I Hate Taxis. With A Passion.

I’ll be the first to say that Uber’s growth techniques have at times been questionable at best, though they deserve credit for tapping into what must otherwise be one of the least competitive and least-customer focused markets.

In the past years, just about every time I take a taxi I seem to have a bad experience:

Regardless of how Uber has grown, the result is crystal clear. You get a car within minutes where you’re treated like a valuable customer, and that’s largely thanks to the instant feedback loop — you rate the driver, and the driver rates you.

I’ll do almost anything to avoid a taxi, and only take one in cities where Uber isn’t really available and public transportation isn’t great.

So this morning my mom and I took a taxi from Offenbach (near Frankfurt) to Frankfurt Airport. While Uber is in Frankfurt, there are very few cars, so the closest one was over 20 minutes away.

We’re flying home a bit earlier than originally expected since I want to see a doctor in the US ASAP. We wanted to go to the First Class Terminal, which he acknowledged when we got in his car.

Lufthansa-FCT

I’m talking to my mom during the drive, and when we talk we switch between German and English.

About two minutes into the ride the driver chimes in and reprimands me for speaking any English, saying I should always speak my “mother tongue.” I found it a bit odd he jumped in, even if he meant well.

Then he proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes to the airport ranting about America, and telling me how if I travel anywhere in Asia or Africa I should say I’m German and not say I’m American (he was from Afghanistan). Now, I can appreciate that historically Americans aren’t the most well regarded around the world, necessarily, but to suggest that you shouldn’t admit to being American anywhere in Asia is preposterous.

But he assured me it was true — “I’ve been to Asia before,” he said. I obviously didn’t argue with him, but rather just let him talk. Which he did… for the next 20 minutes… without stopping.

Then we get near the airport, and I had to interrupt his tirade to say “just to clarify, we’d like to be dropped off at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal please.”

“Ja, ja.”

What do we do? We drive immediately past the First Class Terminal.

“Excuse me, I think we missed the First Class Terminal. It was just on the right.”

“No, that’s not for first class. The first class check-in is here.”

“Right, but we want to go to the separate First Class Terminal, which we definitely just passed.”

“No, that’s for business class passengers.”

“Okay, then can you take us to the Business Class Terminal please?”

“But first class is here.”

“Please.”

We loop around the airport again, except he makes a wrong turn, so we have to loop again. At this point he stops the meter and says “you can just pay me what’s on the meter, I’ll give you the rest of the ride for free. But I’ll start it again when we get to the terminal and you realize you’re in the wrong place.” Gee, thanks!

We do eventually get to the First Class Terminal, though he won’t let us out. “Wait, I’ll ask for you first so you can see that this isn’t where you need to be.” He didn’t unlock our doors, but got out of the car. A minute later he returned and said “yes, we’re right.”

Admittedly this is a very minor gripe, but… wtf?

Comments

  1. My goodness, you showed amazing restraint…I would have been able to control myself.

    This is precisely why Uber is so successful. People are sick and tired of being mistreated by taxi companies. For years, they’ve been treating us like this, and we have been able to do anything about it. Now we can.

    I can’t tell you how many times I used to call for a taxi to the airport, and it wouldn’t show up.

  2. Uber’s drivers are definitely hit and miss in their conduct (much like the cabbies they compete with), but even then, I’ve never encountered one as vocal with his opinions as this guy… Where I come from, we leave right-wing/xenophobic rhetoric to less…enlightened members of society.

  3. +1.

    I hate taxi drivers. I have encountered so many dishonest ones, all over the world. May Uber be the end of the criminal taxi mafias

  4. I assume, they think it is some kind of good service when they talk to you all the time or maybe to get more tip. The Taxi company I use to get to FRA has always people from Pakistan and they also like to talk a lot. Sometimes it is just funny but most of the times it just sucks…especially when you just got off a 12h flight 🙂

  5. I’m sorry, what I meant to say in my original post is, I would *not* have been able to control myself.

    I have taken Uber many times all over the country, and have found the drivers to be fantastic. The only negative experience I had was when heading towards JFK, my driver was texting and missed the exit for my airline, and as a result I gave him one star. I was contacted by customer support and they apologized profusely.

    Here’s a big difference between taxis and Uber – we have the opportunity to rate our driver, and they want high ratings. Therefore, they are incentivized to treat us right. Nothing like that exists for taxis.

    It’s true, Uber has made some missteps, and it stems from the fact that Travis seems to be a jerk. But I’m still glad that it exists – it’s a fantastic alternative. I’ve also used Lyft as well, especially when Uber is in surge pricing.

  6. While I typically prefer to personality of the Uber drivers, in Chicago their sense of direction is absolutely pathetic. They rely on Uber’s broken GPS and half the time you have to direct them. That’s the one area where I tend to lean towards taking a cab because I can just give them the address and I’m on my way.

  7. The rates for uber are very low in Germany think 30 cents per 1 kilometer so they won’t do long trips ( to the airport)

  8. +1. I literally cannot stand anything about taxis. I wish that all of their licenses would be revoked.

  9. I live in NYC would say I use Uber and taxis about evenly, while I would say that Uber drivers are on average better than taxi drivers, I’ve had about the same amount of flagrantly bad drivers from Uber and taxis.

  10. I would assume an Uberblack driver would know where he is going, if he doesnt then the company can fix the fare.. now if you take uberx that is a whole diff ball game that I am not even going to get into.

  11. “I’ll do almost anything to avoid a taxi, and only take one in cities where Uber isn’t really available and public transportation isn’t great.”

    Is this a recent thing?

    Because I’ve read literally dozens of trip reports from you where the first thing decision you made was to hail a taxi despite the availability of trains, buses, and vans.

  12. The uber drivers I encountered at LGA were disgusting.
    They upfront asked me 2X the amount I finally paid the metered taxi driver(who seemed to take have taken a longer-more indirect route per google maps) finally to get to my destination.

  13. @Abhi: How did a Uber driver asked you for 2x the amount? Uber driver’s don’t ask anything. You don’t pay them anything. It is all done through the app so neither you nor them have any control over that. Usually if I know where I am going I give clear directions to the Uber driver on which way I want to go.

  14. Reminds me a bit about a cab ride to the airport in Brussels. The driver’s family escaped from Iran (apparently his father and/or other relatives were part of the Shah’s regime). He was bitter about the treatment from Belgians and how he is more qualified to be something other than just a taxi driver, etc.

    I just tried to nod. I can understand some of his frustrations but he is talking about a country that gave him and his family asylum otherwise he might still be in Iran and possibly in prison or not alive.

    Regardless, tirades seldom get taxi drivers better tips. I’ve always had good experiences in Germany. Las Vegas is a disgrace. Since the real estate collapse a few years ago it seems like they all want to take advantage of customers. I rarely visit anymore and would rather take a shuttle with its endless stops than deal with taxis that constantly want to take you for a ride.

  15. What action did the taxi company take when you contacted them to share your distressing experience with that particular driver? Did the LH first class concierge offer to provide some mediation in the matter? It is odd that a described as insensitive, overbearing, and not customer oriented driver took the time to step out of the vehicle to inquire if the building was your correct destination. Maybe, he was just sleep deprived.

  16. Your driver wasn’t a German, but represented the problem with taxi drivers in the West, viz. most are from fourth world countries, rude and dangerous drivers. I loath taking taxis for that reason. I’m old enough to recall when in Germany (1960s) that taxi drivers were German and their cars were spotless and drivers actually wore a coat and tie!. Happy travels. You missed the boat by 5 decades.

  17. @ Santastico — I get the sense that Abhi doesn’t know what Uber is.

    For all of the negative publicity surrounding the shady ways that Uber and / or its drivers have, at times, operated in certain locations, I don’t think those issues can come within a million miles of the aggregate evil, dishonesty, and general bad intentions of taxis worldwide throughout the years. If it’s a lesser-of-two-evils question then Uber wins, hands down, in every possible way.

    Please let Marrakech be the next taxi mafia that Uber destroys. Good lord those guys are horrible human beings.

    I think we’ll look back in 4 or 5 years (maybe sooner) and see this as the golden era of Uber globally. When a 20 minute ride in KL costs me the equivalent of $3 and the driver tells me that Uber guarantees him $20 per ride, there’s something unsustainable going on and prices will have to rise (significantly) over time. Hopefully Lyft and other competitors operating similarly will continue to expand and ensure there is competition. But let’s enjoy it while we can.

  18. Ja Lucky, da hast Du erlebt wie es jetzt in Deutschland heute so geht. Viele Leute die viele Probleme machen. Solche Taxifahrer gibt’s halt nicht nur in NY. Das Vaterland ist nicht mehr was es war. Das haben deine Eltern sehr wahrscheinlich auch gewusst wie sie ausgewandert sind. Hoffe alles geht gut beim Arzt!

  19. You know that an uber is a taxi right?

    And.. you are genuinely the most melodramatic guy I have heard. Seriously, a small stomach ache and you fly to the US to see a doctor.

  20. The exception for rude taxi drivers is Japan, where the drivers are unfailingly polite, generally older and wear white gloves.

  21. @Abhi at LGA: It wouldn’t surprise me if “black taxi” or “illegal cabs” or whatever started to use the word UBER at airport exits to try to gain trust. Obviously every seasoned traveler knows to ignore the taxi and driver touts, but some less informed might think it’s actually UBER. Has anyone heard of this this being used?

  22. Uber is fascinating from a brand perspective. I live in NYC and use them a lot.

    The drivers always whine about how much Uber takes from them, and doesn’t live up to the promises they make. When else do you interact with a brand rep that constantly poops all over the brand?

    And because we all want a 5, how often do we sit in silence when they go the wrong way or won’t turn on the AC in the humid NY summer?

    They have the convenience thing down, but it’s a really interesting psychological experiment in many ways.

  23. @Sam
    To come to Ben’s defence, not that he really needs defence for trying to fix a medical problem, it was a “small stomach ache” that lasted for several weeks. Better to be safe than sorry in my book.

  24. BEN ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT YOUR BELOVED GERMANY IS 0-2 IN WORLD WARS, AND THAT CRAZY COUNTRY WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE KILLINGS OF MAYBE 100,000,00 MILLION PEOPLE, REMEMBER THAT THEY ARE 0-2 IN WORLD WARS… IF YOU LIKE IT THERE SO MUCH, WHY DONT YOU JUST GO AND LIVED THERE

  25. Offenbach? Why didn’t you just take the S8 or S9?

    Hope your medical issue is quickly resolved.

  26. I’ll be traveling to Europe later today, how do I go about getting an uber? I don’t want to use roaming and get crazy fees, how can I get data for cheap without having to get a sim card when I get there?

  27. @Dax – Are you seriously suggesting that lucky, an esteemed first class traveller, take the public transport of the masses? What blasphemy!

  28. Did you visit the First Class Terminal last Friday (19th July)? I think I have seen you there. Or it was someone who looks like you.

  29. @ JC — Your options are to get a SIM card, have a plan which allows international data, or have a wifi connection at the airport. The challenge is that you may need to call the driver if you’re being picked up from the airport, since you have to coordinate where to be picked up. So might not be a good way to do that.

  30. @ Susan B — We had some VERY heavy luggage, as my mom was bringing back some stuff from Germany. Taxi was just much easier.

  31. @ Rami — If they don’t I’m happy to explain it. Just as I was willing to do here, but the driver wasn’t listening. There was also plenty of signage.

  32. @ Will — Heh, good point, though I think that’s true of just about everything in Japan!

  33. Hey Lucky, sounds like a real horrortrip to gernany. Sad to read this. As a german doctor it was disturbing to hear about the entrance fee in the ER. In our hospital this is not to happen. Hope you ll be fine soon. And,. Nimms locker mit dem blöden Taxifahrer. 😉 greets from Wiesbaden

  34. “only take one in cities where Uber isn’t really available and public transportation isn’t great.” You mean, like Frankfurt? Seriously, Germany has great public transit. I just spent 10 days there and used trains and buses to get everywhere. Never once needed a cab.

    However, I take cabs all the time and very few are as bad as you’ve described – maybe your sample size is giving you skewed results, or maybe the fact that you don’t seem to take local transport much has given you a weird perspective. I personally will not support Uber in the same way that I will not support sweatshop-made clothes. Your “cheap” rides come at a cost to someone else.

  35. @ Frank — Stayed at the Sheraton there. Was the only thing in the area with availability at a decent price for our dates.

  36. @daniel
    You ignorant git. I’m German and I’ve no control over what happened in Nazi Germany more than half a Century ago. I do, to some extent, have control over what Germany is like today and I gotta say I like it a hell of a lot more than the USA. We’re more democratic, with more rights and not every inbred halfwit has a gun. We’re a welfare state so we have health care that actually works and we help those without a job. Our police doesn’t go around killing blacks and pointing guns at children all the time either. Also, (and perhaps most importantly) we have football!!!

    How’s that for a rant 😉

  37. @Germanyftw

    wow, you’re as bad as daniel – who may not even be american. talk about ignorant git. love the cray cray’s on this blog 🙂

  38. @_ar
    Never said he was American… Though it’s safe to assume he is
    How’s anything I said wrong?

  39. @Charlie, @Abhi, yes, at LGA (and JFK) I’ve seen drivers hold up a sign that says “Uber.” A couple of times they claim they are in fact Uber drivers. I once requested and Uber on my phone and nearly got in a car that said Uber, but I realized it wasn’t my driver (or any Uber-affiliated driver) even though the driver insisted. If you’re new or not paying attention you can definitely get scammed at LGA/JFK.

    Uber drivers in NYC are very hit or miss in my opinion. As someone else noted they all rely on their GPS and have a horrible sense of direction. I’ll request an Uber that’s supposed to arrive in “2 minutes” that takes 10+ because the drivers are going in circles following their stupid GPS. An Uber driver in Boston spent the entire ride telling me how 9/11 was faked, etc. So the crazies are all over the place.

  40. Stephan: For (presumably?) a native speaker, your written German is simply, um, interesting. More to the point, what does that “dog whistle”-style reference to problems caused by “Viele Leute” mean? I’m guessing it’s a not-so-subtle reminder that non-German types still aren’t popular in the Vaterland?

    I’m also guessing that pulling off a smidgeon of racism in English would be a little harder, at least on an English language blog.

  41. Uber drivers are not infallible. If possible, I’d rather pay a little bit more for a towncar/SUV (UberBlack) which generally have professional drivers that are knowledgeable. Once, in Seattle, only needed to go a few miles to a concert but a highly-rated UberX driver misinterpreted every single instruction from the GPS (and directions were actually reasonable simple) so we took a very, very long way around after I finally used GoogleMaps to help her (and I was only visiting Seattle). On the way back to the hotel, I took UberBlack 🙂

    With regards to Tokyo taxis, while they are usually very nice and polite, they appear to rely on GPS a little bit too much. We were coming back to Grand Hyatt and, even though I’d shown the driver the address in Japanese, GPS brought us somewhere 1/3 of a mile past a hotel entrance. We noticed that he passed the hotel and were about to say something as he just stopped the cab and started saying something in Japanese (which we don’t speak). Fortunately, it was easy to find our way back to the hotel but it put a little damper on our awe of Tokyo taxi drivers.

    P.S. Speaking of Tokyo, if you are going to Park Hyatt, make sure a cab/driver doesn’t drop you off at Hyatt Regency. Almost happened to us.

  42. well everyone’s mileage will vary but here goes my anecdotal data point:

    according to uber, i’ve done over 200 rides. i’ve had precisely one problem in those 200, and within minutes of emailing customer service i was issued an apology and a full refund.

    now as for nyc yellow cabs, in my 30+ years on this planet i’ve: had a gun pulled on me, been cursed at, been proselytized to, smelled horrific B.O., sat in vomit, been taken on mind-bendingly circuitous routes, been driven past only for a white person to be picked up half a block away, been sexually propositioned, witnessed my driver nodding off, held on for dear life, been accused of trying to pass off counterfeit money, been denied the use of a credit card despite a working reader, etc. etc. etc.

    i think i’ll stick with uber!

  43. Wow your commenters get crazier by the week…

    I find cab experiences today to be too consistently similar (I.e. Never good). In Boston for example, if you take a cab with a friend and request two drop off points, they sometimes charge you a split fare which is charging the full price to the first dropoff and the full price minus 2 dollars to the second. This full price includes a 7.50 toll which obviously only gets charged once so the logic of this policy (which to be fair is in the taxi rules and therefore also the fault of legislators) is insane. For what should have been $35 split by two people became essentially $68 for a slight detour.

  44. Why does it seem like taxi drivers have solutions to all the worlds problems? Especially foreign policy.

  45. Generally speaking, I find taxi drivers to be miserable, rude people – basically too fat and lazy to get any type of manual labor job or even any type of white collar job. Las Vegas taxi drivers are some of the very worst I’ve ever encoutered.

  46. @pavel

    “past only for a white person to be picked up”

    i had always thought you were Russian, hence white as well…

  47. A few months ago, I tried to get a cab from DFW after an especially long day of travel. There was a really long line and the taxi stand would call for one.at.a.time. When we finally got to the head of the line, the taxi driver complained that our bags wouldn’t fit in his trunk (2 large suitcases under weight limit – really?) and refused to take us. We were put back in line and had to wait longer. I finally lost patience with the process, downloaded Uber, and we got a car in less than 5 minutes. 635 was a mess because of construction, so we gave the driver very specific directions – which he agreeably followed…. very different from the piss-poor taxi attitude…

    In Boston this week – decided to take Uber from Cambridge (where I find it extraordinary difficult to find a cab at certain times) back across the Charles. Used the app – location was wrong, but driver texted and was incredibly patient and nice about it – said it happens a lot. I asked him whether he feels like Uber was fair to drivers, and he didn’t really have any complaints. He said he’s been doing it 3 months, so the original drivers have probably felt the squeeze more – but overall, he was happy with his experience. He went into the economics of what it costs for cab drivers to simply be cab drivers – so I felt like he had a pretty good understanding of the push points across the board… so I guess you could say I’m a fan with my LIMITED experience.

  48. One of my favorite taxi driver experiences was with the cabbie in San Diego who wanted to tell me how the Lord had saved him, and He could save me too. I guess he had learned from previous experience what stony silence means, so he stopped a few sentences in and the rest of the ride was quiet.

  49. Now that Uber won’t let either drivers or passengers ride with legally obtained guns, they will never again get my business. It’s a real shame, because the service is wonderful. The enterprise has provided the perfect criminal target – Uber cars!!!!

  50. This blog is good for reviews of airline products, but do we need stuff like this? I (and I’m sure many readers) travel a lot, and this is nothing new. Just get on with it.

  51. Well, I have too many better things to do than defend all taxi drivers, but I can certainly speak for myself. I drive a cab in Key West, and my passengers love me. I sing songs with them, hug them when they get out sometimes, counsel them, and make them laugh. I give a free ride whenever I can, especially if I feel the person can really use it. Most of the people I work with down here are colorful, free spirited, and honest.

    I have also taken taxis in quite a few countries around the world, and have met some lovely drivers in my travels. I honestly can’t remember having a bad experience like you describe.

    I am sorry you had so many bad experiences in cabs, may you have better luck with Uber.

    Thanks for your help with the mileage/travel game anyway.

  52. @ Loretta — Sorry to generalize when there are obviously great people like you driving taxis as well. Clearly I need to come to Key West!

  53. And just to follow up on previous comment. Even before this horrible day of protests and intimidation by the taxi lobby, I have seen countless times comments or stories on social networks on Paris taxis, usually shared/liked tens of thousands of times. The gist of it:
    rude drivers
    refusing to take passengers (not long enough a trip)
    not taking credit cards
    dirty cars
    footie matches blaring on the radio
    drivers smoking in their cars
    oh and if you don’t pay attention (or are a foreigner) except to get a looong (and expensive) detour
    And the list could go on. Time for competition from uber and the others. And whether it might not be perfect, it is, on average, miles ahead of their horrendous service.
    Shameful state of affairs for what is supposed to be one of the top tourism destinations

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