About The Bay: San Francisco Cabbies Try To Overcome Renegade Competition

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Even as San Francisco lawmakers work to crack down on people posing as taxi drivers, the “real” cabbies are up in arms claiming they’re being taken for a ride.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

Unlicensed, and in some cases uninsured, drivers have been know to go as far as stenciling legitimate-looking logos onto their cars in an effort to pass them off as taxi cabs.

“Is it taking money out of your pocket?” asked KCBS’ Mike Sugerman.

“Oh of course they do,” one man responded. “Like about ten years ago there was just some limos, legitimate limo businesses. But now everybody goes by a Town Car and just drives like a cab.”

Cabbies do in fact need to be licensed and screened by San Francisco, and are required to be current on all taxes and fees.

“Solicitation of limousine, taxi or van services is prohibited,” blares an announcement at San Francisco International Airport, driving home the point that people should only get into legitimate cabs.

“When I come off the freeway, there’s one around the corner that says Yellow Cab with a 5-1-0 area code phone number on the cab,” one woman offers an easy way to spot the renegade taxis. Yellow Cabs all have 4-1-5 area code phone numbers on their vehicles.

Legitimate cab drivers lamented that it was a hard fight to win, adding that doormen are often no help.

“The front of the hotels, the guys just come out with the luggage and just talk to them, put them in Town Cars, get ten bucks from the limo driver,” alleged legitimate cabbie Nassar Bassimer. “And they can charge anything because they don’t have any meter.”

There was no way of knowing how many doormen actually do that, but Bassimer’s story was repeated plenty of times to Sugerman.

San Francisco is talking about $5,000 fines if drivers are caught operating renegade cabs.

Cabbies, however, were quick to point out that it would likely be a low priority for law enforcement to crack down on illegitimate cabbies.

“You know we don’t have the police for that,” claimed one woman. “They’re looking for murderers. They’ll be looking for them.”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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  • JaneQPublic

    As a member of the public who use cabs, I refuse to get in anything other than one which I recognize is legit. That means not only checking the external markings on the car, but also making sure there IS a working METER & licensed CAB MEDALLION issued by San Francisco. It’s not rocket science, folks. Just don’t patronize the unlicensed ‘taxis’…..

  • Maud Bailey

    The cab companies in San Francisco are nearly as unreliable/unprofessional as MUNI . . . I would welcome any competition to both–perhaps that would wake them up and force them to actually perform the way they should.

    • alex

      Maybe the cabs you have taken that are unreliable are not actual cab companies. Besides rainy Friday nights, I find most of the cab companies very reliable. If you call the main dispatch (it hits a bunch of companies), then you can get one fast. The only problem I ran into was when I was in the Sunset late at night they never came out to pick me up, but Muni did.

  • S. Spencer

    On a rainy day, running late for SFO, trying to get to the hospital, late for that job interview, then you recognize the importance of our cabs. I’ve been riding cabs for 25 yrs in SF. I talk to my cab drivers and this is the word on the street. Except for a handful of exceptions the hotel doorman play a game on them. They try their best to talk the unsuspecting tourist, or business person, into a Limo/Town-Car. Especially if their going to SFO, or out of town trip. This gives them a $8 to $10 tip from the Limo/Town-Car driver. Their method is is to hustle the hotel client by telling them that they will get them a good driver and quoting an inflated cost for the cab’s waiting there. They will tell prospective customers that the cost of a Taxi is $10 more dollars than it actually is. Only the experienced traveler knows they are being hustled. Hotel management turns a blind eye to this. For a major tourist city to allow this is a crime. It sets up a situation where confrontations take place in front of hotels. A new driver, or one that has waited for a long time, will raise issues at the door. Like any profession, there are good cab drivers and poor ones. Unlicensed Limos/Town-Cars and doormen are rubbing their hands in the counting house.

  • Mark E

    Why not require hotels to post warning signs in the lobby or curbside encouraging tourists to insist on licensed taxis and offering some incentives (safety, peace of mind, etc.)? Why not make it easier to schedule/hail cabs through a site like sfcab.com? Sometimes encouragement and education are more cost effective alternatives to police enforcement.

  • ChuckV

    I can’t support SFO cabs since every ride I’ve taken a ride with with them(with my wife and toddler kids) has been a white knuckle experience. We now have a reliable safe cab company pick us up or I would use a ‘renegade’ cab/limo knowing they are not subject to the rules of the airport.. Anything is safer than the nuts leaving SFO. NOTE: perhaps if the Airport Commission fixes the ‘incentive’ policies (short fares completed w/in 30 minutes go to front of line) the drivers will be safer.

  • peter wilson

    I come to SF 3-4 times a month. Whenever I’m steered (by the doorman) or a scab driver into an unlicensed limo or cab, I wait until we’re at SFO or the hotel to tell the driver that I’m not paying and if he doesn’t like it to call the police.. I tell the doorman that I don’t pay scab drivers and now for some reason, some doormen are getting the message and getting me real cabs.
    I fully support the REAL cab drivers and believe that every person should take a real cab and tip the driver well.

  • Shawn L.

    I live in the Castro, and many times, I have had a hard time getting a hold of either Luxor or Yellow Cab by phone. Even when calling the main numbers, I have been on hold for nearly ten minutes before I give up. I used to use Yellow religiously until they dropped several cab orders, then I began using Luxor, but their phone service has been poor the past few months. I started using Yellow Cabs online booking for better service.

  • Chuck

    Luxor and Yellow have left me stranded too many times I don’t give a #$% if it cuts into their business I’ll take a ride from whoever I can just so they aren’t a moron which Luxor and Yellow have FAR TOO many of.

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