Sunday, August 25, 2019

Puget Sound Dispatch's MTI System Transition: Jury Deliberations Continue

PSD's new dispatch system has been with us for two weeks, time enough I think for a quick assessment on how it has been going.  But first, I would certainly be amiss in not mentioning the fervid months of preparation put in by Amin, Zem, Tom and others in getting the system up and running. While criticism comes easy, everyone must realize no transition is completely smooth, and compared to the "George System" changeover, all recent difficulties should be considered minor.  Above all, PSD remained functional with most "bells" served in timely fashion.  But some questions do require answers, especially as to why our Las Vegas call center was replaced by one in the Philippines, something done minus first consulting us, we the single owners paying PSD's bills.

One quick, and obvious answer is past  history, Yellow Cab's bad habit of making major decisions  without any or all serious consultation with those directly affected.  That must change, and while it appears there now exists more of a predisposition for openness and negotiation, the Manila (if that is where it is) call center has collectively shocked the entire Yellow single owner community, this after we were told "everything would now be local" but how a separation of 6,651 miles or 10,107 kilometers between Washington State and the Philippines is "local" distorts all acceptable definitions of "just down the hallway."  Maybe they neglected to consult a map, google mapping instead the now popular alternative.

Our biggest ongoing issues have been in order of:

1) an unexpected Android update shutting down most every one's computers (tablets).  Amin has spent many hours assisting the distressed drivers.

2) our credit card processing shut down for a few hours, and making it worse, at least for me, no one informing us when it was up and running again.  Manila didn't know, I can tell you that, and making it more confounding by simply not understanding what I was saying.  Perhaps PSD should offer all of us a "crash course" mastering the Filipino language.  It might prove to be helpful.  A cabbie told me yesterday that "more communication" is required.  Now that is what I call an understatement upon the subject. Ha Ha Ha!

3) the mystery that is Zone 160, never knowing upon accepting a Magnolia bell if it actually is in the 160 or not until the address is revealed.  Very irritating, especially when at the moment your are offered only two solutions, to do a "no show" or request to "cover your call" when it is miles away but only to find you have now been penalized 15 minutes for something not caused by you.  I have requested PSD to explain to us why they think they have legal authority to penalize for a service we are paying for?   I look forward to the explanation.

Yes, a few problems here and there but truly "small taxi potatoes" overall.  The new system installation was very efficient, along with all the classes and individual tutorials provided.  I like the new MTI system, I really do but would someone please promote and advertise our new dispatching app?  Customers truly like it.  Can we please tell the world that we are ready to punch Uber & Lyft in the nose?  Thank you!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Taxi Do's & Don't's Conclusion: Working Hotel Stands & Zones

While concluding my self-styled series of what the alert cabbie should do, I remain doubtful I have captured even half of what is required to successfully drive a cab.  Each week I experience something new and different, meaning I could live to be one thousand years old and still be surprised, pleasantly or not, by who is stepping into my cab.  Later I will relate to what happened on my one and only ride from Wednesday's Rolling Stones concert to a Pierce County address located outside of Bonny Lake, knowing I would have handled it far differently in 1989 than I did 30 years later upon a August 2019 evening.

In other words, I can provide the greatest suggestions possible but my written instruction never replacing the 200,000 plus road miles required to make anyone a truly prepared and professional cabbie.  Each month I put 5,000 plus miles upon my faithful 1092, each mile more fully inscribing the living taxi tutorial upon my fatigued brain, hopefully translating into even better performance.

And Wednesday might have proved I remain the good student, having my first three one-hundred dollar-plus fare days in my long 30 year taxi career, those three fares adding up to $380.60.  Some like to say "taxi is dead" but I see everyday that instead, we are very much alive and, day by progressive day, regaining our industry footing, constantly meeting passengers who say they will never again take Uber to where they need to go.  And in fact we often prove to be cheaper, Uber charging $70.00 from the Pier 91 Cruise Ship port to Sea-Tac International Airport while we'll get you there for $47.00, lessening the financial incentive to skip good, old taxis.

More Money Making Strategy: Working Hotel Cab Stands & Taxi Zones 

My first more or less two years, I worked independently, meaning not for a large association, something translating into only a handful of dispatched calls and prompting a daily search for the best place to get that elusive fare.  Often, like all the other independents, I would usually end up upon a hotel cab stand but which hotel to chose was the question of the moment.  Pick wrongly and you could end up sitting for hours, going, as it is said, nowhere fast.  This is when I discovered that taxi was a kind of science, with investigation required to understand the functional biology of finding a fare.  Like all investigative research, repetitive testing is needed to know just where and when to go.  As should be obvious, each day and even hour is changeable, making it essential you are aware of what you need to do and why you are doing it.

The cab stand "player" then knows which convention is in town, how many in attendance, and when it is leaving, and of course knowing which hotel is full or not.  To not know these facts can kill a day, which is why so many cabbies "die upon the stand," never truly understanding what hit them.  In short, as I have said elsewhere, the successful cabbie is ever alert, paying attention to what, business-wise, is occurring around him/her.  One method, which I never liked, and have found too painful, is to sleep upon the stand, waiting for the "early, morning airports."  While sometimes successful, it leaves you ragged and weary, making you feel like "death warmed over" which is an awful feeling, making the money you earned harder than it needed to be.

Picking a zone to book into is similar, knowing your city's particular demographics essential, pertaining as to why the local residents are taking cabs or not.  Just like the hotel stands, fares might come out at 5:00 AM but it might be completely dead twelve hours later.  So what I am saying is, know why something is occurring minus as little guesswork as possible.  I have known taxi buddies, longtime 20-30 year veterans who neither knew or cared about what I have just told you, and were, or are forever complaining about not making money.  When errors are pointed out, "go to hell" is their usual response but it's them instead assigned to taxi's nether regions, damnation and perdition their sorry fate, Uncle Screwtape their happy sponsor.

In conclusion, taxi is a damn hard business if you insist upon driving in proverbial circles day after day.  My advice then is don't, don't do it.  Instead, think, think, and think again about what you are doing.  And if one strategy fails, try another until you succeed because succeed you will, I can promise you that.  I do know, for better or for worst, all about it, and before I forget, which I did, I'll relate my short story of how knowing what you are doing makes all the financial difference between making $180.00 or driving back to Seattle angry as hell and out all that time and money.

Post-Rolling Stones

He staggered into the cab, flattening out upon the backseat, saying he was going a long way southeast of Seattle, over halfway to Mount Rainier.  In other words, this was going to be a very good fare.  When I was a rookie, I would have demanded money up front, and if it wasn't coming, he would have been out of the cab and on his way but the years have taught me how to gauge a passenger no matter how inebriated he or she might be.

The ride was great, the passenger totally out but of course knowing trouble awaited once I had to wake him out and discover just exactly where I was taking the disoriented fellow.  And problems I had, the guy screwing up his debit card pin number, and worse, vomiting up beer.

But it all turned out okay, avoiding all those cars whizzing by on State Highway 410, including a local cop who stopped to inquire "just what was going on?"  Once halfway sobered up, my passenger, the good guy he was, directed me to his house where the wife wrote a check for $180.00, $20.00 of that for necessary cleanup.

It was all cordial though their dog considered the canine wisdom of biting the intrusive cabbie standing in the kitchen.  But hell! who could blame the pooch, so rudely awakened in those early morning hours.  As for me, I remained cheerful yet tired, eating my "meal-of-the-day" at the Bonny Lake Denny's, the waitress great, a true professional serving me my T-bone steak and eggs.  I couldn't complain, everything fine upon an early taxi morning, good money made and certainly ready to go home.  What else can I say?  Nothing whatsoever is the answer.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Graded By The Better Business Bureau? & Debut Of PSD's New Dispatch System

For those following my cabbie do & don'ts series, expect more next week, including more about making money, and specifically, how to work hotel stands, something I now rarely do but once serving as my independent taxi "bread & butter" while refining and honing my skills during my first couple of years beneath the top-light.  Instead, I will concentrate upon the oddest of animals, a complaint received through Seattle's Better Business Bureau, something I couldn't have imagined, or anyone else at Yellow, for that matter, unique and different if not pleasant, another kind of naive bureaucracy reaching out in confused embrace.

Normally, all official complaints are filtered though the City of Seattle but for reasons unknown, the complainant chose the BBB to register her alleged injury but perhaps I do know why, her complaint unfounded, embellishing truth into unnecessary lying.  More than the actual incident, what spikes my curiosity is just as to why would anyone go to such lengths to not only fib but leave themselves open to a libel suit?  My taxi educated guess is a toxic combination of alcohol and domestic discord, the woman's husband alcohol-fueled aggression and irrationality prompting her response, finding herself  navigating alone a daily traumatic melodrama minus end or easy resolution; easier then to blame anyone other than the individual solely responsible for their combined misery.

Before I report what she said, I will tell you what really happened, something taxi mundane and usual, not noteworthy because it is a commonplace occurrence well known to anyone who has driven a cab: the out-of-control drunken bully who refuses to cooperate.  If we can't invite drunks to leave the taxi, what then are we supposed to do when belligerence raises its ugly face?

Belled into a house near the corner of 6th NW & NW 84th, clearly there was a drunken party occurring, the usual shenanigans in full view.  Watching the man approach, I recognized trouble, his unsteady gait and angry face telling me everything I didn't want to know.  After turning around, and hugging equally drunk friends, he and his wife entered the cab, telling me they are going to N 104th & Greenwood N., a more or less $6-7.00 dollar cab ride, approximately five minutes away.

Normally, unless people either are drunk or insane, that is where it ends but when you are a bully, it is yet another opportunity to bully, crossing over usual and accepted lines of civility.  Gruffly telling me to turn right (all I could do), I warned him he had to stop or the ride was over, this response taken directly from my own "taxi" textbook stating you never let drunk, angry or crazy behavior take over the cab, something never allowed in airplanes, buses or trains, recognized for the danger it is.  As is obvious, I don't have an undercover air marshal sitting next to me.  I only have me to respond.  When "all-hell-breaks-loose," which it sometimes does, five minutes is a long wait to be rescued from what might be fatal.  Instead, I quickly state what needs to occur, and if the passenger fails to agree, the ride is over.

In this instance, we barely moved 100 feet down the road before the man said he was getting out of the cab.  The wife, only wanting to get home, pleaded with him to just let me take them there but there was no arguing, he was gone and that was the end of it, other than calling me back to pick them up again.  Why would they do that?  Alcohol induced confusion, forgetting dispatch's number (206-622-6500) and calling the cabbie back instead, something I have experienced often in similar circumstances.

What the wife, in her BBB complaint, said occurred, is that I shouted at them "to get the f _ _ k out!, then refused to let them out of the cab, implying for a quick moment they were kidnapped, held against their will,  while also stating  it was very "scary."  Why I would have done this isn't truly explained, the wife making no mention of alcohol or menacing behavior.  The truth is, I wanted to take them home, especially the wife but her husband's unacceptable behavior prevented me doing the basic, driving the few blocks northeast to their home.

Getting back to the complaint, you might see the logic in my supposition as to why she made her complaint, perhaps assuaging the beast that is her husband.  Having dealt with unfounded complaints before, sometimes the motive appears to be simple revenge, trying to punish the "bad"cabbie.  Over the years I have been accused of theft, unwanted sexual advantages, driving drunk or stoned, beatings and the usual "taking them for a ride," meaning "dishonesty is the standard cabbie policy."  That I recently returned $500.00 left on the back seat to a regular rider or, as some readers might remember, the potential $5-10,000 left in the black travel bag I found and returned a few months back, won't stop the next unwarranted accusation coming my way, poisoning the day.

All this is the "taxi reality" I know too well and accept as "part & parcel" of doing business and driving cab.  The last HopeLink complaint I received was classic, the passenger  (he did not have to pay a dime) complaining I took the wrong way to his NE 65th & Ravenna NE apt building, saying I didn't take Montlake Blvd.  And why didn't I take the usual and prescribed route, Montlake transitioning into 25th NE, the entire length closed both ways for construction, meaning it was impossible to break through barriers blocking the road.  Despite the obvious, this complaint lingering for months before resolved.

I did request for BBB to contact me, instead of using PSD as an intermediary but only if they truly are interested in knowing what it means to deal with nonsensical, irrational behavior entering the intimate space that is a taxi.  There is no other public business environment like a cab.  I would like for them to understand.  A mere half hour conversation would suffice.  Let's talk!

MTI Dispatch System Now Installed at PSD

After months of preparation, yesterday, the "San Francisco George" system was switched off and MTI was switched on.  It seems user friendly.  More later about MTI and our now Manila-based call center.  How many shoes do they own?

Uber Quarterly Loss

5.2 billion is the figure.  Amazing one might say!


                          Uber! Uber!

                         Where did you go wrong?

                         Spending investor money like tap water,

                         are you preparing all your dumbbell investors

                         for one final, inevitable financial slaughter?

                         In the Wall Street morning after,

                         In the fiscal bleeding night,

                         will everyone be waving goodbye

                         as misbegotten Uber's good ship Misery

                         drifts out of sight!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Do's & Don't's Part 6---The Taxi ABCs Of Making Money

Other than making money, and I mean, in relative terms, making lots of money, there is no absolutely no reason to drive taxi, as least in the long term, given the overall misery associated with this crazed occupation called driving a cab.   Perhaps for a month or two, some might regard it as a great adventure, or maybe even as an astute observation post upon all human behavior, which taxi certainly is.  And I do agree, taxi making a great subject for someone writing their PHD thesis in Applied Behavioral Psychology, knowing full well you will meet every kind of human inhabiting our planet.

But the cabbie's bottom-line must be, and has to be, the monetarily maximizing of every hour you are out upon the streets, the modern urban landscape your 24 hour ATM.  Even in this Post-Uber/Lyft environment, there is good money to be made.  How much depends on the given city plus your hours put in, and of course, the individual cabbie's ability to navigate the taxi maze.

And this is what this particular posting is, and designed to do, serving as an assist in the making of the money you truly deserve.  As you know, you are working in the most dangerous workplace our planet knows, save an active battlefield of  drawn bayonets, whizzing bullets and exploding bombs.  Staying safe and making the money is our daily task and taxi motto, with a growl, with a smile but of course minus all predatory guile.  We may bite but we aren't infectious!

How to Multiply the Taxi Dollar

To be a successful, money making cabbie, you first must have the requisite skills translating into a consummate professionalism. The professional cabbie is a special animal---part bloodhound, part wolverine, part owl, part lamb, part Saint Bernard, part hawk, part greyhound, part camel, part mule---yes, truly a species apart from the norm. We are all these intertwined animals and species because it is required, a shopping list of skills necessary in winning and solving that particular situation or problem.  A good example is what happened Friday night when the Jamaican passenger going to Sea-Tac presented me with a $2000.00 cashier's check to pay his fare.  I am not joking.  How was I going to cash that? Yes, this actually happened, stranger than usual fiction.

Instead of getting angry,  I took him him to the Renton, WA Money Tree, where he successfully cashed his check.  Instead of an argument I got, including tip, $120.00 for my effort, both of us happy with the outcome.  In my rookie years, I am afraid I might have responded differently.  Clearly you must be ready for anything because anything will happen.  You can depend on it.

Successful Components Composing the Professional Cabbie Personality 

Everyday, be organized.  What I mean by this, is to have a plan of action, where you are going to start working, and more, having a very good idea of just where the money is and will be upon that given day.  A huge mistake many cabbies make is treating each day the same.  While each day shares similarities, each day is nuanced, with individual twists and turns.  So have a plan, but like the wise owl you must be, remain alert to the sounds emanating from the taxi forest.  In short, know what you are doing even when you don't.  What does that mean?  It means welcome to taxi as I know it.

Part of that daily organization is knowing what is occurring that particular day, be it a big name rock concert or, if in a major city, when is the football game ending, meaning the easy money might be there as opposed to elsewhere. But the reverse can also be true, working where everyone else isn't, knowing there will customers in other parts of town seeking your services.  This rule especially applies if you driving for a large taxi company like Seattle Yellow Cab offering 24/7 service throughout the city and county.  But I have found that some events, like a UW Husky football game, is guaranteed money due to up to 73,000 rabid fans pouring out of the stadium. Start just before halftime and begin counting the money.

But what do you do when nothing at all is happening, and you are feeling crazier than normal?  This is when you understand that the successful cabbie makes every attempt to remain "cool, calm and collected" in all and every situation confronting him/her regardless of what it may be.  Taxi can "eat you alive" so the best approach is to remain patient, knowing everything will get better, perhaps in the next minute or hour or next day.  Trying to "force the day" only leads to frustration and screaming at the sky, though therapeutic shouting can be effective as long as you are sitting alone and safely parked.  If you need to go "nuts" for a moment, do it and then shift into "Buddhist-mode," enjoying the bliss of being alive! upon a rainy day.

Another part of making money is knowing your city and all the roads therein, enabling the shortest routes possible Point A to B, thus maximizing your time in the cab.  Obvious, but the faster you get to the passenger in and to their destination translates into being vacant quicker for the next fare,  explaining why I always help load and unload the groceries, luggage etc.  Not only do I get exercise and bigger tips and simple appreciation, but by speeding up the process I am quicker on my way to where ever I might be going next.  The lazy cabbie is a big dummy cabbie. Get outta the cab and move your butt, being helpful to all concerned.

Maintaining good habits assists in making money.  Using your trip sheet to maintain a hourly running total is very helpful in keeping focused upon the bigger money-making picture.  It is part of remaining alert to what you are doing.  The cabbie standing around talking with their buddies is going to miss any bells coming through the system.  It has happened to me more than I like to admit.  Taxi is a stern mistress, kicking your ass when you aren't paying attention.  Again, I know all about it, me the perfectly imperfectly cabbie, too often not taking my own advice.  Yeah, me too the big dummy!

I could say more but tonight I am running out of time.  I hope this series helps someone somewhere understand more fully the under appreciated craft that is driving a cab.  Most don't know but we do, which is all that counts and matters, you and me and the millions of others driving cab upon our planet. Brothers and sisters, I salute you!  Be brave! Be smart! Make money!