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Fighting Back Against Sloppy Cab Service

Local cab drivers take notice: Don't try to cheat us.

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.

Related: .

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.

victoria smith February 27, 2012 at 02:52 PM
This is interesting...Saturday night my son and I took the L to the Century theater. After the movie and dinner we walked to the L and got off at Main street. We were going to walk the 7 blocks to our house, but my son was complaining that he ate to much and his stomach was hurting so we hopped into a cab. When he pulled in front of the house he just looked at us. "How much is the fair?" I asked my son because I was sitting where I could not see the meter. "I don't know, it doesn't say." I asked the cab driver how much and he said"How much do you want to pay?" I looked at my son and said "What?" The cab driver repeated his question again. My son said give him 7.00 dollars. So he got 5 for the fair and a 2 dollar tip? What the .....My son says this is pretty normal at the main street station after 8pm. I think that is terrible. What is going on? Anyone else have the same senerio?
Christine Wolf February 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Victoria, that's exactly the scenario I hear happening again and again. I just heard from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz that the City does regulate taxis; I'm waiting to hear back from Steve O'Sullivan from Evanston's Administrative Services Department to reach out with more details on their regulation activities. And yes, Bobkiewicz says, the City encourages folks to report problems to 311.
lucas February 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Does the City regulation of Cabs include income from a cab? If its not on Meter perhaps he avoids what he pays owner of cab copmpany and also Income Tax
Dafna February 27, 2012 at 04:25 PM
This past Saturday night, my sister and I had to get to Lincoln Park in a hurry. There is a cab stand in front of the "L" on Main, which is close to us. We picked up a cab there, about a block into the ride, he revealed that he did not know his way around, and that we should direct him. We did not have directions with us, but knew an approximate route. Besides the fact that he was a terrible driver (kept stopping for no reason, drove extremely slow, and if we spoke to him, he would stop driving), he had to put our route into a GPS. Were on LSD, and I ask him if he is going to get off at the next exit (knowing that he should). He tells me, "no," and says there are another 4 miles on LSD according to his GPS (he stops in the middle of LSD when telling me this). He then got off at the next exit. When we finally arrived at our destinantion, which should not have cost more than $20, he tells us its $27, and refuses to give us change from our $30. We have often had experiences like these when getting cabs in Evanston. Yet, when we pick up a cab in the city to Evanston, it never costs as much and is a much more efficient ride (they know where they're going)! I feel as if when I get in a cab in Evanston, I am held hostage until my destination.
Candace Hill February 27, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Those of us who use cabs a lot are very conscious of where we get our cabs and from which companies. It used to be that you could call the locally owned Evanston cabs, Best and Better and those drivers would happily take you anywhere around Evanston you wanted to go. Some of the drivers were so accommodating that they get called and scheduled by name all day long. Sadly, these companies don't have many drivers left these days and you don't see them around. One of the challenges in working with cabs is that the rotating population of drivers changes, and they have different "personalities". These are groups who are often new immigrants to Chicago, they are still learning the city, and they may not have learned local manners. It is not polite to mention ethnicity, but when the Pakistani wave came through the drivers were unfailingly polite and courteous. The most recent ethnic group has been known to fight on the street over fares and to be rude, especially to women. My last driver, scheduled online from a local company, was angry with me because our house is difficult to find (despite my very detailed directions) and didn't know the way to Union Station in Chicago. The owner of the company received a very detailed email from me about my driver and his confusion. Every cab has a number, and a contact phone number. If you call, if you complain, that driver will hear about it. It's important that you do so.
Evanston Eastsider February 27, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I have seen all sorts of poor behavior amongst the cabbies those who queue up at the Hotel Orrington. I've seen drivers physically fight and holler at one another, brush their teeth on the sidewalk, dump liquids from bottles (I don't want to know what they're dumping), and litter from their cars. Also, it seems that there is designated space for 2-3 cabs to line up along Orrington at the intersection with Church. However there are often several more cabs waiting, sometimes blocking the crosswalks and impeding eastbound Chuch Street traffic. I'd love to see the EPD ticket them for these infractions.
John Brinkmann February 28, 2012 at 05:13 AM
well golly gee---I thought this is what Evanstonians wanted---Cultural Diversity...nothing quite like a cab ride to experience different customs of the world
Emily Stone (Editor) February 28, 2012 at 01:39 PM
If you need a more positive cab story, here's Christine's column from today about a great experience she had getting to O'Hare recently. http://patch.com/A-rgNY
Emily Stone (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM
The city responded to this column by providing information about what to do if you have a bad cab experience. They also explained why drivers sometimes leave their meters off. http://patch.com/A-rmcd

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