocks or less, I’d face the wrath of an outraged cabbie. I know that feeling when the driver hits his brakes just a wee-bit violently at a crosswalk … just to make sure you know he’s not happy with you. I’ve also smelled the burn of rubber as a furious, leadfooted driver dropped me and my groceries two miles from my original destination.
While it’s obviously not my fault that my destination doesn’t add up to a fat fare in his pocket, it’s unprofessional and entirely unpleasant when a cab driver treats a rider so rudely.
Recently, I stopped by the Hilton where my out-of-town guests stayed. In my heart, I know the cab drivers were the problem, but I needed to vent to someone.
I walked past the line of idling cabs outside the main entrance and introduced myself to Hasane Ticherafi and Anderios Kifarkis at the valet stand. After explaining what happened to my out-of-town guests, as well as to some local elderly residents, I said, “What would you suggest in this situation? It’s not like anyone can control what the cabbies do once a customer’s in the car, but I’m sure you see this kind of behavior a lot, right?”
Kifarkis spoke up first. “In the city,” he said, referring to Chicago, “if someone complains about a driver, they’re suspended from driving for one day; they have to take a class, and then they can go back to driving.”
“Really?” I said?
Ticherafi nodded in agreement. “It’s not right,” he said, “especially when older people are taken advantage of.” He also added, “If I notice a driver refuse a passenger because the fare isn’t high enough for him, I’ll make sure not to offer his service to another customer in the future.”
Ticherafi and Kifarkis, neither of whom are Hilton employees but are subcontracted by another company, asked if I knew which cab company my visitors used. I did not, so they suggested I contact the City of Evanston’s 311 Information Center for tips on what to do. I’m certain they’d suggest directing complaints to the cab company itself, though I’d be curious if riders have any other recourse.
Ticherafi also suggested pointing this problem out to The North Shore Retirement Hotel. Having talked to residents and staff in the past, I know they’re aware of drivers preying upon senior citizens. Still, I recommend to anyone reading this (and not just seniors): Know the full address of and distance to your destination before getting into a cab.
Check back tomorrow to hear about Christine's great experience with a local cab driver.