You might think yellow cab rip-offs only happen to tourists, or those who don't know where the hell they're going, or anyone who looks cross-eyed at a meter and therefore won't know the difference anyway. However, you'd be shocked to find out -- as we did, thanks to a recent New York Times
story -- how rampant these thefts are getting.
The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission, which originally claimed to be investigating 35,000 cabbies
for an overcharging con, subsequently found that "21,819 drivers overcharged passengers a total of 286,000 times," which have cost backseat riders $1.1 million.
The commission narrowed their focus to 633 drivers who have allegedly engaged in an ongoing scheme to run a code 4, which is an out-of-town rate, for in-town rides. It's unclear exactly how much profit these hacks
made at the expense of everyday New Yorkers, but what is certain is that we all need to pay more attention to those weird slogans that pop up on the meters.
Keep reading for tips, some courtesy of the commissioner himself (no, not Gordon from the Batman
Know the Code
Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky told Asylum his best advice is to pay attention to what happens when the driver first punches the meter. He says that random number on it is the rate code and must read "rate code 1" while in the five boroughs, "but if an inappropriate rate code is activated, the passenger will hear an audio alert, followed by a visual alert on their monitor screens letting them know another rate has been activated.
Always Take That Pesky Receipt
You may not realize you've been overcharged until you're out of the cab, and by then it's too late -- unless you have a receipt. The receipt not only "confirms the rate of fare, but it also contains information that could be helpful in recovering lost items, among other benefits."
Doormen Don't Do Diddly
A spokesperson for the Taxi Insider website says the likelihood of getting ripped off by a licensed New York City cab driver is extremely low. He points to another enemy: the green coats. "The best thing to do is avoid airport and out-of-town transportation suggestions from hotel doormen. It is not uncommon for hotel doormen to recommend 'Lincolns' at rates that are extremely high, allowing for kickbacks."
Beware Those Shady Side Deals
Another unscrupulous practice we've all been tempted by is the guy in the windbreaker offering to give you a ride home from the airport at "reasonable rates," allowing you to skip the epic wait for a yellow cab. These people are not to be trusted, says the Taxi Insider, who adds, "Only yellow cabs are allowed to stop for street hails in NYC. Ride yellow and ride safe."
In the End, Most Cabbies Are on the Level
Yassky echoes these sentiments: "I think it bears saying, however, that passengers should feel quite confident when taking New York City taxicabs. Only a relatively small number of trips were affected by the rate code 4 problem, and the appropriate steps were taken to put an end to it." These steps include a new alert that pops up on those annoying in-cab TV screens, notifying passengers that they are now being charged out-of-town rates. Have fun in Pittsburgh, suckers.