Sunday, 27 January 2008

It takes all sorts...

Thanks to the LTDA paper we can now seemingly shame some of those customers who are one or two cans short of a six pack.

If you were going out shopping, you'd take some cash with you. You probably wouldn't go out, purchase something and then say, sorry I've got no cash, I just need to go to a cashpoint. Nor would you normally buy something worth £20 and then tell the salesperson that you've only got a tenner.

Somehow, it's OK to step into the business premises of a London Taxi driver without the means to pay for the service that you're in need of. "Can I got via a cashpoint I've got no money". In theory this is all well and good. In practice, not so good. The number of streets that now have red and yellow lines restricts the possibilities for us drivers to stop and wait, since we can only stop to pick up and set down in these areas. If we stop while you go to a cashpoint, there's a good chance of us being noticed by one of Big Brother's CCTV camera operaters, and we then have to pay a £50 penalty to provide a £10 cab ride.

There are two ways this could be changed. Either the local councils let us provide this service to the travelling public and let us stop for a short while on red routes and yellow lines so that we can earn a living... or the travelling public can be a little bit more prepared and actually have the money in the pocket or their purse to pay us when they decide to get in the cab in the first place.

Another little trick is to get to the end and tell the driver that they've only got so much in their pocket, or that the fare is normally a certain amount. I've recently had a couple of these.

One was a journey from a hotel in Greenwich. "How much to Stanstead Airport?" "It's going to be at least £100, possibly nearer £120, but it'll be whatever's on the meter, and it's cash only, no cards or cheques. " In he climbs and off we go. Nice easy route, straight through the pipe and off up the M11. This is at around 4:30pm and as we hit the Redbridge Roundabout he asks how long it's going to take since his check-in finishes at 5:15. OK, this'll be fun. It wasn't. he was Italian with only enough English to keep asking me "How long before we arrive" and "You go faster". It's a 2 tonne diesel engined vehicle shaped suspiciously like a London taxi mate, not a Ferrari Dino!

We arrive with about 10 minutes for him to wander round the airport before checking in late and no doubt telling the pilot he's got a meeting in Turin in 20 minutes. The meter's reading £108, so I tell that's the fare. He then tells me he only has £40. At this point I put my foot back on the brake so that the doors stay locked and he can't be my first bilker. "OK then, how are you going to pay?". Luckily, since he's going to Europe (well south of the river as well) he's got a few Euros, so a quick exchange rate calculation and we come to an agreement on the remainder of the fare. No tip, but the exchange rate was a little in my favour. Or at least I hope it will be the next time I go somewhere to spend them.

Earlier the same night I'd picked up a couple from The O2 Dome who wanted to go to the Old Orleans diner in Surrey Quays. Now this is a straightforward route, only really one way you can take it. I sensed there might be a query over the fare when they asked "How much will it be?" after we'd set off. I told them it would be around £15 to £18, but it's what's on the clock. She tells me she normally only pays £13. "OK, so we'll see what the clock says when we get there".

We get to the destination and the clock says £16.20. "We've only got £14" I'm told, with me wondering how they're going to buy food and drink if they've only come out with enough for a taxi fare. I can't be bothered with arguing so i take what they've got and send them on their way. Before they go I ask them how they only pay £13 thinking perhaps they normally do the journey on rate 1. "Well, I normally get the cab from Hither Green". Perhaps it's me who's the stupid one...

One final stupid customer. Saturday 26th January, Upper Thames Street, heading West at something past 11. Two lads flag me down, so I pull up just past them and wind down the passenger side front window so i can find out where they want to go. Just as I'm stopping, and putting on the hazard lights i can hear a slurred Australian accent saying something so I look over my left shoulder and see a face pressed up against the glass of the rear window.

"You'd better come to the next window mate, I drive the cab from the front!". Oh dear!

A real world "One for the Knowledge Boys".

Hairspray (heading South on Shaftesbury Avenue) to Highbury Quadrant.

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