Sunday, December 20, 2015

HopSkipDrive & Shuddle: Transporting Minors – Safe or Not?

HopSkipDrive and Shuddle are recent venture capitalized startups that specialize in giving rides to unaccompanied minors.

HopSkipDrive claims to be founded by 3 mothers and actually was.

Founder and CEO Joanna McFarland has an MBA from Stanford, a BS from Wharton, has worked for 15 years in product and general management, and has two kids.

Along with the other founder mothers she claims to be part of,

 “A team that cares as much for your kids as they do theirs.’’

To an extent this appears to be true. Unlike Uber or Lyft, HopskipDrive has its drivers fingerprinted and favors Trustline , Live scan  and other safety measures for background checks.

Shuddle's CEO, on the other hand, is Nick Allen who was a co-founder of Sidecar where he clearly worked on his bs – as you can hear in this interview where he claims that Sidecar "really isn't a taxi service at all"...

Like Uber and Lyft, Shuddle formulates long and arcane arguments against using background checks like Trusline and Live scan – which are the standards for child care safety. It's unclear whether Shuddle uses fingerprinting or not. Some places they say they do. In others, they don't mention it.

OOPS - Nick Allen is out at Shuddle. Apparently the company isn't doing too well.

In any case, I would certainly favor HopSkipDrive over Shuddle. Unfortunately, they have a waiver of liability (which is normally used for dangerous activities like parachute jumping or traveling in a war zone) hidden in their Terms where they refuse to guarantee the safety of your kids after all.

I haven't had the luck to have children myself (at least not yet) but I'm advising my numerous cousins, nieces and nephews not to use either service until or unless they get rid of the waivers and guarantee the safety of the children who they transport.

For more detail you can read from my Reply Comments to the CPUC on Unaccompanied Minors below.

Note: The Austin, Texas City Council voted to require Uber and the other tncs to fingerprint their drivers.  In this they join San Antonio, Las Vegas, Portland, most of Europe and China among other places.

Remember the days when San Francisco was the leader in consumer protections and social and political innovations? Now we wonder when the Neanderthals who currently run this city and this state will catch up with the rest of the world?

Thursday, December 10, 2015


For reasons I don't understand this story was posted on a CNN i Report last April by somebody who I thought hated my guts. I just stumbled across it while looking for something else. Whatever – I like it. Enjoy or not!


When I say to other cab drivers that I've worked nights for twenty years and never been robbed, they either don't believe me or tell me I'm lucky. But, I'm telling the truth. I haven't been held up and I owe it all to Officer Paul Weiner (name changed because I forget what it was).

Weiner trained us and during orientation told us that we had to pick up anybody and everybody who wanted a cab.

"But isn't that dangerous?" I asked, "I mean, you can tell that some people are trouble just by the way they move, they way they look, their gestures, they way they look at you. "

"You can't tell nuthin!" Weiner yelled, getting in my face like a Marine Corps drill sergeant.

"But sometimes you can see it com -"

"You can't see nuthin,” he bellowed. "You don't pick ‘em up, it's refusal to convey! That’s the law!"

The reason I owe my perfect record to Officer Weiner is that he started me thinking seriously about how dangerous the job could be and I decided to ignore his rule.

I can see the point of the law. It's a product of the sixties. It's aimed at racial profiling. And, of course, you can't convict somebody of a crime because of the way they move or look. But only a fool would ignore the warning signs of aggressive body language or a sadistic stare. There is a difference between punishing somebody and protecting yourself. Or, are such distinctions too subtle for the law?

Personally, I've never turned anybody down because of race. In fact, innumerable large, minority men have told me that I was only cab driver who would pick them up. Contrary to stereotype, I've usually been tipped very, very well by these people.

The reason I raised my questions to Weiner in the first place was that I'd been mugged by two white junkies a couple of years earlier.

The thing is that I saw them: I saw that they were scumbags: I knew they were dangerous: I could even see them targeting me.

But I ignored the signs. Why? Because it was a lovely Sunday afternoon on Hyde & Vallejo streets on Russian Hill in San Francisco with strolling couples and cable cars passing by while I was walking home from a Laundromat.

Hyde & Vallejo might be the safest corner in the world. It never entered my head that I could be mugged at such a time in such a place. If it had, my rip-off artists would never have gotten close enough to point a butcher knife at my guts.

One of them walked by me then turned around holding the knife concealed by his jacket. They other blocked me from behind. They got $6.00. It was well worth the price for the lessons they gave me. It’s paid me back a dozen times over since I started driving cab.

I’ve passed by thugs that I know have robbed other drivers. When I was working for City Cab a dispatcher gave me an order at a corner on Cortland to pick up three guys at 2 am. I took one look at them, drove by and called the dispatcher, telling him not to call the order again. He called it anyway. 

The dirtballs robbed the next cab driver that came along. The dispatcher later claimed that I'd never talked to him. But, of course, the company could have been put in a delicate situation. They might either be busted by Wiener for refusing to call an order or sued by the driver for putting him in harm's way.

Whatever – the moral of my tale is: always be aware of your surroundings and trust your perceptions. Your intuition is swifter than your intellect and more flexible than the law.