“I can’t believe he stiffed me”

When traveling in a cab, generally, people are respectful and appropriate. They’re seeking a service and ready to pay for the transportation they need. However, I have been ‘stiffed’ (not paid) a few times. This post addresses such a scenario.
To put today’s topic in context, let me explain my outlook to the job of driving a cab. I try to approach the task by following the Golden Rule – I treat others the way I would want to be treated. So, I meet people with the attitude that they sincerely want my service and are genuinely ready to pay for it. This perspective involves making an assumption, which is only occasionally proven wrong. Assumptions are certainly risky, so I try to use good common sense around my attitude to cab driving. First, I do what I can to minimize the likelihood that I am stiffed. For example, in my experience thus far I have noticed that I am most likely to get stiffed on the large fares occurring very late at night. So, for the later, larger fares, I sometimes request at least partial payment up front. Also, as I learned in the taxi training course, regarding the destination, the more specific information you have the better. Thus, I won’t try to take someone to an unknown destination. If the fare and I can’t at least agree upon going to the intersection of two streets, we’re not going. Otherwise I have found that the experience is frustrating for the fare, who usually feels disrespected and over-charged, and annoying for me, as I feel my time has been wasted by involving myself in a no-win situation.
I have broken down “stiffing” (intentional non-payment) into two types, as follows.
1) The runner: This person suddenly bolts from the cab without paying. I’ve never experienced this. I did have someone throw money, in excess of the metered fare, my direction and then bolt, while angrily shouting, “You took the longest way.” I had taken the most direct route, which was the point of contention, but, given he paid his fare, which I appreciated, the drama certainly made the day more memorable.
2) The liar: This person tries to avoid paying their fare with a lie. For example, upon arriving at the destination, the person tells me they forgot their money/credit card. They then apologize and offer a solution to the situation, such as, “I’ll get the money and come right back.” Regardless of how they say it, the key element involves exiting the cab without paying (and not returning). In a year of cab driving, this has happened about six times. One of the more memorable ‘liar’ scenario follows. Late one night, a man I’ll call ‘the bereaved’ hailed the cab near Belmont and Halsted streets. He gave me an address on the far west side of the city. He said he was in Chicago for a family funeral. He described his family as having suffered multiple losses over the past six months. As I said earlier, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I extended my condolences and, after discussing the estimated cost of the fare, drove him to his destination. Upon arriving at the requested address, the ‘bereaved’ said his mother would come out to pay me. He then exited the cab and walked down the gangway between two houses. After waiting five minutes, I began honking the horn. Given it was 2:30am, I hoped some responsible party, annoyed by the noise, would come outside (and pay me). No one seemed to notice my efforts. To my surprise, the Chicago police entered the block. I waved, they stopped to offer assistance, and I filled them in. The police said there was nothing they could do, since I didn’t see the fare go into a house, and they weren’t going to do a door-to-door search. The officers further said I was fortunate to have not been robbed. So I chalked that one up to the school of hard knocks.
Thankfully, I’ve never been robbed and the vast majority of the fares have paid appropriately (metered fare plus a tip). Occasionally people get impatient if the credit card reader is being tempermental or if I’m short of bills to offer them change. By the way, please don’t assume your driver can make change for a $100 bill on a $15 fare. To summarize, payment usually occurs without incident. And for that I thank my customers. (image courtesy http://www.fselectronics.net)