Friday, February 21, 2020

Greetings, Ola From San Miguel De Allende, Capital Americana De La Cultura---Taxi's Erroneous Premise

Hello from sunny Mexico.  Today it was 80 % F., making for a pleasant day in San Miguel.  This time around though, it will be a fairly quick trip, as we fly back stateside next Thursday.  One more interesting development I can report were the "novel coronavirus (COVIG-19)" precautions taken at the Mexico City airport upon my arrival.  Usually, Mexican authorities take a lackadaisical approach to incoming visitors, but this time around, after clearing customs, all connecting passengers were met by a phalanx of mask-wearing Port employees checking upon flight origination, seeking to know if you were coming from or had recently visited China.  Beyond that, the experience was fairly ordinary, Mexico very interested in obtaining your tourist dollar.

Today my topic is something very familiar to me, being the taxi industry's general attitude that "no experience is required," both in driving a cab or being part of the overall staff supporting the drivers, be it dispatch or other associated professional activities.  Before Yellow's (Puget Sound Dispatch) most recent GM arrived, the past two having no experience whatsoever driving a cab, or were in any manner somehow previously connected to taxi, both being former military officers.

My personal experience driving a cab is what everyone shares: having never done it before no obstacle before "thrown to the lions," surviving or not totally up to you. While it is true that Farwest and Yellow once held nominal training; and the City and County even conducted a three-day program, none of it coming close to the kind of comprehensive teaching and training necessary to be immediately successful.  Of course, what we have now is anarchy and chaos posing as normal, with millions of clueless Uber and Lyft drivers operating nationwide as quasi-taxis.

This type of approach unfortunately also applies to those hired to assist the cabbies in their everyday duties, something nearing bedlam when combining two poorly trained groups into one very theoretical, cooperative collaboration, somehow expecting synchronicity when instead dysfunction is all you achieve.  That this short essay speaks to this is something I wish everyone would both recognize and address. Why remain crazy when you can have at least a modicum of sanity and function?  As I often say, that's a good question.

The Taxi Industry's Erroneous Premise

For those of us long connected to taxi, it is no surprise that it has always been "a sink or swim" kind of industry, tossing all and everyone into the  same taxi swimming pool, and if you find yourself drowning, the consistent response is "please enjoy yourself at the bottom of the pool."  If you fail or have a serious car accident, or "freak out" like so many Uber and Lyft drivers are now doing, assaulting their passengers, the response is "tough luck, we'll sorry to hear it," and good riddance to you too!  I assure you, this is the reality we are facing, be you driver or dispatcher, the industry caring little to none how you are personally affected, and even more egregious, how it affects the customer innocently requesting a ride.

How did we get here?  The simple, bottomline answer is the making of money, the industry's history rife with individuals only interested in milking as much money from the "taxi cow" as possible, all repercussions be damned.  Why concern yourself with quality of service when you can save a dime.  Puget Sound Dispatch's (Seattle Yellow Taxi) decision to move dispatch to the Philippines is a poster-child for this kind of attitude.

Have the new dispatchers ever driven a cab? No. Have they ever been to the United States, let alone Seattle?  No.  Do they know the geography and addressing system?  No.  The daily traffic patterns of a very congested city?  No. Are they both confused and irritated by the cabbies themselves?  Yes, they certainly are.  Again, what can you expect when they are clear across the Pacific Ocean, 7,600 miles away?  Functional performance ?  Hardly, is the answer.

In 2014, some average wages in Manila were 250 Philippine pesos a day.  The rough Peso to US Dollar equivalent was roughly 60 pesos to $1.37.  Hopefully salaries have risen but the average Philippine income appears to be about $12.000, while the medium (what everyone is really making) is about $7,600 yearly.  Now you know why Yellow has switched to the Philippine-based call-center.  Money!

Further complicating Yellow's equation is the hiring of Seattle/Tukwila based managerial staff only faintly acquainted with taxi, making them responsible for understanding something that takes years of comprehensive study, not the usual, as I said, "sink or swim method," which of course setting us all up for argument and distress.  The reason for this is what has governed the industry for over 100 years: money, the making of money minus any and all other considerations.  Does anyone care when we begin to shout instead of communicating civilly?  No, no one cares.

All this bringing me back to the beginning, repeating again that the taxi industry's misguided  premise, amateurism equaling professionalism, is both erroneous and grossly irresponsible, something indefensible and wrong.  But do I think it will change in Seattle or in Chicago or NYC?  No, I don't because it is all about the money and nothing else.  Doesn't money make the "world go 'round?" It certainly does, even in the Philippines.   


1 comment:

  1. Two rules of taxi industry management
    Rule #1 Drivers are responsible for all problems.
    Rule #2 If there is any doubt assigning blame to a situation refer to Rule #1