Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cab Cheats Part Two - Feeding

Supposedly, all cab drivers within a particular company are supposed to be working on an even playing field, with all having equal access to calls for service offered by the company. However, in some cases, in some companies, some drivers have a higher earning potential because of a scam known as "feeding."

Feeding is generally defined as a driver being given a call by a dispatcher (or other cab company employee) in a manner other than receiving it through normal methods. It may or not be the result of collusion between the driver and dispatcher, and may or may not result in the dispatcher being "paid off" by the benefiting driver. To understand how the feeding process works, it helps to understand how the "standard" dispatching system works.

At my old cab company, XYZ, and my new cab company, ABC, calls for service are dispatched by a computerized call-to-cab matching system. Each cab has a computer terminal in it, connected to the company's host computer through a radio-modem system. The cab terminal has a GPS antenna, to provide a real time position report to the host computer of where each cab is located. This information is used to determine which cab gets which of the calls that may be available.

Although XZY and ABC use the same basic equipment and software, there are some differences. XYZ uses GPS-based matching, where a call is matched to the closest cab; ABC uses Zone-based matching, where a call is matched to the first cab "up" in the zone the call originates in. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. I've worked under both systems, and don't really have a preference of one over the other.

In theory, after calls are entered into the computer system by customer service representatives, the host computer handles the actual dispatching of the calls. However, there is a human operator to oversee the system, and to communicate with the drivers regarding the status of the system.

For example, a call may come up in a zone that does not have any cabs in it, or in any adjacent zones. If the dispatcher left the system to it's own devices, the call might never get covered, because a cab might never match to it, or bid on it. At this point the dispatcher might "advertise" the call, to induce a cabbie to cover it.

For example, the dispatcher might send a fleet-wide message saying something like, "The call in zone 233 has wings!" meaning the party wants to go to the airport. This message should generate interest among the drivers, leading one or more of them to bid on the call, thereby maintaining an adequate level of customer service.

However, rather than sending a fleet-wide message, the dispatcher might send the same message to a select driver, allowing only that driver to have the extra information about the call. Moving one step further along, the dispatcher might just override the matching system, and send the call directly to a particular cab. This is the genesis of "feeding."

Even at this stage, the feeding might be relatively benign. The dispatcher may just be sending the message or call to the closest cab, not a co-conspirator; in a future similar circumstance, another cab may be closer, and it's driver will be favored. The motivation of the dispatcher in this type of case is not to favor a particular driver, or group of drivers, but to favor the customer, and get the call covered. Or, maybe, just get the call covered so he can go smoke a cigarette.

Even though a particular driver isn't being favored, this activity is usually frowned on by everyone involved, simply because it looks subversive. It's generally best to advertise calls, and let the cabbies, through the bidding process, cover the calls based on their own decisions.

The type of feeding that I described above was going on at XYZ company. I know it was happening, because over the period of time that I was there, I was sent calls directly from the dispatcher. I could tell this, because calls dispatched in this fashion were labeled as "Personal" on my cab terminal. The odd thing is, in many of these cases, I would have matched to the calls, if the dispatcher had allowed the computer to do it's job. And here's what confused me the most: while some of the calls were bigger than average, I was never approached by a dispatcher to pay a "commission" for the benefit of being sent the calls. What was the motivation here? I'll never know.

As far as I know, this type of feeding is not allowed at ABC company. Apparently, management thinks it best to avoid the appearance of evil, and just let the matching system do the job. If particular calls aren't getting covered, the dispatchers advertise them, and allow the drivers to decide if they want to go after any particular call. This may tend to degrade customer service in some outlying geographic areas, but does maintain the integrity of the entire system.

Meanwhile, back at XYZ, the feeding continues. Certain dispatchers have made it know that they can be "bought." I never had a dispatcher approach me to pay him a "commission" to get better calls, but I know it goes on. The driver manager himself confirmed this to me. He told me that the "fee" varied from dispatcher to dispatcher involved, from a few dollars a week, to a fixed percentage, like 10% of the value of all "fed" calls. According to this manager, whenever he caught a driver or dispatcher involved in feeding, he would fire them. It seems to me he couldn't fire them quick enough, because the feeding never stopped.

And it isn't just dispatchers who can feed calls. Customer service representatives who actually talk to the customers, and enter call data into the system, can also get into the act. One way a CSR can do this is to take the order from the customer, and appear to enter into the system. However, rather than submitting the data to the system, the CSR can send a cellular text message to a particular cabbie, detailing the call, and then delete the call from the system.

As a matter of fact, in this circumstance, the favored cabbie doesn't even have to work for XYZ. Because XYZ has so many "brands," most customers wouldn't even think to question the name on the side of the cab. They're just satisfied to get their cab. The company might never notice what's going on, because as long as the "call" is covered, the customer is never going to complain about what happened.

But, every once in a while, something does go wrong, and the customer calls back to ask, "Where's my cab?" But in these circumstances, it's just assumed that there was a "glitch" in the system. The customer is then told that no record of their call can be found, but that a cab would be sent to them as quickly as possible.

I know that this type of feeding was going on, because a former employee of the XYZ company, who was a CSR, saw it happen, and gave the details to another cabbie friend of mine. This person told my friend that she could not believe the number of times people would call for a cab to take them to Tucson, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles. Calls like this could be worth literally hundreds of dollars to the driver. She said that in almost all the of the cases that she witnessed, the call never got into the computer system. Someone, somewhere in the company, would "hijack" the calls, and send them to their favorite cabbies.

Not really fair is it? All drivers paying the same amount for the use of a cab, but some drivers, being singled out to get better calls, and make more money with less effort.

Well, I never thought that life was fair. Until I found out about the feeding, i just never realized how unfair it could be in the cab world. Guess that makes me kind of a naive sonuvabitch.

But an honest sonuvabitch.

The next installment of "Cab Cheats" will detail how "Ghosting" works.

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Monday, December 3, 2007

Cab Cheats Part One - Background

Well, it's been a few days coming, but I finally feel prepared to explain in some detail the reason I left my old cab company ("XYZ"), and decided to go to work for another company ("ABC").

Today, I'll provide some essential background, and name the offending scams my old cab company allowed to happen. Future posts will detail how the offending scams worked.

I spend the weekend with my friend, Johnny Wraith, who is a lawyer, and a very good one at that, my accusations that he is an alcoholic notwithstanding. We discussed the issues, and how they should be explained, for the purposes of maximum revelation, and minimum likelihood of being sued.

Having previously worked in the Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice field from 1981 through 1997, I was aware that the truth is an absolute defense in any lawsuit accusing a person of slandering or libeling another person, and was prepared to name names, and let the chips fall where they may.

Johnny reminded me that while the truth is an absolute defense against a lawsuit being successful, it does not protect one from being sued in the first place. The cost of defending the suit could be staggering, even if judgement was not granted to the plaintiff (say a cab company) against the defendant (say, Yours Truly, The Cab Guy). He further went on to point out that usually this was of concern only to people with substantial assets, or any assets at all.

Well, since I don't have substantial assets, my estate consisting of some personal property (furniture, computer, a television and stereo system, assorted books, CDs, and DVDs and the like), the few dollars I've managed to save, and my car, I felt relatively safe from retribution via a lawsuit.

However, the hassles of being sued are not negligible. Also, Johnny went on to point out that although I was relatively "poor" at this point in my life, I was not always so, and probably would not be so again in the future. For all of these reasons, and because it really doesn't add to my readers' understanding of what goes on in the taxi business, I have decided to refrain from naming names.

The miscreants who might happen to read my blog will recognize who they are, but will be unable to do anything about it. Anyone involved in the Phoenix Metro Area taxi industry will also know who they are, and may or not take pleasure in the knowledge that what they suspected was going on all along really is in fact happening. They may also take steps to protect themselves from being cheated.

Some additional background is necessary. I have worked in the taxi industry since approximately December 1, 1998, through the present. (NOT 1997, as I have stated elsewhere in this blog; I apologize for that error). I started with "XYZ" cab company, and stayed with them through late May of 2001. I became fed up with some of the practices at XYZ, and so moved on to "ABC" cab company.

I stayed on with ABC company for somewhat more than six years. Over time, some management and policy changes led to my gradual dissatisfaction with ABC. I heard that things had improved at XYZ, so after considering the situation for several months, I went back to XYZ.

In some ways, I was glad of the change, and in others, I wasn't so happy. Last week my nose was thrust, like that of a puppy into his own mess, into the truth of what was going on at XYZ. I quit them, after being threatened with termination, and returned to ABC. S why did I go back to ABC? Well, I was only dissatisfied with their policies; I wasn't being cheated by them.

Do you follow me so far? I know it can seem kind of convoluted, but if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I suffer from verbal diarrhea, and a love of excess detail.

So what were the offending scams?

Those of you in the cab community have already guessed that they probably relate to "feeding," in one form or another. Anyone who had this as their guess is correct. Feeding was going on at XYZ Cab Company. What surprised me was how many variations on this basic theme there were, running from a fairly passive form to a very active form of corruption.

For those of you not in the know, "feeding" occurs when a call is given to a driver in a manner that circumvents the normal dispatch system. It may or may not result in any overall benefit to the receiving driver, or the dispatcher (or any other company employee involved).

In it's most benign form, a driver may be "fed" a call to which he would have ordinarily been "matched." However, due to system operating parameters, the matching might not have occurred for several minutes. The motivation for the dispatcher to "feed" the call may be to get it off of "pending" status into "assigned" status, resulting in quicker service to the customer. Or the dispatcher may have just wanted to take a cigarette break, and needed to "clear his board" before doing so.

So, if there was no net benefit to the driver, or the dispatcher, and the customer got his cab quicker, what's the problem? I guess there wouldn't be a problem, if that's a far as it went. But corruption, even if relatively minor, is like rust: if unchecked, it eventually spreads, creating all sorts of havoc and destruction.

In subsequent posts, I'll detail some other more egregious examples of feeding, which provide tangible benefits to the driver and dispatcher (or other company employee) involved, to the detriment of other drivers, and even the customers that the cab company serves.

I can't resist giving you a little teaser about the offense for which I was almost terminated. It's called "ghosting" (also "cloaking", "hooding", or "stealthing"). Frankly, after learning how ghosting works, I came to see it as an ingenious method by which the "ghost cabbie" feeds himself, bypassing the need to directly involve a dispatcher, or anyone else!

Stay tuned for more details. I'm pissed, and want the world to know it!

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Post Updates: Steffan and Danielle

I wanted to provide some updated information on a few recent posts. And futher delay the time until I fully explain what actually happened to cause me to leave my old cab company.

On November 5, 2007, I wrote a story I called "Steffan's Walk," about a young man, Steffan, who is walking across the country, California to Georgia, to raise money in the fight against cancer. Before Steffan and I parted ways, he gave me the name of a website that would have been going up soon, "SteffansWalk.Org", to promote his efforts. So far, the site is not active, nor have I heard from Steffan on my email.

Steffan, if you're out there, Godspeed to you, friend. Be careful. I do think about you every day. If you ever read this, get hold of me, and let me know how you're doing.

On November 10, I wrote a post called Date a Hot Phoenix Stripper. I followed it up the next day with the post, Danielle's Dilemma. These posts detailed my efforts to help Danielle, a stripper, meet some nice guys, and choose one or more to date. So far, there have been zero responses. I guess I can't blame anyone if they thought it was a scam. Hell, here I am reading the posts two weeks later, and if I didn't know I had written them, I'd think they were part of a scam.

So anyway, I'll have to report to Danielle that the effort failed. If anyone still wants to enter the "contest" described in the November 10 post, be my guest. I'll just pass along the emails to Danielle.

Danielle, I'm sorry I let you down. If there are any nice guys out there, The Cab Guy couldn't find them!

However, a cabbie that I know, Drake Gustave, wants to meet you. If you're interested, leave me a message on my email, and I'll pass it along to Drake. You're on your own after that. I wouldn't classify him as a 'Nice Guy.' Oh, he's not abusive or anything, anymore, but he's a cabie, for pity's sake, and you know how those guys are! His idea of Haute Cuisine is the drive-thru at Taco Bell. And he doesn't order individual items. He just gets it by the pound.

Also, please be advised: he's a heavy drinker. And not the good stuff either. But he is a cabdriver, so he's got that going for him. As long as him company doesn't find out about his long history of DUI.

What the hell, take a chance girl! I say give a cabbie some love! You've got a great window of opportunity right now. His wife is in Romania, visiting with family. Play your cards right, and she'll come home to a divorce, and you'll come home to... a new home. Of course, it's way out in Apache Junction, but I'm sure you'll be able to find work. Not the kind that has any dignity, but work, nonetheless.

Just don't tell me all the sordid details. I'd feel honor bound to pass them along to my readers.

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Livin' On Tucson Time!

I'm still down in Tucson with my friend Johnny Wraith, but I thought I give you all an update, as well as a reader submission from a Dublin cabbie named Roy.

Well, Johnny and I haven't been doing much beyond drinking, eating, playing chess, and some gambling.

It turns out that Johnny is a great cook. When I first met him, all he could do was run a microwave oven, and make espresso. Prior to my arrival Friday, he put half a turkey breast, some cream of mushroom soup, peppers and other vegetables in a crockpot. It was a very delicious meal, accompanied by flaky bisquits, and some Franzia wine. Okay, sure, Franzia is a boxed wine, but what the hell, drink enough of it, and you won't care at all. I know I didn't.

As to the chess, Johnny used to regularly kick my ass. I've gotten better. He's gotten drunker. I beat him five games to one, and we drew our seventh game. Go Franzia.

As to the gambling? I don't want to talk about it. Although the casino did buy us all our cigarettes!

And now here's Roy's story. I've left his open comments to me, and his style and formatting intact. Please visit him at his website when you get the chance.



I've just found your site , great stuff! I've added it to the blogroll and
would appreciate if you could do the same.


If you use this please credit to

Naas (35km) and Back! Good......not!

I wasn't planning on working tonight, my wife just got back from her trip to
Chicago and I'd planned to stay in and have a chat, maybe watch a movie, Jet
lag intervened and by 9:30 she was hanging on by a thread, at 10:15 she was
in bed asleep, by 10:45 I had resolved to head out to work, another night
looking at the TV/PC would have done me in.

First job after a week off, was from the rank in St Stepens Green, She was
being held up by him, an inane grin on her face, as we say in Dublin "she
was locked", "out of her bin" , "twisted". I must have been soft after the
week off, because normally I'd have said she needed a walk to sober up first
but I allowed them in..."Naas" he said, Oh shit, I thought, she'll never
last....."Grand" I said, "Naas it is".

She fell asleep instantly and he talked about nothing in particular, there
were a few funny smells emanating, once I thought she'd shat herself, but it
didn't last long enough, thank god!

We arrived in Naas.... €51 paid, checked over her ass and the back seat, no
dampness, so all clear there as well!

While taking the photo above, a lad appeared out of no-where, gave me a
shock! Said he'd had a row with his girlfriend, had gotten out of the car
for a pee and she'd driven off, his wallet and phone were in the car and
would I please bring him into Dublin town. Now I really must be going soft,
because I knew this was a chancer but thought; ah I'm going back anyway, I
ll give the eeegit a lift.

He asked did I believe him? And I said "no not a word, but I'm feeling
generous", he admitted to lying and said he'd just left a party, said he'd
leave a glowing report on his Bebo page, I said "you won't, you'll leave a
glowing report on my Blog, that's the fare!"

I gave him the address on the back of a receipt, I bet he doesn't do it!


I liked Roy's story for at least two reasons: the lady didn't foul his cab, and he took a chance on the 'eeegit'. He's a better man that I am. Don't get me wrong... I'd have given the fellow a ride. It's just that I would have made him ride on the hood. Tied down like a dear I'd just bagged on a hunting trip. Don't worry... I wouldn't have gutted him. But I probably would have rubbed him down with salt.

I'm sorry. Ignore everything after 'He's a better man than I am.' It's the Franzia talking. It overstimulates my imagination. And debilitates my internal censor. But it's a cheap drunk.

Just like me.

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy