After three years, my first taxi driver story

The well of inspiration must be running dry.  It’s a well-known journalistic truth that the last resort of the blogger or columnist bereft of ideas is to write about what taxi drivers say to them.  In a small but novel twist on this desperate tactic, this blog will in fact be about what I said to a taxi driver. 

In London at the moment, there really are zillions of cabs driving around with their lights on.  In parts of London, after dark, you could probably dispense with the street lights, they’re providing such a bright orange glow.  When I took a cab at Paddington the other day and drove back along the length of the waiting queue, the meter was showing about £5.50 before we reached the end of it.

To me, one major conclusion was obvious:  cabs have become too expensive for the current climate, and it’s time for some permanent or temporary price promotion.

There’s so much that cabs could do – all the same things, in fact, that are already being done by every other form of transport in the universe when faced with a market as difficult as today’s.  Drivers could offer us BOGOFs.  Or discounts if we travelled at off-peak times.  Or loyalty cards like Cafe Nero that give us one free ride for every ten paid for.  Or family discounts so that it actually costs less, rather than more, to travel with children.   Or an equivalent of Orange Wednesdays, so that, say, the after-8pm excess is waived for customers of a particular phone network.  Or… well, you get my point.

In fact, cab drivers do absolutely none of these things, and, based on a sample of the Cab Drivers At Paddington, have at least a dozen reasons why they couldn’t, shouldn’t and never will.  Some of these are fairly good reasons, like, for example, that their regulator, the Public Carriage Office, absolutely doesn’t allow such things (although the regulators of every other form of transport seem perfectly happy with promotional pricing, so you can’t help wondering what the PCO’s response would be if they were actually asked the question).   But the main and most strongly-held objection of the Cab Driver At Paddington was that business is already quite bad enough, thanks very much, without the insanity of giving away a proportion of the proceeds from the dwindling handful of passengers still willing to stick their arms up and flag him down. 

So, in the end, despite my best efforts, I’m afraid this is a piece about what my cab driver said to me, rather than the other way round:  on a sample of one at least, the very clear message on this occasion is that cab drivers don’t really get sales promotion.

1 thought on “After three years, my first taxi driver story

  1. I’ve thought about this before also. I think one of the problems is that for price promotions to work, taxi drivers would have to be competing with each other for individual fares. For various reasons (mostly related to efficiencies, I’d guess, in that the nearest taxi must take the fare), the regulator (for black taxis) or the cab dispatchers (for mini-cabs) won’t allow this to happen, and so price promotions cannot happen either. I suspect you’d find that higher end chauffeur firms don’t have these restrictions (at least not to the same extent), and so do offer price promotions, but I’ve never tested that theory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *