Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts on the Protest

If nothing else yesterday's protest was the biggest in my 27 years of cab driving, topping even the famous anti-Feinstein demonstration of 1984. It was truly awesome with honking taxis circling the block around City Hall for at least 4 hours.

  • The 1984 rally took place just before the Democratic convention that year and probably cost Diane Feinstein the chance to be the first woman to run as a Vice Presidential candidate.
  • Nonetheless Feinstein won the argument, put more cabs on the street (the issue of that day) and went on to become a very powerful U.S. Senator.
  • Lesson - honking horns don't necessarily make policy.
The drivers made their point - they don't like electronic waybills and they don't want to pay credit card charges. In addition, there were about a dozen other things that the hundred or so drivers who spoke at the MTA Board meeting either liked or didn't like - including some of which (selling cabs at open auctions or putting an end to the sales program) contradicted each other. 
  • Most of the drivers were, as advertised, the ones (mostly non-medallion holders) you never see at meetings.
  • But there were also a fair number of medallion holders including friends from the SFCDA.
Misplaced aggression?

Many of the drivers complained about being forced to open bank accounts by companies like Yellow and Luxor; or being forced to give their social security numbers to open these accounts; or being hit by transaction charges; or being threatened if they tried to use Square or other Apps. If so, it should have been the companies that the drivers were protesting - not Taxi Services. To clarify:

  • A driver does not have to use the back-seat terminal.
  • He or she is entitled to use Square or any other App to process the credit card receipts.
  • A driver should never pay more than 5% including all banking fees.
  • If the drivers are being overcharged or threatened by a company they should contact Taxi Services.
At the Board Meeting I rhetorically asked, "If Green Cab can afford to pay their drivers credit card receipts why can't Yellow or Luxor Cab?"
  • Actually my feeling are stronger than that.
  • If Yellow and Luxor can't do anything without cheating their drivers, why should they get any break at all?
  • To put it crudely: If they aren't satisfied with saving a $ million a year - screw 'em. They should continue picking up the tab.
Now for the most popular parts of my post.

I still think the back-seat terminals might work if installed properly and that they should be given a chance to prove or disprove their value.
Higher Math or Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face.
  • One driver said that the 5% cost him $4.00 on a $24.00 ride. "It cost me my tip," he said. Actually, dude, what you lost at 5% is $1.20.
  • The suddenly omnipresent Dean Clark claimed that the 5% would cost him $300 a month.
  • Have either one of these guys calculated how much NOT taking credit cards would cost them every month?
  • I mean, two $10 rides a day should easily cover the 5% charge.

A suggestion.

Since you guys started complaining and refusing to take credit cards, I've been getting the best tips I've ever had in my life. I think of you as my living tip prompters.

When a customer gets in and nervously asks, "Do you take credit cards?" I smilingly say, "Of course I take credit cards - my customers always come first."

I repeat: the best tips I've ever had in my life. And, after the protests yesterday, they'll only get better.

Try a little showmanship. Smile through the pain.


  1. The pink elephant in the room, or rather what nobody has discussed is the fact,
    That cab companies are very much protected via a monopoly from deflationary
    And inflationary market conditions unlike the taxi drivers and their customers.
    For example, during this recession drivers wages went down while gas prices
    Went up and in a lot of cases customers wages fell or stayed the same.
    The cab companies have for the most part been shielded from market con-
    Ditions because there gate structure did not fall, the same also applies to tipping
    Out dispatchers, cashiers and gas attendants.
    The 5% surcharge is merely the cab companies attempts to push their business liabilities unfairly onto the drivers.
    Instead of raising the meter on customers, the sfmta should for example lower the gates by let's say, 15.00$ and fine taxicab employees and their supervisors, let's say 500.00 for every time the shake down the drivers.
    The paying out of tips is unfair, because it shifts the burden to the drivers,
    The responsibility of paying a fair wage to their employees.

    Per incident they shakedown

  2. True and not true.

    Companies are protected from the market as long as they can raise the gates. But there hasn't been a major gate increase in seven years. A couple of minor ones but no major ones. They are being squeezed by rising prices. It's one reason that scams like subleasing and double booking of cab drivers is on the increase.

    As for the tipping you are absolutely right. In fact Hayashi has written a law that has made it illegal with, I think, a $5,000 fine.

    Now all you have to do is get a few of those drivers who stormed city hall about the 5% to testify against the companies. Whamo - no more tipping.

    Then the drivers can pay the 5% and still be 5% or 10% ahead.

  3. Are you selling 5 %. Get out of it. Gate of

    $ 81.5 gone to 104 in 8 years. Is that 20 % ?.

    Why to pay medallion holder like you. Just drive

    cab for yourself and do not take money from

    driver. A driver should pay only cab company

    expense which should not be more than $ 50 a

    shift plus 5 % as you love it.

  4. Well, mr amazon, my response is as follows:
    The cab companies made up for their "losses" via collecting monies from the 7.50$ hybrid vehicle charge and the fact they (taxi companies) collected ton's
    Of cash in regards to the health insurance issue that was quashed.
    As for the credit card charges I'm sure when you take into account the additional fee,s and other charges the amount easily climbs to 10%.
    I personally use square and generally speaking, I'm satisfied, but the question
    Still remains, why are drivers being forced to assume the taxi companies li-
    Abilities when, according to well established case law, taxi drivers are employees
    Not independent contractors!
    Now, as the electronic waybills are concerned, just because new York, Boston
    And whoever uses says it's ok does not mean it is so.
    Every state is sovereign, so therefore each state has different laws and regulations so a one size fits all by sfmta will simply. Not work.
    The sfmta seemed to start out ok, but but for some strange reason they (sfmta) decided that they were going to finance their ever growing bureaucracy
    By raising fees on drivers, medallion owners as well as the public at large
    This situation will come to a head by the end of the year, when the medallion
    Owners realize that the medallion will become nothing more than a heavy chain
    Of serfdom around their neck as their fees and responsibilities (IRS audits, increased taxes anyone) increase due to sfmta's largess increases.

    P.s I enjoy reading your articles, and thank you for letting me post!

  5. i'm not in love with the 5%. I only want it if the drivers make more than 5% from the terminals. As for being a greedy medallion holder ... you're painting a world where everyone is equal. It doesn't exist. Never has, never will. If there weren't medallion holders the companies would own the cabs as fleets and they'd be charging you just as much or more. Forget the guilt trip. I"ve been in this business 27 years. I've paid my dues. Have you?
    May 5, 2011 1:46 AM

  6. This is not about a guilt trip, it is about reality.
    I am not jealous or envious that you or any one of your fellow medallion holders
    Are doing well and have with out a doubt, have paid your dues, however, the reality is, well let me go back a few steps for a minute.
    As you very well know, this recession is the worst since the great depression
    According to some writers, alot smarter than me.
    I'm sure you are also aware mr "amazon" that various politicians have promised their public servants, very generous benefit packages that the very much public at large can know longer afford because of high unemployment,
    Shattered investments and home equity that leaves much to be desired.
    Believe it or not San Francisco is one of those governments that faces these
    Problems with hundreds of millions of underfunded liabilities.
    Now, what does this have to do with medallion owners and cab drivers.
    Well if the taxpayers cannot afford to subsidize the pensioners anymore, what makes the sfmta and the medallion owners think the drivers can afford to subsidize them?
    As the saying goes " denial is not a river in Egypt" and giving replies that deflect the subject at hand which will not solve anything.
    The simple fact is mr amazon, time's are a changing, the party's over and the economy is not on the path to recovery and most likely recover for at least
    5 plus years so if cab companies, the medallion holder's and the mta think that
    Drivers will let themselves get screwed any longer, well they have another thing coming.

  7. Crocker or crook. Post comments sent to you
    or go to some school for training.

  8. Believe it or not Crocker Amazon is not my real name. I'd appreciate it if you guys would use some kind of name so I can easily designate to whom I'm responding.


    Dear 1:56 AM Running around screaming is fun. You're against companies, medallion holders and the MTA. That's what I call clear thinking. The companies are also agains the medallion holders and some at the MTA are against the companies, the medallion holders and the drivers..

    What are for? Or do you plan spending the rest of your life circling the block honking your horn?

  9. Hi Ed, when you publish such strong opinions about 5% charges or rear seat terminals, your opinions would be far more influential to me if you were actually effected by the issues you're writing about.

    You say, "When a customer gets in and nervously asks, "Do you take credit cards?" I smilingly say, "Of course I take credit cards - my customers always come first." Really?

    Is this your idea of getting us to think that you're being noble... a cut above the rest? You say "Try a little showmanship. Smile through the pain."

    Well, excuse us Mr. Big Shot. Do you remember to make sure and mention that you are not being overcharged a 5% fee? In fact, you're not being charged at all for your credit card fares. So where is the nobility on your part in being glad to accept credit card passengers? Also, your credit card fares are not going into a separate account with a debit card. You are still being reimbursed in cash the old fashioned way, and there will be no rear seat terminals in your taxi.

    The nobility is not yours, it is Green Cab's. Mark Gruberg is the one who should be recognized for his integrity, not you. You have publicly criticized Mark Gruberg before in meetings. But now Green Cab is your oasis.

    Medallion holders have earned their place in this industry through their hard work. That's for sure. But that does not justify you wagging your finger nor scoffing at others. You are out of place on this issue.

  10. Once again, mr amazon, you are delfectong and spinning your comments.
    Drivers are not just pissed off about shouldering the cab companies liabilities,
    But also : a) having to tip out b) having to wait for a taxi and wait in the gas line
    Without being compensated c) higher licensing costs (sfmta) D) higher gas costs
    E) lower pay because of the recession f) higher cost of living g) traffic tickets
    Are more expensive.

    Medallion owners, please take notice, this is not 1999, it is safe to say that
    Everybody is making far less, so it is not in any medallion owners best interest
    Especially owners under the age of 62 years, to drink the magic coolade and
    Assume.these issue will not affect you.
    The electronic way bills are a stealth way to eventually get rid of medallion
    Owners altogether because it more easily tracks your whereabouts and give's
    The sfmta an easier excuse to take away your medallions on a technical grounds
    Eventually as this scheme progresses ALL medallions will become company

  11. Hi John,

    Thanks for actually using a name. It's refreshing.

    I don't know what nobility or integrity has to do with any of this. I'm simply suggesting a strategy to help drivers make money in this situation. A lot of them are talking about not taking credit cards at all and they will loose money if they do so. Also customers don't like whining cab drivers. San Francisco people are generous. Smile and they'll tip you more than the 5% you might pay.

    As for the problems with the account - that has to do with Yellow not Chris Hayashi. Inform her of the situation and I'm sure she'll take them to task. You should also mention that Yellow is putting the prompts incorrectly

    I'm sorry Mark isn't putting in some rear terminals because I'd like to try them. I'd like to find out if they actually work or not.

    I don't often agree with Mark's politics but, since I've been working with him, I've become very fond of him. A really nice guy.


  12. Dear 12:41 PM,

    I agree with paragraphs one and two.

    The electronic waybill thing sounds paranoid but, as they used to say in the 60's, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not following you.


  13. Ed, will you please fire your proofreader. Then, send out a notice that you're accepting applications for a new one, because it may be time for you to have a new one.

    Because an excerpt from the SFMTA Taxi Services final memorandum from October 15, 2010 reads as follows...


    Without being a lawyer, the point being, it would seem Yellow is already in compliance with Hayashi's MTA regulation on debit cards and accounts, so what is Christiane Hayashi supposed to do about it? On what grounds will she "take them to task", as you put it? Unless she changes her own regulation.

    Additionally, Chrisitane Hayashi is well aware of Yellow's debit card account system and its $1.75 transaction fees, and has been aware for some time now. So it's not necessary for me or anyone to inform her, because she already knows. But I guess you didn't.

    Her solution to me over a month ago was that I should use Square. However, if Square cannot process Yellow Customer Travel Cards, then Yellow drivers using Square will still have to at least maintain a Yellow debit account, and keep some money in there to pay it's monthly fee. BTW - we still wait in line at the end of our shifts to pay our gate and gas at the window. According to Hayashi, this system was supposed to eliminate drivers having to wait in line to pay gates and gas.

    Now, thanks for the advice on smiling and making more money. I already do that. And despite my hatred for the 5% fee, and rear seat terminal requirements, and the debit card, and my growing distrust for Christiane Hayashi for making these things happen, I still smile at my passengers like a professional and accept credit cards from them, and they tip the same as always.

    My tip percentage is at least 18% and can get as high as 38% - 100% or more. As you know, this is the case for many drivers. So tip prompters won't necessarily increase our tip percentage by much, if at all. Because we already make those kinds of tip percentages. But taking out 5% now on any amount for credit cards will compromise everyone's income. In my case I estimate $60-$100 per month. The tip prompters are a cheap answer to cover who really makes the money on these deals.

    And as for Yellow putting in the tip prompts incorrectly, what do you mean? What is the MTA supposed to do about that? If you read the MTA regulation, there is no requirement for companies to set their tip prompters at any certain percentage. So what are we supposed to tell the MTA about it?

    Ed, explain yourself better... please?

  14. Why don't you open your company together with
    your friend Chris and Hansu and you can put
    20 backseat terminals in your one cab. Don't
    bother others. If she resign or forced to leave,
    due to insult she has created for Mr. Ford
    and MTA Board, are you going to leave with her.

    Wise enemy is better than a foolish friend like you.

  15. YCC SHAREHOLDERMay 6, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    you blithely state:

    "If Yellow and Luxor can't do anything without cheating their drivers, why should they get any break at all?"

    Where's the cheating? Everyone is charging 5% except the "Russian lady" who charges 10%, and Green which is apparently run as a not for profit outfit.

  16. Dear YCC,

    I was under the impression that Yellow and Luxor were forcing their drivers to use only certain accounts and were hitting up the drivers for transaction charges that would bring the totals charged to over 5%

  17. It's true, the 5%, plus $2.50 monthly charges and $1.75 transaction fees does add up to more than the 5% cap. So depending on one's interpretation, those companies may be violating the waiver. But who's going to stop them? Hayashi? Go figure.

    And, um, just so the Yellow bosses don't crucify me, I'll say that I'm glad that Yellow says that, at least for now, it's not going to have video advertisements on the screens. BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

    Yellow says it's rear seat PIMs are going to be strictly for touch screen card processing, and perhaps public announcements since that's part of the waiver requirement.

    Wow! I'm surprised! Yellow deserves some recognition for this in my opinion. Good job Yellow! The big, bad, evil Yellow, has actually gone and done something kinda progressive. It's taken a sort of cool approach. Geez! Hope it lasts.

    And Yellow, I'll personally offer to be your field rep to sell print ad space in your Ads in Cabs because that's the right way to go... for a fee, of course.

    The only company doing better than Yellow is Green Cab, which is not even putting in the PIMs, and is still paying the credit card fees for it's drivers. Long LIve Green Cab!

  18. Are limo drivers earnings and where abouts electronically monitored I doubt it.
    Maybe we should all become limo drivers
    then we could all get airport rides, and skip the paratransit rides and all the other low paying helpful things we do to help society..
    If they do electronic waybills I think they should just ask us for our gas receipts, gate fee, for the day and take the taxes out at the end of the shift..then we would all know where we stand and an adjustment in pay raise would be in order..

  19. Why is nobody discussing the simple fact that all of these charges and fees
    Are just a way for cab companies to shift responsibility, of their liabilities for running a business onto the drivers.
    It is irrelevant which company charges too much or too little, it is illegal under state law, for a business to pass a surcharge on to a customer, and since drivers
    Are customers of yellow cab, for example it is just as illegal for yellow to pass on
    A surcharge as it is for the drivers to pass on a surcharge to our customers.
    Just because hayashi says it's ok does not mean it is so, she cannot arbitrary
    Decide when and where she wants to or not follow state or federal laws, she could be disbarred for that.

  20. Hi John,

    It's not my proof-reading that you really object to, it's my ideas that you don't like.

    1. If Chris Hayashi can't do anything about your problems, why write to me? What am I supposed to do about it?

    2. I don't know Hayashi is aware of. But she did tell me that the total amount of changes should not exceed 5%.

    3. If you cannot use Square because of Yellow's special cards, it sounds to me as if Yellow has created the cards specifically to keep you from using systems other than there own. Hayashi might be interested in knowing this. But, of course, you'll find some reason why you won't send the info on, so I'll do it for you.

    4. There should be no monthly fee for the accounts - but then I'm not a lawyer either.

    5. I'm glad you're smiling. When did you start keeping records? Since the 5% was announced my tips have gone up more than 5%. So maybe the back-seat terminals won't make any difference. Maybe customer sympathy will raise drivers income's all by itself.

    I'm not married to back-seat terminals. If they don't work take 'em out.

    6. If I'm not mistaken the Yellow Prompts start at 15%. The bottom line is supposed to be 20%.

    But you're right - it would be better with no charges at all.


  21. Just because the sfmta changes the rules and makes up new ones as they
    Move along, and just because certain cab companies "go along " with these changes does not mean these rule changes are legal.
    If you think you a medallion holder who is a shareholder and has stock in
    Any of these companies, will not be held financially accountable for the illegal
    Actions of management with this illegal pass thru scheme, well, don't hold your

  22. Hi Ed, I really do enjoy these conversations and your blog. Hopefully, this will be my final lengthy comment though.

    ANSWER to #1 - I'm writing to you because you've been her #1 cheerleader. But my message to Hayashi and the MTA will be made at town hall meetings and the Board's public meetings. Hopefully they'll listen.

    ANSWER to #2 - Well, I do know a little of what she's aware of. And she knows about the debit accounts and the transaction fees. And, it doesn't matter if she says charges shouldn't exceed 5%, because charges ARE exceeding 5% if you include bank fees. It's a question of what will be done about it, if any. Also, I just tried to withdrawal $20 from a Bank Of America ATM today using Yellow's VISA debit card, and it said there is a $3.00 fee for the transaction. And I bank at BofA. Great! Now I can expect that any time I try to withdrawal cash from my Yellow account, it will cost me $3.00. I also tried to use the Yellow Debit card for a Kinkos copier that accepts VISA, and it rejected the card. It's not just a Yellow issue. MTA has to take some accountability for this, since it wrote the regulation, and so much of this seems compliant with its regulation on the credit card waiver.

    ANSWER to #3 - We can use Square. It's just that if we do, we'll still have to keep the Yellow bank account open at the same time, even if we don't use it, and pay it's monthly fees, and inactivity fees. That's in case we have a passenger using Yellow's Prepaid Travel Cards. It's no conspiracy. Yellow has had these cards for a long time. Yellow should allow Square to process them, but I don't know if that deal's been made.

    ANSWER to #4 -There ARE monthly fees. So I'm not sure what the point in stating that one was.

    ANSWER to #5 - BINGO! Driver professionalism and customer relations, and customer awareness are the answer to better service and tips for everyone. "Tip prompters" are a cheap and crass way for administrators to offer easy answers.

    And when you say "if they don't work take 'em out." That's easy to say, especially for you, but it may be harder to do. And it most certainly won't be the drivers' decision. The cab companies will decide that. But mostly, it is the MTA's authority, as the MTA is ultimately the reason for Taxi TVs. Therefore, it is appropriate for drivers, when protesting Taxi Tvs and 5% credit card fees, to protest the MTA, more so than the cab companies, as you've suggested they should.

    ANSWER to #6 - According to Yellow, tip prompters for fares $10 or less will be set at $1, $2, $3, or Other. Fares over $10 will be set at 20%, 25%, 30%, or Other.

  23. It has already been pointed out that drivers pay $10 a shift OR MORE in "tips" and don't make a peep about it.
    Drivers that work for "Brokers" pay any gate the broker sees fit and they won't say shit even after they quit. They get charged for any damage tot he cab no matter whose fault it is and won't say anything
    I've been told 50 times that drivers stand around Yellow for hours trying to get a cab and the best tippers are the ones that get out and nobody will say a word.
    If metro cashed 4100 in credit cards and ate %5 it would cost $6900 a month. Does anybody think a small co. can eat that and stay around?
    I love this one: "Why is nobody discussing the simple fact that all of these charges and fees
    Are just a way for cab companies to shift responsibility, of their liabilities for running a business onto the drivers."
    I've got bad news for this guy. One way or another drivers pay for everything as should be obvious.

  24. Hi,

    Dear 11:45 am - I'm not a stockholder. I'd love many of these companies to get the shaft. (See Hybels comments.)

    Hi Hybels - this amazes me too. The major companies are screwing these guys out of 10% to 20% of their incomes and they don't say a thing about it. I've talked about about the tips at meeting and all these rowdy drivers fall deadly silent. Yellow and the other companies have them scared shitless.

    I think one reason they're attacking Hayashi is that she's woman and she can't fire them.

    John - it still looks like Yellow is the problem, not the MTA

    The VeriFone prompt starts at $2 for $10 or less which could make a huge difference on short fares.


  25. Well mr hybels,
    Pay as we may,at some point, yellow management will back themselves into such a corner, they will polarize every one against them including cab companies
    As well as the sfmta and the shareholders and this will trigger fines and violations re tracy v yellow cab and then the sh#t wil really hit the the fan.
    You remember Tracy v yellow cab, don't you mr hybels?

  26. Ed, it's both. Yellow is wrong. But if as you say, we should tell Taxi Services about it since MTA is the authority and will "take them to task", and then we do so, but MTA does little or nothing about it, then MTA is partly accountable.

    Hybels - you bring up the right issues, but you're wrong in saying drivers don't make a peep about it. Drivers have been bringing these issues up for years. But the taxi commission, and now the MTA don't do anything. They know about it, but don't do anything. So it's the authorities who hear the drivers, but then don't do a "peep" about it.

    Ed, I agree there's some truth that it's easier to direct these issues at the MTA, partly because the companies have a higher threat of retaliation. It's also because MTA is the regulator and can do things about it. But to say it's because Hayashi is a woman is ridiculous. You're making things up at this point. It is because she is the Deputy Director of Taxi Services, and has written much of the current policies, and is the one who directly interacts with the taxi industry.

  27. Most of you bellyachers are all wet:
    1. this is the only city that did not charge the drivers 5%. that free ride now happens to be over. Get used to it. Some places even charge 10% (L.A. for one)
    2. you make a lot more by accepting credit cards. You get all the people who don't have much cash on them... that's a lot of people....They don't have to resort to BART to SFO for example.
    3. The Yellow debit card is a VISA card. You can spend it anywhere, no fee. Cash back at Safeway, no fee. Everyplace takes VISA. Even your local pot club.

  28. See California code 1747 et seq, where it talks about it being illegal for a merchant (yellow cab processing) to pass thru a surcharge to the customer.
    (Medallion owners and taxi drivers)
    So anonymous on 5/7/2011, before you make such careless remarks, perhaps
    Try to do some legal research next time.

  29. The way cab drivers treated really a shame, and to think the system is really set up by so called "Progressive" San Francisco government.
    San Francisco city government setting up exploitative condition of too many hours not enough pay or benefits for cab drivers.
    Who does Medallion system benefit, big cab companies who are able to keep their monopoly over this industry.
    Feel like I am in the Movie "Walking tall" story of corrupt southern town ..feds should probably investigate this whole cab industry set up .

  30. The road to progressive hell is paved with "good intentions"

    The city and county of San Francisco cannot tax, assess, levy, authorize and
    Fine it's way out of it deficits and underfunded pension liabilities even if they conspire with corporations, the taxpayer and business well is running dry, but
    Wtf, give them credit ,at least they are trying!