Las Vegas Taxi Excitement

I have a love/hate relationship with Las Vegas. It’s the worst place on earth… which is why I both love and hate it. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world more ridiculous, and less than 24 hours into my current trip I’m already reminded why.

I already wrote about my experience tipping at check-in, where I tipped the front desk associate $60 to get an upgrade to a room that would have cost me $40 more. Granted, it was my own fault, but I wouldn’t even think to bribe my way into an upgrade anywhere else in world, which just shows how ridiculous this place is.

Taxi driver scams

The Vegas taxi mafia is among the most corrupt in the world. Uber isn’t allowed in the city, and even though they have a monorail, they elected not to build it to the airport so that the taxi drivers wouldn’t be impacted negatively.

Las Vegas Airport is literally right next to the Strip, so a taxi drive should cost $15 tops. The drivers are notorious for trying to rip people off and take them the long way. If you’re going to the Strip and they drive you via the interstate, it means they’re trying to rip you off.

As I explained in my post about the $20 trick, though, I don’t mind playing along with “scams” if there’s not a big downside. And in this case I’ve never before had a taxi driver that took me the long way. I assumed they did it mostly to foreigners and those that appear to be first time visitors.

So the driver took us via the interstate, though I didn’t call him out on it till we arrived and were outside the taxi. The fare was $24, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was almost $10 more than usual. But of course I was pissed on principle that he was trying to rip us off.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “So I’m just curious, is there a reason you took us on the interstate? Other than to drive up the meter, of course?”
Driver: “What do you mean?”
Me: “I mean you took us the long way. The fare shouldn’t be more than $17 at most per the taxi commission, and there was no traffic.”
Driver: “No, that’s not right, I took the fastest way.”
Me: “No you didn’t, and you know it. If people fall for it, fine, but don’t lie to my face.”

So I gave him exact change (to the nickel) and as I handed it to him told him that I usually tip honest taxi drivers $10 just because they aren’t trying to screw me. He gave me the middle finger.

Taxi driver AWESOMENESS

It’s my friend’s first time in Vegas, and I’m such a good friend that I took her… to a laundromat for the afternoon. 😉

Laundromat

I’m not a totally horrible person, and she’s here for a while, and I really needed to do laundry, and they had wifi, and…

So after being there for close to two hours doing laundry (including listening to an older gentlemen discuss in great detail the relative merits of Nicki Minaj and Beyonce’s rears), it was time to call for a taxi.

There’s nothing quite like calling the taxi operator and asking for a pickup from the West Flamingo Fluff & Fold.

We were picked up by Jeff, and he was just… WOW!

I’ve had a lot of interesting drivers over the years, but no one ever like Jeff.

To start, I think he was possibly drunk.

He was definitely smoking, but helpfully extinguished his cigarette and sprayed a liberal amount of air freshener before unlocking the trunk.

Me: “We’re going to the Delano and would like to stop at a CVS or something along the way, please.”
Jeff: “It’s pronounced Dell-ano, not Deh-lano.”
Me: “Well you might want to tell the people at the hotel that.”
Jeff: “It’s Dell-ano, it’s named after the city.”

….

Jeff: “So where do you need to go?”
Me: “Well anywhere with liquor, we need to get a gift.”
Jeff: “Well there are lots of liquor stores, they’re pretty trashy though. What kind of liquor do you want?”
Me: “Let’s just try CVS if there’s one nearby, since they should have everything.”
Jeff: “Okay, fine.”

*30 second pause*

Jeff: “But it’s pronounced Deh-lano. Trust me. It’s Deh-lano.”
Me: “Okay.”
Jeff: “People are f*cking dumb if they’re pronouncing it Deh-lano.”

So after five more awkward 30 second pauses followed by him reminding us how our hotel is really pronounced, we made it to CVS.

We ran inside for five minutes while Jeff kept the meter running. When we came outside we found him with his seat reclined and sound asleep. We stood around the outside of the car for a bit before deciding to just open the door, at which point he almost robotically moved his seat into the upright position and turned on the engine.

Jeff

At this point we had to make a stop at a liquor store (as it turns out this CVS was out of “expensive champagne,” as they described it, which included everything other than Korbel).

So we go to this horrible liquor store, and on the way Jeff warns us that there will be a lot of drunk bums outside. Then he started telling us about his girlfriend. And how his house has plumbing problems. Or something.

We were at the liquor store for probably less than five minutes, and were pleasantly surprised to find Jeff wasn’t sleeping when we came back outside. But he was smoking in the taxi. He put the cigarette out as we got in though didn’t open the window or anything.

At this point he starts bitching about champagne.

Jeff: “Champagne is the worst thing ever. One glass and you have an instant headache.”
Me: “So what do you drink?”
Jeff: “Beer. Imported beer.”

*30 second pause*

Jeff: God I can’t believe people call the hotel Dell-ano. That totally sounds like a gay bar.”
Me: “So what are your favorite names of places on the strip?
Jeff: “Well, I like Casino Royale and Four Queens.”
Me: “Four Queens sounds like a gay bar to me…”
Jeff: “Huh? Why? It just means you had a lucky hand, don’t you gamble?”

Oh, Jeff…

Comments

  1. If I get long-hauled, I usually threaten to report them, and they back off. If you’re staying at Mandalay, there is no way the driver should be using the highway.

  2. love this post and love that you’re such a good sport about things. weird taxi interactions are one of my favorite parts of travel. last time i was in vegas i actually got an elderly cabbie who grew up on my block in new york. we spent the whole ride talking about neighborhood places and he was fascinated to hear about what still exists. of course, he tried to take me the long way from the airport but i politely insisted otherwise. cabbies are cabbies, no matter what i guess.

  3. Parking and valet is free pretty much everywhere in Vegas. I used to take cabs and just stopped. I can get a car from National with Executive Aisle access for $50-60/weekend. Even if I only use it to drive to and from the airport, It pays for itself.

  4. Haha. I’ve definitely had my fair share of arguments with Vegas taxi drivers… they are the worst!

    Great timing though on the interstate tips as I’m heading to the Dell-ano tonight. If you are still there would be great to grab a drink.

  5. One great post and reason why I avoid taxis, if a city does not have Uber, I use a car service, rather be fleeced in a town car with a flat rate than some scum bag….in a crap car.

  6. At least Jeff had the sense to like Casino Royale….pretty Divey but they’ve got $1 Michelobs. My company put us up there a couple years in a row while we’re there for a convention….until we moved to the much nicer Harrah’s next-door.

  7. Thanks Lucky… For reminding me of how much I hate that ridiculous trashy town. Fake and low class trying to pretending to be the opposite of both.

  8. Great story but at least your guy didn’t get lost. Some years ago I’m in NYC heading from downtown to La Guardia. My cabbie’s cruising up the BQE, hits Grand Central Parkway (i.e., the freeway that goes to LGA) and, I swear, turns LEFT to head back into the city! I yell at the guy to get off at the first exit, cross over, and head back the other way. He thinks I’m insane but does it anyway since, of course, he doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Then after we get to the airport he wants (a) the full meter, and (b) a tip. How could any cabbie, anywhere, possibly not know how to get to the airport?

  9. Guys, there is a new invention called credit cards that some have accused Ben and other bloggers of being a little too interested in, so it’s a safe bet he knows about them and may even use them on occasion. After all, what better way to pay to the nickel *and* shave an additional 2-4% off. 🙂

  10. He’s not lying – he took you the quickest way, but not the shortest. The freeway is just a great deal for them – 6.0 miles from where you were, roughly, to McCarran on the freeway and 8 or so minutes on Google Maps; via Tropicana, 3.4 miles and 13 minutes.

    So, for him, speed is money … but for you, it doesn’t work out so well …

  11. You should ALWAYS report crooked drivers to the local cab authority. I recently had an employee submit a taxi receipt (paid by credit card) for a long haul (from LAS to strip hotel). I complained to the taxi authority and got a full refund. Las Vegas is a town of transients, scumbags, and thieves. Stand up for yourself, or get bamboozled.

  12. “Jeff: God I can’t believe people call the hotel Dell-ano. That totally sounds like a gay bar.”
    Me: “So what are your favorite names of places on the strip?
    Jeff: “Well, I like Casino Royale and Four Queens.”
    Me: “Four Queens sounds like a gay bar to me…”
    Jeff: “Huh? Why? It just means you had a lucky hand, don’t you gamble?

    Oh, Jeff…”

    Best. Post. Ever.

    Please, write nothing more on this blog, ever.* Nothing will ever eclipse this. Retire knowing that you’ve reached perfection.

    *Totally keep writing, I’m just going for high drama, this made me (literally) LOL. thanks for that.

  13. @Lucky – That laundromat seems waaay too nice for here in Vegas! And what about the excellent car service you got from the Delano to Aria last time? That was fancier service than any Emirates First Class Car Drive!!

  14. There are some cities in which getting a car saves you money and time and Vegas is one of them. As someone earlier pointed out one ca get a great rate and free parking, the only downside is, driving to and through the strip…

  15. Stuff like this is why I sincerely home private companies utterly demolish the taxi racket in the open market. It’s appalling in 2014 in a supposedly modern country that crap like this still happens.

  16. Well, freeway would be faster for properties further down like Venetian and Wynn, but I am not sure if that would be the case for Delano even during the weekend. What I do is that I tip well if they go local, and tip zero if they go freeway. But then, I just get a car these days so I don’t have to deal with the taxi nonsense in the first place.

  17. The thing i hate the most about Vegas is the taxi there. i dont understand why the local government has been so impotent to regulate the industry. One time the driver not only took the longer unnecessary interstate route to drive me to hotel but also told me he had no changes for the money i gave him, forcing me to give him the rest as tips. Be careful, if you pay by credit/debit card, the machine will automatically charge you more (3 dollars?) without noticing you. Bloody dishonest and disgusting.

  18. It’s true that if you’re going to CityCenter North, the freeway is probably “faster” because you won’t have to deal with traffic lights or strip traffic… so it gives the drivers an argument in their favor. That’s why, EVERY single time I get into a taxi at LAS I specifically ask the driver to take Tropicana, Harmon, Paradise, etc., depending on where I am going. They’re usually okay with it, though I did have one driver who, although he complied, was verbally pissed about it.

  19. My dear Winston… That government is the reason for the taxi companies’ shittiness… They’ve taken away the competition so the taxi companies have no reason to do what they do any better (or less shitty) than they already do.

  20. You’re lucky he didn’t take off with your luggage. The “Dell-ano” charges $20 to valet. Shades of things to come.

  21. question:

    if the taxi driver deliberately scams you by taking you by a longer and unquestionably wrong route, are you obligated to pay the higher fare? I would threaten to call the taxi / limousine commission right from the cab and let them know the route I was driven, the fare charged, and report the driver.

    of course this is only in extreme situations; most of the times, it’s only small detours and often they are legitimate because of traffic or road closures.

  22. Rent a car next time. It’s cheaper and you can get off the Strip. There’s some great stuff in Las Vegas, and a car makes it affordable and easy to access the good bits.

  23. @Ryan…I was born and raised in Vegas and lived there for most of my life. I am not a transient, or a thief, and no one has ever before called me a scumbag. My family still lives there and we all work hard at respectable professions and try to live as decent people. Perhaps you and your employees should be more selective about the company you choose and more aware of your prejudices. If you expect people to be thieves and scumbags, you may create a self fulfilling prophecy.

  24. As much as I love Las Vegas, I really can’t stand the taxi drivers operating *from* the airport. I have a problem with being long hauled EVERY single time that I visit. However, every other taxi ride (whether in and around the strip or even from hotel back to the airport) has been a without issue.

    I think you’ve mistyped the pronunciation of Delano towards the end of the the initial conversation with Jeff. Initially he’s insisting it Dell-Ano:

    Jeff: “It’s pronounced Dell-ano, not Deh-lano.”

    but then later states:

    Jeff: “People are f*cking dumb if they’re pronouncing it Dell-ano”

    Oh, and well done in mentioning ‘Korbel’ in the same sentence as ‘Champagne’ without rofl. Not too sure many Americans could do that! 😉

  25. Oops! Sorry that should have been:

    Oh, and well done in mentioning ‘Korbel’ in the same sentence as ‘Champagne’ without rofl. Not too sure many world citizens could do that! 😉

  26. I got the attempted REVERSE long haul trying to get home from LAS.
    “Oh, the tunnel is closed and we’ll have to go down Russell to Eastern”
    I told him to take the tunnel anyway and he threatened to drop me off in the middle of the road.

    That turned out to be a very bad idea for him. Such threats turn out to be some sort of criminally illegal action. Ya know, like leaving you on the side of the road with your luggage in a not so safe area.

    I ended up with a full refund and he ended up without a job, I’m told.

  27. I don’t know which is worse while in a taxi. Knowing that you’re getting tunneled or being pummeled with genius conversation from Jeff.

  28. I’ve been to Vegas many times and only have been taxi scammed once – from the airport to the Four Seasons $23. Needless to say, the cabbie got zip for a tip.
    When I get into the taxi, I immediately tell the driver not to take the tunnel. One helpful cabbie actually told me if that ever happens, to tell the doorman at the hotel upon arrival and they will take down the taxi number and report it as this practice is strictly prohibited by the Taxi Authority.

  29. Wow, just wow. Never take cabs in Vegas. Always rent a car, you can get them for a good price. There’s even a German car rental company there, ;), and you can get Plat status with World Elite MC. Never rent from Budget, even if they are the cheapest…

  30. The other legal scan is the taxi dispatcher at LAS – can’t they figure out that some onesies and twosies are going to the same hotel and have them share a cab? Anyone every request this? I suppose you can canvas the line yourself before you get to the dispatcher.

    I’ll repeat a comment I made before about a subtle approach to the LAS long-haul scam – driver asked if I wanted to take local or the expressway. By wording it this way, I’d bet a big percentage of out of towners think why would I want to be stuck in local traffic when we can take the EXPRESSway to our hotel? I said local and that’s what he took, but his subtle pitch for expressway was interesting.

  31. I agree with Mr. Roper. The Shuttle from the airport is $8 and you don’t usually have to wait more than 10 minutes. What’s more is that the return “ticket” is the back page of the booklet. So….pay one way and keep the booklet. Boom…$4 per way. Is that kinda scummy? Maybe….but you’re gonna get all sorts of scummy from Vegas while you’re there.

  32. Lest you all think that Uber is a cure for bad/incompetent taxi drivers, I had an interesting experience with a highly-rated UberX driver in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. Was going from a Downtown hotel to a concert at Showbox SoDo which should take about 6-10 minutes depending on traffic (Uber app estimated 8). I kid you not, the driver took the exact opposite of every single turn/fork Uber app was giving her. We ended up on a freaking Harbor Island!

    I don’t t think she was trying to pull anything (she seemed very tired as it was the end of her day) and she ended the trip pretty early on but eventually I had to pull out my phone and give her Google Maps directions on how to get to the venue (mind you, it was my second time in Seattle). I’d estimate it took us 30-35 minutes to drive 2.9 miles.

    Fortunately, I am pretty tall so being late to a concert was no big deal but I’d learned my lesson and took Uber towncar back to the hotel.

    Also, FWIW, but apparently Seattle you can only take a towncar Uber to/from the airport so they are keeping UberX’ers away from that lucrative slice of the pie (“they” being city regulators, I presume).

  33. @ Ivan Y — Yep, I’ve had plenty of incompetent UberX drivers, though it’s certainly not intentional. And if you “rate” the ride afterwards and leave a comment, they’ll review the ride and charge you the correct amount based on the more direct distance.

  34. @ Lucky — I gave her a 4* rating but didn’t dispute the charges ($13.xx instead of $6-8 estimated) because felt so bad for the lady as it was clear she was very tired and last thing she wanted to do was purposefully take me on an unintentional sightseeing tour of Seattle’s less picturesque parts. If you read the articles that are now coming out on Uber, there doesn’t seem to be a vast difference between them and regular cab drivers — overworked and hardly making any money (although I guess a cabbie is more likely to know a concert venue, lol).

  35. You’re going to Las Vegas to eat, drink gamble and chase the oppiste sex. You’re comig to spend. Stop trying to nickel and dime a driver, trying to make a living, out as some kind of criminal. You cheap bastards shoud stay home.

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