My First And Last Time In A London Black Cab

Confession time — prior to yesterday, I’ve never before been in a London black cab. In London I’ve relied almost exclusively on public transportation, along with the occasional Uber ride to supplement it. And it has worked out quite well.

It’s no secret that I avoid taxis as much as possible. While there are some great taxi drivers out there, the taxi industry as a whole has done so little to innovate over the past couple of decades, and thanks to technology that lack of innovation has finally caught up with them, thanks to the growth of the ridesharing economy. Beyond that, I seem to consistently have really bad luck with taxis for those times I do take them, from Abu Dhabi to Dubai to Frankfurt to Las Vegas to Warsaw.

I’ve always had respect for London cab drivers, because they’re the most well educated in the world. Becoming a London taxi driver requires going to school and passing a tough test, as you need to memorize the 25,000+ streets in London. It has always been my understanding that London cabbies are a proud bunch, and are understandably frustrated by Uber, since they’re not just clueless and rude drivers, but rather are well educated and knowledgable.

London-Tower-Bridge

Heck, the slogan for London black cabs is “the finest taxi service in the world.”

So yesterday I met up with Ford and his mom at Heathrow, and we took a taxi to the InterContinental The O2 (because we were going to see Adele, d’oh!). I know, a black cab is a super expensive way to get to East London, though we had a lot of luggage, and that’s what they preferred, so please save the judgment on the use of a taxi. Like I said, it was my first time ever using one in London.

The driver seemed nice, and when I told him “InterContinental Hotel The O2” he acknowledged it. I hadn’t ever taken a London taxi before, and we asked to confirm that London taxis accept credit cards — “London cabs take credit cards, right?”

“Yes!”

Throughout the ride he apologized several times that it was taking forever, which was nice. He was over the top, because it wasn’t his fault so he certainly didn’t owe us an apology, but that didn’t stop him from apologizing. Over and over. And over. And over.

“We’re almost there, I promise.”

Moments later we pulled up to a Holiday Inn Express.

“Sorry, we’re going to the InterContinental The O2, and not a Holiday Inn Express.”

“Oh yeah I heard that, but this is the only hotel I know of in the area.”

So he knew we weren’t at the right place, but dropped us there anyway? You’d think he could have just asked for clarification instead, or, you know, looked it up on his phone?

We were only a mile or two from The O2, and it’s quite easy to identify, so I pointed to the hotel. He then stood there as he phoned dispatch to ask how he could get to the InterContinental. While it’s a fairly new hotel, I expect a London cab driver to at least tell me if they don’t know where they’re going, rather than just trying to drop us off somewhere random.

O2-Arena-Suite-SPG - 1
The O2 and the InterContinental

Then we got to the hotel and asked to pay by credit card, and he said “my machine is broken, but you can go inside and exchange money.”

“But we asked about credit cards?”

“You asked generally, you didn’t ask specifically for this ride.”

Seriously?

Bottom line

Maybe it’s heartless on my part, but I have little sympathy for the taxi industry dying a slow death, and this ride is a perfect example of why. You’d think they’d be on top of their game given the competition from Uber, and would do what they can to use technology to improve the experience.

But instead my first London cabbie was completely in the dark when he didn’t know where we were going, while a clueless driver who is in London for the first time could have done better, given that he could have just followed the GPS. It’s one thing if the driver didn’t know where he was going, but the fact that he had to call dispatch and wait on hold while they directed him rather than using a GPS is beyond me.

And let’s not even talk about the conveniently “broken” credit card machine…

Did I just have a bad experience, or are London taxis as bad as everywhere else, and just more expensive?

Comments

  1. Were you in an actual black cab, or one of the many mini cabs posing as one?

    I can’t imagine that this driver would be able to keep operating like this long.

  2. I seriously hope you didn’t actually pay him with anything but your credit card. He could have called his dispatch and had them run it, if the machine in his cab was “broken.”

  3. I had a bad experience also. We took the train from Edinburgh to London-Kings Cross. I knew our hotel wasn’t that far, but I was traveling with my mom and aunt. (My aunt has some mobility issues due to MS.) So, we hopped in a cab at the taxi stand and the driver was thoroughly pissed off when I told him the name of the hotel. He jammed our bags into the taxi and drove us down the street to our hotel. Once we arrived, he slammed our bags onto the curb and was literally tapping his foot for us to hurry up. Ugh…it wasn’t a good start to our London stop.

  4. I hope you didn’t tip. I’m a good tipper (but don’t tip Uber) but not when stuff like this happens especially the classic broken cc machine. I get why they prefer cash (no taxes and no cut to the cc company) but when you give bs like this you won’t get a tip (the difference in lack of tip vs lack of cc fees evens out somewhat 😉

    Now watch this thread derail into tipping debate before it even starts…

  5. Presumably there is some sort of number to identify the driver/cab. I would be using that to complain.

    But I also tend to avoid taxis and use public transport whenever possible for the most for the same reasons you do. Some places they’re not so bad though. I’ve used taxis many times in Bangkok for example and generally had good experiences there…especially given how ludicrously cheap they are. I always overtip because I feel sorry for those guys working for such meager fares.

  6. I refuse to take Uber (in my mind, it is on par with hitchhiking), and although I hate taking a taxi, I will take one when it’s the only option (I’d rather take a train somewhere, for example, than ride a taxi).

    I believe your experience was a one time thing – I love riding in London’s black taxis – it’s part of the “experience” of being in London.

    Having said that – I’m sorry that you had such a bad experience.

  7. I too have tended to stay away from London black cabs as they are just EXPENSIVE.
    That said, I will do cabs elsewhere.
    I lived in Abu Dhabi for a year and lived off cabs there. They were cheap, plentiful, and generally had knowledgeable drivers who knew how to get around.

  8. Wow, a really awful experience, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a cab ride come close to that bad. I hope you got his badge number and complained to the PUblic Carriage Office. This driver is an embarrassment to the trade.

  9. I have never had one in London who did not know exactly where they were going, that surprises me, but twice (out of three times trying) I have had a “broken” credit card machine.

  10. Greetings from London.

    I don’t think you were in a bona fide black cab :0(

    Legally they must take you to your chosen destination. I imagine you didn’t want to argue.

    It’s bizarre the driver didn’t know where the hotel was Surely he had a mobile phone, access to the Internet and sat nav ?

    You can make a complaint to the Public Carriage Office tph.comms@tfl.gov.uk if you have the details of the cab

    Suggest you also look at

    http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/taxis-and-minicabs

    Presently most cabs accepts cards, however from October 2016 all cabs will accept cards and contactless payments

    I have a brilliant local cab service here in north London. They auto text me just before they arrive and are always on time

    Many similar companies exit across the metropolis

    Enjoy your time here

  11. I’ve taken London taxis many times and never had anything even remotely like this happen. I suspect you got scammed by a fake taxi or something. Don’t let this experience affect your future behavior, since it’s such a bizarre outlier.

  12. If it was a real cab (which sounds unlikely judging by the story), the licence number and all the complaint details will have been on prominent display inside (and outside) the cab. Use them.

    More generally, I almost always use Uber but it frustrates me that they don’t know the best routes and therefore are considerably slower than black cabs – plus they can’t use the bus lane which proper cabs can, thus making them even slower still. But, at half the price, I’ll generally opt to waste some of my time

  13. As a Londoner I can tell you that uber has been completely life changing. For a normal person, taking a black cab is just not feasible. They are insanely expensive.

    Your experience is completely par for the course. Their card machines never work.

    I can’t see black cabs being around for much longer unless they drastically overhaul their working practices or anti free market laws get passed.

  14. That’s the other great thing about Uber. When you do have a bad experience, you give instant feedback on the app. Most cab drivers know that we won’t go through the hassle of filing a formal complaint.

  15. I’d say this is a one off. I used three black cabs last week. All the drivers knew exactly where they were going, and tried to take shortcuts if possible.

  16. We took a black cab the last time we were in London because we were travelling with our daughter who uses a wheelchair for distance. We were going to see Wicked and our hotel called the cab for us, they drove us straight from the hotel door to the show door. On the way back we just found a cab outside the show and they took us directly back. We were very happy and it was actually a fun ride as the seats in back faced each other. Sorry you had such a bad experience.

  17. I’ve taken them many times; always exceptional. I’ve taken Uber which is lower cost, but definitely not the same level of knowledge.

    This observation is unique to London; it’s the only place I would prefer a cab (assuming the same price) over Uber.

    Wouldn’t make more sense to apply “one and done” logic to airlines?

  18. Wow that was crazy.
    I also had several bad cab experiences myself, and I can’t stop supporting Uber more and more.

  19. My experience was with the London black cabs was 100% positive. Last year my family of 4 plus my mother-in-law went to London for a week around Christmas. My MIL uses a bulky walker with a basket to carry her oxygen. We had to use the black cabs dozens of times during our trip and without exception, the drivers were helpful and knowledgeable. It took maneuvers to get the 5 of us plus the walker into the cab and I was so appreciative of the patience of the drivers. I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but I do wonder if you had a genuine black cab driver.

  20. I use black taxis in London quite often and have always found them to know where they’re going and to be professional. If you find yourself in London often like I do, download the Gett Taxi app. It’s like an Uber for London black taxis. Works great! And, by all means avoid the mini-taxis. Those people are totally clueless.

  21. Before Uber I only used similar services like iRide London, etc… Getting a black cab has always been a hassle and many times they still have to hand write a receipt which is not convenient when you need to exit the car in the middle of a busy street.

  22. Don’t they have uberxl over there? a good option for London is Addison lee they use vans which can fit lots of luggage.

  23. Sorry Ben, I’m as loyal as any reader you’ve got but I have to call you out on this Uber obsession. You owe a duty to your readers to address the elephant in the room. Cabs, taxis, legitimate legal transportation with actual regulatory permission to carry persons for hire…
    … are able to buy insurance.

    If you drive for Uber, you can’t get insurance. Get in a licensed taxicab and you know that there’s coverage because the whole industry is regulated. Get in an Uber and you know, for certain, that if you break your leg and it’s the driver’s fault, no insurance company will compensate you.

    Call your insurance broker, dear reader, and ask what coverage they can sell you (at any price) if you start using your private car, without a taxi or limousine or livery licence, to carry people for hire. Make sure they understand that you’re driving in a city that has a licensing scheme and that you will not be obtaining a licence. Ask how much for the same coverage taxis have.

    There’s more to “service” than a free water bottle and a driver with nice teeth.

  24. I never use a cab unless I absolutely have to. The first question I ask is “Does your card machine work?” If I get anything other than yes, I’m off to the next cab before the driver can finish his sentence. In a few cases, he comes running after me to tell me that it suddenly began working. Magic, I tell you.

  25. I have never experienced anything remotely like this in London. If anything, the drivers are so friendly and professional, they put some chauffeur services to shame. They are especially accommodating in the late night/early morning hours, when their passengers are often totally wasted.

    Having said that, whenever I’ve had to use a car service to/from LHR, I’ve always booked in advance. I get a clean and comfortable car, impeccable service, a fast trip, and a fair price (that’s paid by credit card, of course).

  26. @yyzgayguy – have you ever been involved with any litigation in a taxi accident. For insurance, at least in USA, it differs by county/city. Literally every county and city has their own rules on what insurance is required. Overall, a small majority of drivers are ICs paying to rent someone else’s medallion. Yes they have the minimal level of insurance required by the licensing jurisdiction but in most places that is equal to or less to the protection Uber provides. If the insurance isn’t enough, you are left suing the poor guy driving the car who is going to be judgment proof 99.99% of the time because he has no assets. Maybe you can get after the medallion but that is probably heavily mortgaged and the lender controls the medallion (like a bank controls a mortgaged house). Overall, I would much rather be injured in an Uber than a cab. At least Uber is a solvent company with assets. A taxi will have some insurance but beyond that I am not getting any money. Uber will pay whatever damages a court awards

  27. I love Uber. I used Lyft for the first time the other day from LAX, and that was great too. I will never, ever use a taxi again if I don’t have to.

  28. yyzgayguy – Utter rubbish. ALL Uber drivers in London required to have valid commercial insurance, Uber checks that you do when you sign up (though there was a brief scandal a while ago where people were showing Uber fake insurance documents) and if it turns out a driver wasn’t insured Uber have their own insurance that would cover you just in case.

    Though the mere thought that 1) the British government and court system would allow (and arguably encourage) Uber drivers to operate without valid insurance and 2) that British people usually use insurance brokers displays your “knowledge” on the topic!

  29. We took a few black cabs in London and all had non functioning credit card machines though a better sense of direction and communication. I generally dislike exchanging currency when I have so many credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. Even now I have about £125 in my purse from my last British sojourn because I thought I needed cash. I’ll spend it when I go back in December but no more black cabs.

  30. @yyzgayguy: At least here in Minnesota there are compliance requirements that the city imposed for Uber to be able to operate.
    “All partners on the uberX/XL platform must comply with the requirements to operate in Minnesota. Failure to meet the requirements will result in a suspension of your account. The requirements include:
    – Proof of personal auto insurance
    – Proper display of the Uber trade dress (Uber signage)
    – Proof of a passed city-required vehicle inspection
    All items listed above must be kept in your vehicle at all times while on the Uber platform (online).

  31. Look Kween you are just a lost puppy in a big City – London is the big leagues – you are probably confusing black cab – but Uber is useless and relies on GPS black cabs know the system inside out and if you knew the system you would have booked GETT fixed rate – better luck next time Global Nomad

  32. A minicab wouldn’t be able to join the taxi ranks at Heathrow without being told off, so I wouldn’t doubt that it was actually a black cab.

  33. i once caught a black cab taxi from LCY to LHR (at BA’s expense – they bumped me off BA1 – £95)

    I was asking the driver about how they manage to make a profit from the LHR jobs, being as they have to wait in line for hours – They queue in a parking lot before being allowed near the terminal to pick up, He was telling me that cabbies who are coming to near retirement mainly do these job and may only want 1 job a day

  34. I’ve been taking cabs in London for 30+ years. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I don’t recall any experience like yours. Best cabs in the world, in my opinion.

  35. I’ve had a few bad experiences with black cabs in London… once the credit card was charged twice (card reader wasn’t operational and had to be imprinted manually as I didn’t have cash), at least 2-3 times the reader broke and multiple times the driver wouldn’t accept amex (presumably due to higher transaction costs even though I was assured they did; explanation is that the line with amex was not working). I try to avoid them even though the drivers are very nice…

  36. As you said, the situation was such that taking public transportation wasn’t in the cards. But I looked it up on google maps just to check. Taking the Tube is about 10 minutes slower than taking a cab from Terminal 3, assuming no traffic. And I assume about $100 cheaper.

  37. For short distances, I still take black cabs, but not past midnight – the surcharge makes it completely ridiculous. Uber all the way! Was passing through London just a few days ago, and Uber was actually even cheaper than minicab from Heathrow to central London. GBP28/31 via UberX. Black cab would have run me GBP50 and above.

  38. Lucky, I am sorry to hear you had a bad London tax experience.

    I live in London. I only use black cabs for short trips as they are quite expensive. I hate sitting in bumper-bumper traffic watching the meter tick over. Most expensive ride ever was £120+ from Heathrow to Gatwick but that was 10+ years ago and before we knew any better, and corporate expense policy more generous 🙂 Most black cab drivers are pretty cool and I respect their journey to become a London taxi driver. I use mini cabs/private hired cars for longer journeys when I can plan a bit ahead (e.g. go to Heathrow from North London) as they tend to be the most economical but quality does vary; many Londoners have their favourite neighbourhood mini cab companies. It is a pain to be picked up from Heathrow by mini cabs/private hired cars/Uber as drivers technically have to park then meet you at the arrival area. But do a bit of Googl’ing and you can find tips on ways to get around that (hint… departure drop off area). I also use Uber lots, both in London and when travelling abroad. 90% of my Uber rides have been good. On the rare occasions I got annoyed enough to complain to Uber, their responsive customer service have refunded some fees for my trouble. When I first moved to London many years ago, I used Addison Lee quite a bit because the company I worked for had account with them, but I found their drivers to be generally clueless. I also drive quite a bit in London in these days, and I dread being around Addison Lee cars as they tend to be badly driven. I think they hire lots of drivers who are new to London, and just don’t understand their role in maintaining traffic flow and order. So avoid Addison Lee 🙂

  39. My only black cab experience went smoothly but was “uber expensive. ” ;
    From LHR Hilton to Hyatt Churchill was 96 pounds! Yikes.
    Almost enough to make me consider uber. Almost.

  40. I hope the rest of your London trip was enjoyable. Having lived here for 3-years, I have used the black cab exactly once. As others have pointed out, it is expensive, almost to the point that they’re ‘taking the piss’. If Uber didn’t exist, I would be taking mini-cabs instead. Fool me once with an outrageous fare, shame on you. I won’t get fooled again.

  41. I lived in London for 10 years and still go there 3-4 times a year and never had such an experiences with London cabs. But next time Uber or Public transport is not an option for you, may i recommend MEADWAY ? http://www.meadway.com Not only do they take credit cards, they will even keep your credit card on file, so when you call to book, you only need to tell them if you plan to use cash or credit card. They are always on time, clean and nice cars, very polite and knowledgeable drivers and about 30-35% cheaper then London cabs. They will even pick you up at LHR upon your arrival. I always use them for my airport transfers to the west end or if i travel to North London to visit friends. Put them into your address book, you never know when you may need them. Tel. +44-207-8458-5555.

  42. You seem to have way too many issues in your life lately that are frustrating you.

    Will you be a trump voter by any chance. Those people seem to be angry and frustrated too.

  43. As others have mentioned, I strongly suspect that you were not in a real London Black Cab. I’ve heard of people accidentally hailing fakes before, as well as suburban cabbies who lack the “knowledge” but sneak in for extra fares anyways. As for the “machine being broken” excuse – next time you are in London try using the “Hailo” app. Hailo only operates in a handful of cities, but I prefer it to Uber in London because you can call a (real) London Black Cab. Black Cabs are allowed to use public bus lanes – which often makes for a quicker trip. And the app uses an online payment system, so there is no need for cash.

  44. Hello from London.

    If he picked you up from LHR then for sure a cabbie.

    Unfortunately this is the reality we face. They lie about their card machine not working = pay no taxes for “cash in hand”! And basically take you where they want if they don’t know precisely where you’re going. Most annoying.

  45. Same experiences, Lucky. I gave the taxis of London several chances over the years since moving here, but the constant “broken machines” excuse or the £35 rides for 10 minutes pushed me to Uber and anything else.

    Seriously, you would think someone would start a business to fix cab credit card machines and they’d be making bank forever here. Such a joke.

  46. I live in London and spend about a £100 a day on taxis/Uber.

    Generally Licensed taxi drivers are far more knowledgeable, know shortcuts and can use bus lanes and are everywhere (since Uber started in London taxis are everywhere, Uber has taken so much business that the licensed taxis are having to work much longer hours for fewer passengers). For quick hail in the street and short runs ubeatable.

    However, at least 30% try and rip you off by taking a congested route (only a Londoner would tell), they rarely help with luggage and about 50% are grumpy and/or surly.

    Uner drivers have difficulty following satnav, but always help with luggage are easy to find in “off streets” (which black cabs ignore) and are about half the price on longer journeys.

    My rule of thumb – if journey is under £10 black cab, over £30 Uber in between depends.

  47. Ben/Lucky…

    A stupid news item just flashed across my smart phone. Apparently a couple just got engaged on stage at the Adele concert. Was the couple you and Ford?

    I like London’s black cabs.

  48. Again, we went through the same crap recently with very mediocre service, and refusal to accept credit cards.
    Never again.

  49. As the others (generally) have said, this has to be a fluke. When I am in London (which is a lot, as my husband’s family all live there) if there are more than 2 (sometimes even with 2) people with me, I take a black cab, and I LOVE it. The fares are actually cheap with multiple people (as opposed to the tube X 2 to 5 fares). I have been generally amazed at how quickly the cabbies, who have to have the knowledge can get from one end of London to the other. The only “bad” experience I had was back in the late 1980s, when I had to go from North London to Brixton, which, in those days was a bit different than it is now. But even then, when he got confused once we were in Brixton, he pulled over, turned off the meter, and consulted his A to Z. That of course, was pre-credit card/GPS/South/East London development. Out of the roughly 100 times I’ve taken a black cab, it has been a wonderful experience (that said, I’ve never taken one directly from Heathrow).

    I’ll bet that your experience was either someone posing, or retired (as was suggested) or, really, just a bad egg. And, even though “minicabs” are technically not allowed to represent themselves as Black Cabs, it could, indeed happen. I’m sorry your experience was bad. Still, I’d give it another try, especially if you have 3-4 people and you need to get somewhere specific. The knowledge is real. You got a bad egg. Sorry!

  50. A Black taxi to East London from the airport. What were you thinking!? It would have been cheaper to call a minicab service and agree on a price for the whole trip. No surprises.

  51. @ Barbara Murray – You sound like my brother who, after two bad experiences at a frou frou restaurant, went back expecting the next time would be better. It wasn’t.

  52. Hi Lucky:

    I spend several weeks a year in London on business and my experience with London cabs has been more than positive. This does sound like a one off for certain. Now I wouldn’t take a cab to/from LHR myself, but would use Train/Tube, but certainly endorse taxis for getting around the city at times.

    Don’t let this one experience leave a mark on you!

  53. Just to jump on the wagon with other commentators, try Addison Lee next time. Like Uber but pre-quoted fares, much more consistent in fleet, generally cheaper, been around longer, and the app is just as good.

  54. This is bizarre. I don’t like taking London black cabs because they are so damn expensive but I have nothing but respect for the drivers and their knowledge.

    I suspect Lucky got scammed, and instead of admitting that he isn’t that sophisticated a traveler outside of airplanes and lounges, even in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, he is blaming it on the entire London cab industry.

  55. Ben,
    Agreement with you about taking taxi’s, not just in London but where ever we can avoid them. We can say the 80-20 rule. 20% or less of our taxi rides in traditional taxi’s have been with good, honest drivers. The other 80% of them is quite a challenge to take the correct route, pull fast ones as he did with you, the old credit card machine is broke. He dared not take you to your final destination because he would be at odds with the hotel. From our experience it looks like he was duping you.

    We had one taxi ride from St Pancras to Hilton Waldorf, he was old, crusty and arrogant. Kept us in the taxi for a few more quid just nearby the drop off of the hotel. I didn’t accept it. He started yelling and cussing. I filmed him.
    Made a complaint to the taxi commission, gave them the video. Not much effectiveness there from that office. A waste of effort in London.

    However, worse than London is Brussels – the capital of the EU. The worse service and corruptness ever !! Even worse then Paris or Italy. In Milan we made a complaint and they took it seriously, reprimanded the driver for taking an excessive route instead of direct, and actually issued us a refund for the over charge ! Give them credit !

    Made a complaint in Brussels, forget about it, the Brussels govt does not care at all. Brussels needs a total clean up everywhere and with everything.

    We took all public taxi’s, not Uber or private services.

    Not keen on Uber’s business model of trusting them, but still happy to see competition to the taxi’s. The government’s are simply too laissez-faire for so many years.

  56. Uber over a proper black cab in London? Not a chance. In another city, maybe, but not London. Yes, black cabs can be expensive. I dont take them often due to the cost, but I have a world of respect for what they do and what they know. Perhaps I am fortunate in that I havent had an experience like yours (touch wood). Any time I have taken a black cab over the years, drivers have been universally polite, known where I was going, and direct. I have to think your experience is some sort of one-off. While I wouldn’t take a cab from the airport, I would absolutely use them on occasion for getting around town.

    Please dont let one experience taint your outlook on taxis in London.

  57. Ben,

    Have you got a picture of the vehicle you took? Because I’m quite certain that is not a London cab (hackney carriage) that you took.

    Let’s look at this picture first before you disparage yet another British institution.

  58. This post really annoys me.
    Firstly, if you wanted to ‘try a black cab’ – a trip from the airport to the otherside of London isn’t how to do it. You should use a black cab for a trip in London – that’s when their knowledge of the London roads really shows off. Black cabs don’t even go very fast so driving on a motorway is a complete waste of time.
    Secondly – you said: ‘that’s what they preferred’ when reasoning why a black cab was your mode of transport. Does princess ford make all the descisons here? I would have thought common sense would prevail.
    Thirdly, if you have a lot of luggage, then a black can certainly isn’t a good idea. An Uber XL can hold far more.
    Finally – black cabs don’t have a dispatch box, only private hire cabs do. You probably took a private hire cab which looks like a black cab (as anyone can buy one). A true black cab is one that you can hail off the street, not book in advance.

  59. “While there are some great taxi drivers out there, the taxi industry as a whole has done so little to innovate over the past couple of decades”- wow- massive generalizations to write off an industry that transports millions of people a day around the world, based on a tiny personal sample set.

    It’s like a traveler from China coming to the US, taking a Southwest flight, and complaining they were late and only served peanuts- they must all be going out of business!

  60. Who you had was most likely a not properly licensed driver in a licensed cab. This happens when a licensed cab owner illegally lends/rents out his taxi to a “friend” to drive. The telltale sign is they have no idea where anything is, even major landmarks.

    As in any industry, there are always some bad apples, but generally for a black cab you are paying (very handsomely) for “irrops”. When there are traffic jams/accidents/events, someone reliant on GPS is just going to dutifully sit in traffic, but I have been saved many times by a black cab driver who can navigate the tiny residential back roads to get around a major traffic jam – and literally this can be a difference between a 10 minute ride and a 45-minute nightmare during rush hour in London.

  61. I love the black cabs and always take them. My drivers have always been top notch, I’ve never had a bad one. They always tell me which route they’ll be taking, are always pleasant and friendly and will chit chat if I want to, have taken me on special routes (past landmarks) when I’ve asked, and have never failed to get me to the right place efficiently. For my last trip I stayed in a brand new hotel (literally had just opened) in a somewhat difficult to access location along the Thames. My driver knew exactly it was.

    Ben, is Uber paying you to promote them?

  62. @Dan: I defer to your greater knowledge about the world’s most litigious country. I have no experience in “litigation” over a taxi incident. I do have experience in collisions with and without personal injury, in which Insurance companies and claims adjusters issued cheques. What you say is undoubtedly true, but does it rebut my point? In a country other than the United States of America, it doesn’t.

    In Toronto, where I live, it is unlawful to carry persons for hire without a “livery” permit or a taxi medallion. To get a permit, you need liability insurance for your motor vehicle. You can’t buy insurance, because no insurer will insure unlawful activity (carrying passengers for hire, without permit). Catch-22. Traditional taxi medallions are limited and are traded as valuable commodities. Livery permits don’t apply to the Uber Business model.

    The user experience for Uber customers is precisely what Ben says it is. The reasons to be Pro-Uber are exactly what Ben says, and more. I have no comment on the obvious, numerous, persuasive and compelling reasons why people like Uber. My comment is that notwithstanding its desirability, popularity and elegance in concept, Uber is both controversial and risky, depending on one’s risk tolerance and depending on the jurisdiction. In my city, Uber’s “we’ll insure you, so you don’t have to” is not a solution because they are not an Insurer and therefore cannot lawfully provide insurance. If you say the situation is different in your country, I accept that you’re right. In mine, the Certificate of Insurance your Uber driver carries, that is required for operation of any motor vehicle, is for a policy that expressly forbids use of the vehicle to carry passengers for hire. That, IMHO, is an issue.

    I hope my city and others like it will Get Over It and figure out a way to license Uber vehicles and that the insurance industry will Get Over It the very next day. I’m not anti-Uber, quite the contrary. But this is the situation, for now, until the logjam is cleared by City Hall and the insurers.

    You can reply with all the dripping contempt you like, I have an umbrella.

  63. I had a driver on an airport run give me the “machine broken” line in ABQ, he offered me a free ride to the depot where they could run my card. I told him I don’t have time before my flight to run around trying to pay him, the expectation was that he took cards when I scheduled the ride the day before with the taxi service, and that I only have $10 on me. My $40 ride was discounted to $10. I had every intent of paying in full but there are some limits to how much I should have to do in order to pay someone where we pre-arranged for a credit card transaction a day earlier. I’m still surprised the dispatcher didn’t just call and ask for the difference, I assume he pocketed the $10 and wrote me off as a deadbeat in the ledger.

    If the taxi companies are really worried about Uber, they’d get an app built that takes payments – it’d be cheaper than fruitless lobbying.

  64. You should definitely complain about this to TfL. It’s also extremely unusual behavior for a black cab driver. Had several black cab rides in London and they’ve always known where I was going – even to addresses I’ve thought were pretty obscure. I’ve also been able to simply give them hotel names and never had a problem with that either. Credit card acceptance isn’t as universal as with cabs in NYC (or at least wasn’t yet, last time I was there) so I do tend to carry more cash on me in London.

  65. Please do report this taxi driver to the Public Carriage Office – this type of thing needs to be stopped.

    Personally, I find black cabs too expensive, so use Uber/minicabs (on the rare occasions that I’m not using public transport).

  66. @yyzgayguy They don’t need to be an insurer… They need to take out a policy with an insurer that covers Uber drivers. They’ve done it in London, if they say they’ve done it in Toronto I see no reason to call them liars – do you?

  67. I imagine that it was a legit black cab, otherwise why would Heathrow permit them to be picking passengers up from the taxi stand at LHR?

  68. We used London black cabs this pass summer to and from airport and had good experiences, part of London experience. Our cabbies were chattie and interesting people. Sorry yours weren’t so fun.

  69. Welcome to the real world lucky. Perhaps stick to those travel services that allow you you to tweet or email them in advance so they can properly care for you.

  70. I have found black cab drivers in London to be uniformly rude to Americans. If I’m in a cab with a British friend, they’re perfectly fine, but on my own they are horrible. My last experience will literally be my last, as I took a cab less than two miles from Heathrow, had to pay the minimum charge of 35 quid and was berated by the rider the entire trip about what a bad fare I was because he had waited in line for two hours for a fare. When I asked him to stop talking he accused me of being rude! And, yes, he also complained about taking my credit card.

  71. Ben,
    I have to agree with AD. The Black Taxi in London was once an institution but sadly no longer. They do indeed need competition, perhaps an incentive to improve.

    The good drivers are really a pleasure to travel with, but they are far and few between these days.

    And as AD says, they seem to truly have a rift with Americans these days. I did indeed file a complaint to TFL and it went absolutely no where. Thus I dislike them and certainly would not recommend them anymore.

  72. I’ve been to London maybe 8 times from the US 2011-2016. Taken many black cabs around town for short trips (not from Heathrow) and never had a problem with the drivers. Some were a little sarcastic about Americans but I thought they were mostly teasing and I took it in stride. Many were a fountain of knowledge about the city (Boris, royalty, where to eat, etc.) and they all seemed to know where they were going. One got me to the theater barely on time by taking a tricky back route and driving partly up on the sidewalk! I got the impression they knew and were happy that Americans tipped better. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a Black cab.

  73. This is a typical London black cab experience and why I travel everywhere by Uber. All London black cabs say their credit card machines are broken because they operate as cash businesses so they don’t have to pay tax. It’s time they wake up and modernise. My advice is never take a black cab…the fairs are extortionate and they never accept cards.

  74. Here, Here. Thank you. Completely agree, London taxi’s have sunk to awful levels. If you don’t know the route and tell them, you are off on a whirlwind drive, and then yes, no credit cards. Trying to avoid London taxi’s completely.

  75. This story is complete rubbish when you get a black cab from Heathrow the Marshall will ask you if you want to pay by card and specifically put you in one that accepts them I take it you work for uber or the likes

  76. @Steve I’ve never been asked if I want to pay by card by the marshall when leaving Heathrow in a cab and the cabbies are a***s about taking cards.. I try not to take cabs at Heathrow, but I’ve done it enough to know who is talking rubblish. @Lucky isn’t going to make up stories to drive traffic. He clearly gets lots. If you’ve had a better experience, good for you, but don’t try to invalidate the experience of others.

  77. The reason I know it’s rubbish because another line states he rang despatch as London taxi drivers are sole traders what despatch was he ringing if the driver did work for one of the radio companies such as comcab or radio taxis the ride would have been pre booked so no need for credit card as the radio company would have his credit card details so we know who’s talking rubbish

  78. Just read AD story about being charged the minimum fare of £35 in a black cab from Heathrow what another load of rubbish there is no minimum fare in a black cab from Heathrow the fare starts at £5.40 and goes up 20 p a time till you reach your destination another made up story

  79. That’s right @Steve. @Lucky and I are part of a vast left wing/right wing/gay mafia conspiracy to bankrupt the London cabs and we go around spreading lies about rude drivers overcharging us. You caught us! Alternatively, maybe you could accept that other people have different experiences than you do. But, go ahead, keep writing. @Lucky is laughing all the way to the bank and the rest of us are just laughing at your worldview that is so narrow that you can’t comprehend that not everyone experiences the world in exactly the same way you do!

    Now I remember why I don’t talk to trolls.

  80. Presumably these messages are from a Black taxi operator and or association.

    I make no bones, for me it is the 80-20 rule in London. I have found 20% of the black taxi drivers descent, and 80% awful in many ways. We all avoid them as much as we can.

    No car service is perfect either. But the promotions by London about how drivers are the best in the world is simply not true.

    I had a driver swearing at me, I filmed him and sent it to the commission established by then mayor Boris Johnson. But nothing good ever came from it.

    Black taxi’s need to have courteous drivers who take the correct routes, help with bags, have signs for credit cards or cash only.

  81. Real licensed london black taxis don’t have dispatch or a HQ we are self employed individuals. As for your uninformed article regarding technology black taxis have had apps in london like hailo and gett taxi long before uber came to town with there app so please do your homework before you write such drivel. Regarding card acceptence it is now compulsory that black taxis accept card pàyments in london it’s a condition of the vehicles liçense plate from 31st oct 2016.

  82. Personaly I don’t believe this story, London black cab are the best in the world,they always know where to go and the service is excelent compare to Uber,will be always supporting the trade.

  83. London Black taxi’s WERE the best in the world. That no longer holds true.

    Before they knew the city and could take you anywhere. Only 20% are courteous, mostyof them are pure ruffians and calloused by a tough London city of driving.

    No longer a pleasure. We skip them at every opportunity.

  84. You were not in a black cab,,they don’t have a base or despatch office
    Which mist probably why they insisted on cash,
    You need to get your facts correct before making statements like these

  85. Just in a black cab myself from Heathrow.
    He asked me for the post code as he had never heard of Barnet?

    When I asked if he has a license etc he accused me of being disrespectful.

    Can anyone now use a mates cab at the airport?

  86. Black cabs WERE the pride of the UK. For us and many friends, business colleagues, the level of service, the knowledge they are supposed to have, has in fact decreased exponentially over the last 10 years.
    We no longer prefer them because our level of satisfaction fell below 50 % with them, and now with other choices, it doesn’t make sense to plan for them, only if we need to take one.

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