New Contributor James Dingsdale shares a familiar experience with a Las Vegas taxi driver…
Excitement is hardly the reaction I’d expect to experience when hearing about the roll-out of multinational ride-sharing companies to a city, but that is exactly what happened when Uber and Lyft finally arrived in Las Vegas. The thought of never again being forced to use a Las Vegas taxicab filled me with a warm and fuzzy feeling that is somewhat difficult to describe. That’s unusual. I usually don’t mind taxis. In my home city, I use them all the time and rarely have a problem. Not only at home but in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Bucharest and much more. Sure, I’ve had the occasional bad experience, but nothing so terrible that it would put me off using the service altogether. So, what makes Vegas different? How have we arrived at this point, where every major Vegas-related website, blog, and forum is lauding the arrival of ridesharing with such tangible delight?
Let’s just say that to anyone who has used Las Vegas taxis over the last decade with any degree of frequency; the answer is painfully obvious. Some taxi drivers in Las Vegas have, without a shadow of a doubt, been the architect of their own downfall.
In what turned out to be my last trip to pre-ridesharing Vegas, I arrived weary-eyed at McCarran following an eleven hour flight from London. I made my way to the taxi rank and hopped into the first car I saw. As someone who knows the city fairly well – at least well enough to drive around it myself – I knew the drill. As I had done many times before, I asked the driver to take me to my Strip hotel via Tropicana Avenue (i.e. not on the freeway). Now, for anyone unfamiliar with this particular scam, Vegas cabbies favor taking tourists from McCarran to the Strip via the I-15 freeway. This can sometimes save a couple of minutes in travel time, but this route will most certainly inflate your fare due to the sheer distance. Put simply, taking Tropicana Avenue is the most direct route.
Anyway, the cabbie wasn’t happy. He muttered something about me not knowing what I was talking about but reluctantly agreed to take Tropicana instead of the Freeway. The journey took maybe ten minutes (the traffic was light), but for some reason, my driver’s level of rage increased exponentially with each minute travelled. By the time we were about half way into the ride, he was shouting at me that he couldn’t understand why I’d sit on a flight for hours only to take the longer route to my hotel. I told him that Tropicana is the most direct route and that I knew the area. He then started berating me for being a “cheapskate” and told him that I’d better have a good tip for him for taking him so far out of his way.
Needless to say, by this point, I was getting fairly annoyed. I was paying this man for a service, and all I was getting in return was a load of abuse from a guy who was clearly motivated to rip tourists off – I think he was mostly annoyed that his scam hadn’t worked on me. I took a quick note of his name and licence number with the intention of contacting the taxicab authority (Las Vegas, unlike pretty much any other city I can think of, has an actual law enforcement agency just for taxi-related crimes – take from that what you will).
We finally arrived at the hotel, and I took my bag from the trunk. At this point, the driver was out of the vehicle and was still shouting at me. I handed him the fare, plus a ten percent tip (I know, I shouldn’t have tipped at all, but by this point, I just wanted to get away from the guy). He counts the money and then shouts a bunch of expletives at me, right in the middle of the hotel drop-off area, telling me that ten percent is not a tip in Las Vegas – I agree, but shouting at a customer is not service in Las Vegas either! I walked away.
Now, if that ride had been with a ridesharing service, I could simply have filed a complaint and received a partial, if not full, refund. More to the point, ridesharing drivers can’t really ‘long haul’ you (take a longer than necessary route) because everything is tracked on GPS and the map is available for the rider to view.
Now, I’m not saying that every Vegas taxi driver is like this. I’m sure they’re not. I’m sure the majority are decent, hard working individuals who would be appalled by the behaviour of my driver on that Airport ride. I’ve certainly been driven by decent taxi drivers in Vegas but, unfortunately at this point I’ve just had too many bad experiences with too many bad drivers that I’m no longer prepared to take the gamble. So, I for one welcome the arrival of the ridesharing companies in Vegas. I’m sad for anyone who sees a downturn in their own business as a result of this, but the ones to blame are the bad cabbies that turned the travelling public against your industry.
If for some reason you will be using taxis in Las Vegas rather than ridesharing, please take a note of the contact information for the Las Vegas Taxicab Authority (2090 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89104, United States, Phone: +1 702-486-6532). To file a complaint you will need to record the driver’s name, driver’s licence number (these should be displayed somewhere in the cab), registration plate of the vehicle, vehicle type (make and model) and taxi company. Good luck!
Editor’s Note: Check out this sweet infographic on costs between Lyft, Uber and Taxis.
[Images: Michael Movestro]