Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Phantom Does a Back-seat Terminal

Thursday night I finally had a chance to drive a cab with a rear-seat terminal thanks to Athan Rebelos, the manager at Desoto Cab.

Since many, if not most drivers, have already used PIM's , I'm simply going to give my own impressions.

The format I'll use will be to start with a complaint against the PIM's and then give my answers based on my limited experience on one shift.

The back-seat TV's will ruin rapport with the customers.

Absolutely untrue. A few people didn't want to talk but I had the same good time that I unusually have with the rest of my customers. The fact that there were video ads on the screen didn't seem to effect the conversations at all. Then again, the sound was (mostly) turned off.

Of course, I don't know what effect that those huge units used by Luxor would have on such interactions.

The customers won't like it.

Once again - not true. They either liked (or were indifferent to) it. The default for audio on this terminal is (supposed to be) off and light is dim.

Customers with credit cards enthusiastically liked using it.

It will take longer to process the credit card transactions.

Yet again - not true. In fact, for experienced users, the PIM's were much faster than cash. There were two people (including one drunk) who initially had trouble using the swipe but I was able to easily talk them through the process. In any case, you can still use the front terminal if you have a total lush in back.

The eternal question; will people tip more on the back-seat terminals?

Drawing a conclusion by comparing a few days of transactions is risky to say the least. But ... six of the 8 people using the rear PIM tipped 20%, one tipped a dollar on an $18.90 ride and one gave me an extra $6.00 for a $6.80 trip. The total on the tips equaled about 26% on $138 gross.

By comparison, I drove Friday night at Green Cab using a front seat swipe. On a $164 gross, my tips equalled slightly less than 20%. Then, Saturday night, I had about 24% on an $82 gross. But this didn't include no-tip on a $47 ride to Berkeley. They were college students who I didn't think would have tipped under any circumstances. On the other hand, seeing a prompt might have inspired them.

Of course, you can't make too much out of this but most customers do appear to hit the 20% button most of the time on the rear-seat terminals while the baseline on the front-seat units often dips below 15%.

So ... yeah I think you would get at least 2 or 3% percent more in tips from the rear-seat units.

What I didn't like.

The default was supposed to have the audio off but there were a few moments on a loop where talking and laughter suddenly became audible. It wasn't very loud but my right ear was less than 6 inches from the monitor and this quickly because very annoying. There was humming in that ear by the end of the shift.

Positioning the units so close to a driver's head might also be potentially dangerous. The PIM could possibly fly loose, or the drivers head might hit the monitor, during a major collision - especially with a T-bone.

In conclusion.

On the whole I really liked the rear-seat units. I especially liked the processing speed and the fact that I don't have to ask the customers whether or not they wanted to give me a gratuity. That always makes me feel like a panhandler.

But, for me to want to use a read-seat PIM on a regular basis, the audio would have to be turned completely off and the units placed differently.


  1. Proposition 26, approved by voters on 11/2/10, requires local taxes to be approved by voters. Prop 13, approved years before, has this built in it as well. Before, local Governments would put misleading label "fee" to bypass that. That loophole got closed.

    Now a charge is a TAX, it the charge specifically does not benefit those who pay the charge.

    This tells that what SFMTA can get from us must be used for us (Cost of regulating, benefit to drivers, and as such).

    Saam Aryan
    415-626-TAXI (8294)

  2. Hey Ed would you care to elaborate on why you are wearing that thingamijig on your face or is it to cover the ugliness. Thank you. Just joking I actually think your rather handsome.

  3. I'm not quite sure how to take either comment, Doug, but thanks.

    The simple truth is that I had a bad cough and I thought I'd protect my customers from it. Then again, the mask fits my Phantom persona. It also high-lights my pretty blue eyes that many women claim are my best feature.

    By the bye, I found that I got better tips when I wore it than when I didn't.

    The Phantom

    1. Hey Ed at least drive about 5 nights with the rear seat terminal before commenting otherwise its premature give them a chance to break down and freeze as they always do they just add more stress to an already stressfull job.

  4. I happen to agree with Ed. I think the PIMs are great. At YCC there is absolutely no noise from the back terminal. My customers have an easy and smooth experience with it. The only time I have to run cards in the front terminal is for Paratransit debit and Yellow credit/debit cards. The incidences in which I have to get approval over the phone have become less than one a week.