Monday, June 28, 2010

$65.00 and not a dime more...

To tip or not to tip - It's a question I'm often asked, especially by those who visit from abroad.

It's a question often asked but difficult to answer. Usually I reply with a joke like, "it's 100%" then after a slight pause add,” up to you..."

But that really is how I feel... Tipping is a way to express appreciation or gratitude towards a service provider.

The taxi industry in LA City is highly regulated. All cabs (legal ones) charge the exact same amount for each mile driven... If a great driver (not that I'm great) and a horrible driver take the same route with the same traffic, the meter will be the same. A tip is a material way to express your appreciation or lack there of. But it doesn’t always work that way….

A short story to illustrate the point.

I picked up a customer at a swanky restaurant in Studio City on Ventura Blvd. He gave me his destination as the Century City Plaza on the Avenue of the Stars.

I headed west on Ventura Blvd to Laurel Canyon and turned South, the opposite of what be had expected."Where are you going? The freeway is the other way," he said.

I replied, "This is the shortcut."

He went off! "I know all about your 'short-cuts' here in LA. I'm from New York City and I know better! Listen, the meter was $55 to get here and that's what I'll pay for you to take me back. Actually we gave a $10 tip (about 18%) so it's $65 and not a dime more...

"That's fine with me," I say. "Go ahead and give me the $65 as a deposit. That way you are covered and you won't have to worry about the meter. Okay?"

He handed me $70 and said, “I don't care about the meter. Give me $5 change."

I said, "No problem. I'm going to put the money right here next to the meter, but I'm going to leave the meter on."

"You can do whatever you want," He said. "But I am NOT paying one dime more!"

We chit chatted a bit more as I continued toward his hotel. I found out that he was here on a business trip and had gone from the hotel to this business dinner with a local associate. That associate had given directions to the previous cab driver and that is why he was so adamant about the amount he was willing to pay.

As I turned into the hotel drop-off area the meter read $31.

"What the F*** is this?" He said as he noticed the hotel, then the meter...

"It's your hotel," I said while trying not to laugh out loud. "I told you it was a short-cut."

I retrieved the money from next to the meter and handed it back to him saying, "Give me my five back and let's start over again."

He smiled and said sorry while he handed me two twenties then asked for $5 back. ($31 fare $4 tip about 11%)

"Sure," I said.

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