The taxi business model is under threat from ride-sharing services.
The taxi business model is under threat from ride-sharing services.

Taxi trick driving customers mad

It's the terrifying scenario women across the country face every night.

You've been out drinking with friends but your feet are hurting and you're exhausted from a long working week.

Your warm bed and a long night's sleep beckons but when you go to jump in a cab, its doors are locked.

Instead of being offered the sanctuary of a paid car ride home, the driver demands you tell them where you're going through a slight crack in the window.

And when the fare revenue is deemed insufficient, the window closes and you're again left alone on the side of the road in the middle of the night.

After a call-out to readers, news.com.au was inundated with similar stories and responses criticising the taxi industry.

One reply, identifying only as Kylie, said she was confronted with this issue "constantly".

"Working at a bar in the city, finishing at around the same time as changeover almost guaranteed no taxi would stop," she said. "They'd roll by, ask from the window, shake their head and drive off … I hated the late shift for these reasons."

Other responses to the question of being rejected by taxis were more direct.

"Basically any young woman living in the inner city wanting to get home on a Saturday night in a world before Uber," Katy Hall replied.

And, of course, the bugbear isn't limited to female passengers. Scott Rhodie said on Twitter he experienced this regularly.

"Few weeks ago I tried to get a cab at 2am in the city to Leichhardt (in Sydney's inner west) and two drivers wouldn't open doors and then drove off," he wrote.

"I called the cab company but they didn't care."

 

Taxis are turning away paying customers. Picture: Damian Hofman
Taxis are turning away paying customers. Picture: Damian Hofman

 

An industry peak body admits the regularity of taxis rejecting shorts journeys and leaving passengers stranded is wide spread and pleaded with customers to report rogue drivers.

The NSW Taxi Council wants to "rid the problem" as the mode of transport faces increasing pressure from the popularity of Uber and other rideshare alternatives.

"It is definitely an issue within our industry and it's something we take quite seriously," the body's deputy chief executive Nick Abrahim told news.com.au.

"We want to tackle it head on and try and deal with it … because it's not in the interest of good customer service."

The rampant behaviour isn't limited to dark and quiet streets, as Jocelyn Hunter discovered when she flew into Melbourne for a meeting recently.

When the public relations professional sat inside her cab, her driver was disgusted the journey was only 15 minutes away. She was told the fare wasn't enough and was forced from the car.

"So I got out, walked up to the taxi security guy who flagged down another cab for me," Ms Hunter said.

"I got in and the taxi driver started swearing at the guy, said he wasn't going to take me because the fare was too short.

"He was really angry and eventually took me but drove erratically."

Mr Abrahim said he was committed to stamping the habit out of the industry.

"The role of a taxi driver is to love all fares regardless of whether passengers are going short, long, doesn't matter," he told news.com.au. "They should be grateful and appreciate every fare that a passenger provides.

"It's really important to understand that this is an issue that can be seen as widespread across the industry."

The peak body's executive identified the importance of respecting short rides - those passengers could have a subtle disability, an injury, or be vulnerable to a violent and sexual crime.

"Generally speaking a driver cannot, by law, refuse a customer the service or refuse the customer a journey simply because of the trip you're going to take.

"We've got to get away from that mindset."

According to transport regulations, the main reason taxis are allowed to refuse a passenger is if the driver is at the end of their shift.

And Mr Abrahim admits the opaqueness of this rule leaves it open to be abused.

"This is where customer feedback is vital," he said.

The executive from the NSW Taxi Council implored frustrated customers to report poorly behaved drivers as he feared the service would struggle for relevance against online competitors such as Uber, Ola and other competitors entering the market.

"It gives the customer a negative experience, and no doubt in doing so, will get the customer thinking twice about whether they choose to use the taxi again," Mr Abrahim told news.com.au.

"These drivers need to understand that this is not just a matter of them refusing a short fare.

"There is a long term knock-on effect impacting on brand taxi and it is a means of pushing these customers away and saying 'we don't want your service'.

"We don't want these drivers who are culprits of refusing short fares and abusing it (excuse of end-of-shift) to their benefit."

13cabs told news.com.au that the regulations in Victoria allow drivers to reject passengers but the company has a strict policy against the practice.

"13cabs considers refusing to accept passenger based on their desired destination to be unacceptable and serious breach of our driver code of conduct," a company spokesperson said.

"When accepting a booking from 13cabs the driver is not shown the destination.

"This is done to ensure people who book with us are able to get a taxi as quickly as possible when they need one and cannot be refused on the basis of where they wish to travel."

Continue the conversation on Twitter @James_P_Hall or james.hall1@news.com.au


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