Tag Archives: getting stiffed

Fool Me Once

fool me once, shame on you. fool me twice, shame on me.  

ancient proverb

I got no gut feeling of anything being awry when I picked up a motherly looking woman who appeared to be in her sixties. She wanted to go to Walmart, not just any Walmart but a very specific one. She wanted to go to the Walmart in Roebuck, which is a $25 cab ride from where I picked her up in Southside. When we arrived she said “I want you to wait on me. I’ll just be a few minutes. Please don’t leave me.”

walmart

I found a parking place and began to wait. I surfed the net and perused facebook, twitter and instagram on my phone. It seemed like she had been gone a while. I looked at the time and 20 minutes had passed. I thought that the store may be busy and maybe she was in line. The meter kept climbing. The waiting continued until 30 minutes had passed. I had an appointment to pick up a regular customer back in Southside. I was beginning to think I’d never get back in time. After 40 minutes passed I decided to call dispatch to see if they could get in touch with her. She never answered her phone. After I had waited for 45 minutes it was clear that I had been duped. By this time the meter was so high that she probably wouldn’t be able to pay it if she wanted to. I believe she had devised a plan so that she could get by without paying cab fare both to and from the destination. I figured she was watching for me to leave, at which time she would call another cab and pay only $25 to get back instead of the $75-80 that she would have owed me. I finally left and called it a loss. It looked like her plan had worked.

A few days later I told the story to some fellow drivers. One guy told me of a game that some riders play where they will go to Walmart or some other big box store and go in one door and come out the other, where someone will be waiting to pick them up. I figured this is what she had done.

Fast forward two weeks.

It was a slow morning when I accepted the call in the 120 zone. The name on the screen was “Gwendolyn”. It was a pick up at the same place, a low income retirement home, where I had picked up the woman who had pulled off this stunt two weeks earlier. No doubt this was the same woman. I ran several scenarios through my mind as to how I would deal with this issue while on the short trip to pick her up. As I approached the retirement home I saw her walking toward it as if she were just getting there herself. She jumped in the back seat and said “I need to go to Walmart, the one in Roebuck and I want chu to wait on me”. I turned around and let know quickly that I remembered what had happened last time. “Oh I’m sorry” she said. “There was a long line at the money center and I just couldn’t get out. I know the money is already there this time, it won’t take me long.”

I decided to go ahead and take the chance. Once again the meter was sitting at $25 when we pulled into the parking lot. I told her that I had an appointment at 11:30 and I needed to leave by 11:15 in order to get back in time. That would give her 20 minutes in the store. “Don’t worry honey, you gonna get cho money. As long as they ain’t no long line it won’t take but a minute”. I asked her to pay me for the first part of the trip first, before I waited. “I ain’t got no money now. That’s what I got to do. I gotta go to the money center to get my money.”

I walked into the store with her, under the guise of going to the restroom. There was no line at all at the money center. She walked right up to the window. I went to the restroom and noticed she was still standing at the window when I walked back by. The optimistic and forgiving part of my mind said maybe she was telling me the truth, maybe she’ll be out in a few minutes and I can make a good round trip fare. Maybe everything will be fine. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The 20 minute deadline came and went. Another five minutes passed and still no Gwendolyn. At this point I decided to walk back into the store to see if I could see her. She was long gone from the money center and nowhere in sight.

Once again she had stolen an hour of my time, the gas to get her there and whatever business I would have picked up if I hadn’t had to deal with her. I called dispatch and told my sad story. Apparently another driver had also reported her. The dispatcher said “OK, she’s on the bad list. She can’t get any more cabs.” Of course that wouldn’t stop her from just getting someone else to call for her. I felt like a complete and total idiot.

copyright 2015 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.

 

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Since The Last Time

I’ve taken a break from writing over the holidays but there have been a few notable cab adventures since the last time I posted back in November. Here are a few of them:

Not high enough

As soon as I accepted the call I immediately knew that something was wrong with the dispatch. It was an address that I knew didn’t exist. I called dispatch and told them that we needed to talk to the person who called, this address couldn’t be right. The voice on the other end was of a man in a drunken stupor. He couldn’t tell me the address so I asked him if there was a familiar landmark nearby. He said “I’m out by da golf cous.” I headed over to the golf course that I thought he was talking about that was only about a half mile away.

Sure enough, there he was standing out in the street looking like a zombie that had just stumbled out of a bar where he had been over served. He fell into the back seat but had a hard time getting his legs in the car. He wasn’t a young man, I would guess him to be in his mid 60’s, he obviously had issues with stiffness or arthritis which added to the mobility issues that he was already experiencing due to his serious intoxication. He said “I don’t know the address, I’ll just show you how to get there.” He began giving me street by street directions until we ended up at a house in a seedy part of Woodlawn, near the whore motels.

crack house

He had as much trouble getting out of the car as he had had getting into it. I could see shadows of people coming toward the car, one young man offered to help him get out but he refused. When he did finally get out he took a tumble in the street. I got the impression that the folks at this house were some pretty shady characters, maybe drug dealers. Whatever they were, they at least had the decency to pick this pathetic man up off the ground. “What chu doin’ here” I heard one of them ask as he helped hoist him to his feet. He apparently pulled a little cash out of his pocket and offered it to them, possibly in exchange for a little something to get him higher than he was already. “Three dollas? Dat all you got? We ain’t no thugs, we tryin’ to make a livin’ ” I heard one of them say, possibly aimed more at my ears than his. They opened the back door and sat his ass back down in the cab and said “take him on, cab driver. We don’t want him round here.”

Ok, where to now? I asked him. He wouldn’t give me a location, he just started back up with the directions. In just a few minutes I realized we had gone in a circle and was back at this house. I wouldn’t stop, I kept going for a couple of blocks in spite of his protests. I finally pulled over, turned around and looked at him and said I’m not going back to that house. Those guys have already made it clear that they don’t want you there. We may get shot if we go back there. He still insisted on going back. I said I’ll either take you somewhere else or you can get out here. He chose the latter. I said you owe me fourteen bucks, I want my money. “I ain’t got no damn fo-teen dollas,” he said. I can’t say that that’s not exactly what I expected him to say. I said well I could call the cops, but it’s your lucky night, I need to get back to where I can pick up some people who will actually pay me. I sped away leaving him looking like a drunken zombie stumbling in the middle of the street.

The Royal Couple

The call was to a barbecue joint in an upscale neighborhood that doubles as a bar in the late night hours. The name on the screen was “Prince”. It didn’t take him long to stagger out. He was a heavyweight guy with reddish short hair that had obviously had his share of adult beverages. He was drinking what appeared to be some kind of liquor on the rocks which he killed in one big gulp before getting in the car. He fell in the car and said “one more coming.” His partner was the straight man of the two. He was tall and lean with dark hair and thick horn rimmed glasses. I could tell he had had a few but he still had it under control and seemed to be the guy in charge. He started giving me directions to their home in the tiny kingdom of Mountain Brook but Prince wasn’t through partying.

“I wanna go to five points” Prince said several times. The straight man said “we’re going home, you’ve had enough.” “I don’t wanna go home, I’ll pay for it,” he slurred. Stopped in front of their house, the straight man ran his debit card as Prince continued his nagging insistence on going to five points. “I’m not getting out, you can go home but I’m going to five points. Put it drive driver, take me to five points, I’ll pay you.”  “No, you’re going home,” insisted the other guy. “HELL NO I”M NOT, PUT IT IN DRIVE!!” I said I don’t care either way, I’ll take you to five points or you can stay here but you’ve got to decide because I need to go.

The straight man relented, I put in in drive and headed to five points. Somewhere along the way the decision was made to truncate the trip and instead of going to five points, just go to the popular bar in Crestline Village which was much closer. “You’d better not show your ass in there,” the straight man said to Prince. Prince didn’t like this at all. A commotion ensued in the back seat and I heard a few slaps and punches, all made by Prince with the straight man screaming “MY GLASSES, MY GLASSES!!” Before many more punches were thrown I pulled up at the front door of O.C.’s. The straight man shouted “pay the man and tip him well” Prince managed to hand me his credit card which I ran and added a twenty five percent tip. They actually had the nerve to ask for my card so they could call me to come back and take them home. Knowing that they would be kicked out in less than five minutes, I handed them my card, turned my phone off and headed to Lakeview.

Uncle Cotton’s Perdidium

They looked like two fish out of water standing in front of the big sliding doors of the Sheraton Hotel. One man probably in his 50’s and another about thirty something looked a little like members of the Darling family from the Andy Griffith show. “Get us outta here, this damn place wants nelly two hundurd dollars a night. Take us to the cheapest motel in town.” I ran the options through my mind and decided that Motel H in Woodlawn was probably the cheapest motel in town. There’s a big sign on the side of the building advertising $29.99 a night.

darlings

The younger man introduced himself as DeWayne and said “This is my uncle Cotton. We ain’t from around here, we from way up in North Carolina.” Uncle Cotton spoke up and said “we do hardwood floors, a church in Hoover hard us and paid for us to come down on the Greyhound but they didn’t give us but a hundurd dollar perdidium to stay in a motel on. That damn place is too damn high, we want to go to the cheapest place in town but we ain’t got but eight dollars to spend on a cab. Can you git us there for that?” I figured it would probably be about ten on the meter but I said yeah, I’ll do a flat rate of eight dollars for you.

Uncle Cotton had been hitting the sauce pretty hard on the Greyhound. He said “I’m drunk, I just wanna go somewhere and go to bed.” He decided to mess with me a little on the way to the motel. “I ain’t never seen this part of Burminham, where you takin’ us?” To the cheapest motel in town, I told him. “I thank you takin’ us somewhere funny, I don’t like it.” DeWayne spoke up and said ” it ain’t his fault, Uncle Cotton. He’s jest doin’ his job.” Uncle Cotton laughed a little and said “aw hell DeWayne, I’m jest fuckin’ with him.”

A rather downscale lady of the evening greeted the duo at the door of Motel H. She looked at Uncle Cotton and said “hey honey, what chu doin’ tonite?” I wonder if she got that perdidium?

copyright 2014, R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.

Stuck In The Middle

There’s a building near 5 points south that ‘s a retirement home for the poor. Almost all the residents are elderly and most have some kind of disability, physical, mental or both. Trips out of here are typically very short. Many times the destination is to a small urban supermarket just at the top of the hill. The fares are usually less than $5 and the trips usually involve the handling of wheelchairs, walkers ect…Needless to say, this place is not high on the list of places that most drivers want to pick up.

This customer didn’t need any kind of mobility aids. He seemed fairly fit. I judged him to be in his mid to late 60’s. A big red flag appeared before my eyes when I saw that he was wearing a full sweat suit on this eighty plus degree day. This is almost always a sign of mental illness. His thick gray sweat shirt had the orange and blue logo of Auburn University on the front. I noticed he was also wearing an orange cap with the same logo. The putrid, pungent smell of body odor hit me like a ton of bricks when he got in.

His speech was clear and distinct. There was no accent. It was much like a newscasters voice. Everything he said was grammatically correct and he had clear, crisp diction. He said “take me to the middle of Mountain Brook”. Since Mountain Brook is made up of three villages and a bunch of residential neighborhoods, I had to clarify. I asked where in the middle? He said he wanted to go to “a pizza parlor in the middle of Mountain Brook”. I guessed he was talking about the one in Mountain Brook village.mountain brook village

Before we made it to “the middle of Mountain Brook” he wanted to stop at an ATM at his bank. He started giving me directions like a drill sergeant barking out orders. “You will turn right at the next intersection and then you will merge into the left lane. You will then turn left”. I made the right turn but couldn’t immediately get in the left lane due to oncoming traffic. “I SAID merge into the left lane” he snapped. Now I was officially pissed and I almost lost my cool. Do you want to have a wreck? I asked him in a sharp tone. I can’t just get in a lane because you want to, cars are coming!

At the ATM he tried two different cards. I could see the screen from my vantage point. Both were declined because of insufficient funds. I asked him if he still wanted to go to Mountain Brook. “Yes” he said. “I have enough, take me to the middle of Mountain Brook.” On the way over the mountain he started to evaluate my service. “Timeliness? I’ll give you a passing grade on that. Accuracy?  A bit off but still passing. Friendliness? On that you get a C” he said. What he didn’t know was that I was about to get a big fat F when I got him to the pizza parlor.

Traffic was thick in the village and there was no parking in front of the pizza parlor. I had to go past it a bit and turn left against oncoming traffic in order to turn around. When i got to the front of the place I stopped in the street, blocking traffic and put on my flashers. I told him the fare would be $11.75. To my amazement he handed me one of the debit cards I had just seen declined at the bank. I thought you said you had enough? I asked him harshly as I gave him a stern stare. “There is enough on that card” he said. I couldn’t sit there long, there was no parking and traffic was building up behind me.

I ran the card and of course it was declined. “For what reason?” he asked very sharply and angrily. I said it’s because you don’t have any fucking money in the goddamn bank! That is the reason! I said you’d better have some cash on you or I’m gonna call the cops. “CALL THE COPS” he snapped “CALL THE COPS NOW!!” He had called my bluff. I told him to get his ass out and never call for a cab again. I then called dispatch and told them about the games this guy was playing.

I was thinking later about what his motive could have possibly been. Why did he want to go to the middle of Mountain Brook? Why was he so eager to call the cops when his card was declined? Was he trying to go to jail in this posh suburb because he thought it would be better than his current situation? Was it just some twisted fantasy in his twisted mind? Who knows?

copyright 2013 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.

Disappearing Act

I’ve been “stiffed” probably about ten times since I started driving taxis. That’s the slang that’s used in the industry when you don’t get paid for the trip. A customer who stiffs a cab driver can be charged with Theft of Service, a misdemeanor. Of course this almost never happens because the “customer” will be long gone before the police ever arrive. When you are first hired as a driver, most companies show an orientation film which includes several scenerios that you should expect to happen eventually. One part of the film shows the cab stopping at the destination and then the passenger bolts from the cab and runs like hell. I’ve never had that happen. Most times that I’ve been stiffed involved either  declined debit or credit cards or sometimes the customer just admitting that they didn’t have any money when we arrived at our destination. I’ve also had two that have gone into houses and never returned. Once, my fare depended on a woman being able to get a loan at Easy Money; it didn’t happen. A few nights ago I had something happen that was similar to what happened in the film, but with a twist.

I was driving down Richard Arrington Blvd toward downtown when I saw a young man with his hand high in the air flagging for a ride. It was at the intersection near the Stillwater Pub so I assumed that it was someone who had been hanging out there. He was a young white man in his early twenties with a very short haircut, like a crewcut. When he got in I could tell by his speech and mannerisms that he wasn’t the type of person who usually hangs out at Stillwater. He mumbled something about Findley. There is both a Findley Blvd and a Findley Avenue in North Birmingham. The area is very industrial, with warehouses, distributing companies, trucking companies and the like. There’s not a lot of residential areas, what few there are are almost entirely African American. There IS a halfway house. A place where many men live when they are transistioning from prison life to life in the world. I figured it was a good bet that that’s where this guy was going.

He asked that I stop at a gas station on Findley Blvd so he get could get a pack of smokes, when he got out I finally got a good look at his face. He didn’t look like the stereotypical halfway house resident. He was actually quite good looking but as I mentioned earlier, his speech and mannerisms didn’t quite match his looks. I didn’t trust him, not at all. He never actually said that he was going to the halfway house but when we got on pitch dark Findley Avenue he was suddenly sick and had to pull over. “Please pull over now, I’ve got to throw up”. You don’t want me throwing up in your cab do you”? I pulled over and said no, please don’t. We were close to the halfway house and I could sense that he was up to something. He gagged a few times and said “just give me a few minutes and I’ll be OK”. After not hearing him say anything or make any sounds for about ten seconds, I looked around and my gut feeling was confirmed, he was gone. The meter was sitting at $12.50. For some reason I didn’t even get upset, I guess I expected it deep down. I drove away and headed back to Southside. There were other people needing rides.

copyright 2012 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.