One of the things we tend to be most afraid of as consumers is being overcharged. Just the mere mention of it will incite anger into the meekest among us. The latest report of a number of cab drivers overcharging fares in New York City is enough to make anyone needing a cab to be cautious. Everyone knows how congested New York is and how the city relies on its taxis. When a patron enters a taxi they trust that the driver is charging them according to the rates are posted and universal among all taxis for that city. At its core, this case comes down to broken trust that has led to theft.
In New York City 59 cab drivers have been charged with stealing more than $235,000 from unsuspecting taxi riders. Instead of charging the rate for an “in town” fare, the cabbies were charging “out of town” rates. What makes this case surprising is that the thefts appear unorganized. Each of the cabbies made the conscious decision to overcharge their clients independently!
Unfortunately, New York is not the only example of taxi drivers over charging their customers. In Lexington, Kentucky the world equestrian Games started this week. Because of this, a drastic increase in the number of visitors to the city is resulting in the demand for taxis. With this opportunity, drivers have been tempted to gouge the unsuspecting tourist. Several complaints have been logged by the Mayor’s office about cab drivers over charging. In response, the mayor met with 3 companies to discuss the problem, and is addressing it proactively.
In both examples the accusation of overcharging was in the form of a higher rate. A straight rate over charge is not the only way cab drivers can steal from their customers. Another way cab drivers can make higher fares is to take longer routes. The cab driver may be charging the specified rate, but by travelling farther than necessary they can increase the amount the customer is paying for going from point A to point B.
As a consumer how can you protect yourself from being overcharged by paying a higher rate or taking longer routes? First, if you suspect that you have been overcharged, address it with the cab company. All drivers have identification; take down the cab number, and name of the driver. Phone the company and discuss your concern with them. To be proactive about the fare, call the taxi company to order a cab rather than just jumping into one. When ordering the cab, ask what the fares are for their fleet. If this is not an option, be upfront with the driver when you get in, find out what the rates are. As for the cabbie taking a longer route, if you are unfamiliar with the city a little research beforehand can save you in the cab. You may want to Mapquest your destinations, or use your own hand held GPS to track the route the cabbie is taking you.
With traditional consumer services such as lawn care, pest control or house keeping services we have the luxury of time. When utilizing these services, you can compare rates. When you are taking taxi cabs, this is not always an option. The best thing you can do to ensure you are not a victim of an unscrupulous cab driver is to be pro active as you enter the cab. The more prepared you are – knowing what the going rate for fares are, how they are calculated and knowing the quickest route will reduce your chances of becoming a victim of an unscrupulous cabbie.