The Driver’s Side: Top 10 NYC Cabbie Complaints About Passengers

| November 7, 2011 4:00 AM | Updated: December 5, 2011 9:48 AM

Phillip Chen has been driving a cab in New York City for 38 years. He would like passengers to remember that he is a cabbie, not a shrink. MetroFocus/Matt Draper

Passengers love to complain about the blaring televisions, aggressive driving and the cost of New York City’s 100,000-plus taxicab and limousine drivers. But what do they say about us, the riders? MetroFocus hit the road to find out. Sure enough, cab drivers take issue with a lot of things we passengers do. So, we asked them for the top 10 ways we could give them an easier ride:

#1 Cabbie Complaint: Respect the Boundaries — We’re Not Your Couples Therapist or Your Punching Bag

      • Road-rage isn’t just for drivers; no one likes an angry passenger who is rude or mean. Phillip Chen, 71, a Taiwan native who’s been navigating New Yorkers around the city for 38 years, complained that if passenger anger is misdirected at them, drivers are unable to defend themselves for fear of either getting stiffed when it’s tipping time or of being reported to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

      Islam Muhammad, 48, a taxi driver from Bangladesh, said it makes him uncomfortable when passengers get intimate in the backseat while he is driving. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

        • Chen added that drivers sometimes end up in the middle of a lovers’ spat and have to remain silent. “You’re not happy with your girlfriend or boyfriend so you take it out on the cab driver,” he said.  That’s just as unpleasant and awkward for drivers as it would be for anyone you know in the room with you.
        • Islam Muhammad, 48, a Bangladeshi taxi driver who has been on the road for 10 years, said it’s especially tough to drive at night because passengers tend to act more inappropriately then.  “My home country is Muslim so when I first came here, I was shocked by couples having sex or kissing in the backseat,” Muhammad said. “Now I just say ‘cool down,’ it’s a personal problem and we’re all human.”

        #2 Cabbie Complaint: Please Turn Down the TV

        Chery Lavilarire has been driving a cab for 28 years. Lavilarire asks you to turn down Taxi TV right away. MetroFocus/Matt Draper.

        Last week, the two companies behind Taxi TV, which has been available in all yellow cabs since 2007, announced plans to decrease the maximum volume of the monitors and to make user controls (i.e. the mute button) easier to find. But in the meantime, drivers ask you to do your part and set the volume low as soon as possible. First, it helps drivers confirm your destination and desired route. Second — and some passengers surely agree — for drivers, Taxi TV is a monotonous earful. “It will drive you crazy,” said Chery Lavilarire, 57, a Haitian-born cabbie who’s been driving for 28 years. “It’s the same thing over and over. You can’t turn it off.”

        Jimmy Tio has been driving a taxi in New York since he moved from Indonesia two years ago. He said there's no need to give him directions; he knows the city better than most natives, thank you very much. MetroFocus/Matt Draper.

        #3 Cabbie Complaint: Stop With the Backseat Driving

        “They [passengers] complain all the time. ‘Why did you take this street?’” said cabbie Jimmy Tio, 38, noting that this is especially true when he turns onto a street under construction. “I’m not God, I didn’t know it was shut down! I’m not dishonest. They think drivers are cheating.” On the contrary, said Tio, it’s in every driver’s interest to get to each passenger’s destination as quick as possible so they can grab another fare.






        Fellow cabbie Iddrisu Alhassan also complained of pushy passengers: “I picked up this lady in Times Square and she told me to take a left but I couldn’t because it [the street] was shut down,” said Alhassan, 38, a Ghanaian-born resident of the South Bronx. “I couldn’t make a left but she wasn’t hearing it and she was swearing and calling me names.”

        #4 Cabbie Complaint: Speaking of Backseats, Four’s a Crowd

        Most of the drivers we talked to complained that when people try to fit a fourth passenger into the backseat, their rear view mirror is blocked. That makes it unsafe for everyone in the vehicle. Instead, if there is a fourth passenger, that person should always ride up front with the driver.

        #5 Cabbie Complaint: Don’t Demand the Driver “Step on it”

        Drivers hate being told to hurry, or worse, to “Step on it.” Your driver has been in traffic all day and likely has a better idea of which streets are congested than you do. Just hang tight. Don’t ask them to break the law by speeding, running red lights or making illegal turns. It’s dangerous and reflects badly on the cab industry.

        #6 Cabbie Complaint: Don’t Abuse Your Rights as a Passenger

        When passengers refuse to pay or can’t pay their fares, drivers’ only recourse is to call the police.

        However, said driver Alhassan, once a driver calls the police, a passenger will often contact the Taxi and Limousine Commission to complain and try to have the driver’s taxi license away. In addition, the Taxi and Limousine Commission often fines drivers who have been reported by a passenger, regardless of fault, said Alhassan. He added that it often takes the police up to an hour to arrive and the loss in potential fares  is not worth the wait.

        The upshot?  Weigh carefully the consequences of tattling on drivers and remember that you’re tampering with people’s livelihoods.

        #7 Cabbie Complaint: Be Clear About Your Destination and Don’t Make Last-Minute Decisions

        “I don’t like when people say, ‘Quick, turn left! Quick, get over there!’ I can’t do that. I’m not driving a bicycle!” said Manuel Valdez, who’s been hearing last-minute instructions for the 27 years he’s been a cab driver.

        Manuel Valdez has been driving a yellow cab for 27 years. He's tired of passengers' last-minute direction changes. MetroFocus/Bridget Leahy.

        #8 Cabbie Complaint: Follow These Tips on Tipping

        • No need to quarrel: Many passengers immediately complain about a cabbie’s driving or pick a fight to get out of tipping, said Chen. “When they start a fight I tell them, ‘Stop that,'” Chen said. “‘I don’t want to fight with you. Don’t tip me. I don’t care.'”
        • Blame the MTA for the fare charge: “The MTA charges the 50-cents,” said Lavilarire, explaining that many passengers assume the 50-cent tax goes to the drivers. “Passengers get pissed off and don’t tip.”
        • Don’t be cheap: One of Chen’s recent passengers didn’t have any money to pay once they arrived at his destination (an $18 fare). “The guy gave me his number and said to call him and he’d pay me later,” Chen said. “I called him and he acted like he didn’t know who I was.”

        #9 Cabbie Complaint: It’s Your Duty to Understand “Off-duty”

        Several drivers mentioned the challenge of getting holed up in their cabs for hours without a bathroom break or getting pestered for a ride while eating lunch.

        “They don’t understand off-duty,” said Lasker Mohammed, 35, a Bangladeshi native who lives in Sunnyside, Queens. He’s been driving a taxi in New York for four years since switching careers; he used to work in the restaurant business. He owns his own cab, but occasionally needs respite from its small confines. “Sometimes I have to take a break or relax. That’s why I work in a cab. I have my own freedom.”

        Lasker Mohammed wishes prospective passengers would not harass him for a ride when his cab's roof-light shows that he is “off-duty." Sometimes a guy needs a break, he said. MetroFocus/Matt Draper.

        #10 Cabbie Complaint: Drunk Passengers Are a Hassle

        Consider the following sub-categories:

        • You may be having fun, but it’s on their tab: New York City law states that cab drivers can refuse to pick up passengers who appear to be visibly intoxicated. Even so, most of the drivers we talked to said that they’ve had to deal with drunk passengers who were incoherent, fell and hurt themselves, vomited in the back of their vehicles or stumbled off into the night without paying. That’s often the worst part of the job, from the driver’s side.

        John Farley, Daniella Greenbaum and Bridget Leahy contributed reporting.

        • Linda Canton

          WOW. Well there’s always 2 sides to every story; glad to hear the cab drivers’ side. My disturbance with them is why is or why does every cab in New York go off duty at 6:30 PM when I, and 90% of the mid-town population, am getting off from work and need a taxi. Please cabbies, change that system. you are losing a lot of fares at that time by, not to mention frustrating a whole lot of New Yorkers.

          • Jane LaTour

            Interesting that this passenger actually thinks that the cabbies have anything to do with making the decisions about shifts and when they have to return the cabs to the garages, and probably doesn’t know that if they do not return them on time, they are fined. There are so many rules and so many ways they get screwed by the system. The cabbie’s side of the equation needs much more attention! They are rolling sweat shops and a very hard way to make a living in NYC or any other city.

        • Shamrock Yorker

          I live in Manhattan and take taxis very often. I am polite and expect politeness in return. I must say that the overwhelming number of cab drivers are polite. Rarely have I come across a driver who needs many lessons on manners. I also think that driving a taxi is an arduous job. I am a very generous tipper if the driver warrants it. To all the kind drivers I say THANK YOU. :-)

        • Zyxomma

          I never take my temper out on a driver. If I’m late, it’s my doing, not his. I always tip well; more since the credit card machines were added, since so many people seem to believe that it’s an excuse not to tip. On those rare occasions I pay with a card, I still tip in cash. Drivers count on having some money at the end of their shifts. If it weren’t for taxis, I might need to own a car, something I’d much rather not. If I leave home too late to walk or catch the bus, it’s nice to know I can raise my arm and purchase a ride. Thanks to the drivers!

        • Oldman

          I’ve always enjoyed cab drivers. Love sitting up front when possible.They are some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. They all have a story if you are willing to listen. You might actually learn something. A cabbie in Sydney, Australia, who was a Kurd, told me that the Kurds were the largest ethnic group without it’s own country. Something like 30 million Kurds worldwide. I have since confirmed it. Who’da thunk it.

        • Levi vegas cabbie

          im a cab driver in las vegas, doing this job made me hate people, it was so much fun at first, but the public showed there true colors, its amazing to me how god could love such evil beings. Whats mskes me mad is you customers, or fares I should say, always want the driver to talk and entertain you, we are not, I repeat, we are not you entertainers, its hard to dodge cars all day, and talk at the same, shut the fuck up and let me do my job which is driving u to your desired location, we pick up close to 40 peopke a day, that would be 40 conversations, damn that, why u gotta talk to the driver, if u wanna, talk talk call up a friend, us cabbies dont wanna be your friend, we could care less what ur going tthrough

        • Squaregirl

          Passenger Complaint: It’s The Cabbie’s Duty to Not Abuse “Off-duty”
          If you’re on duty, pick up the passenger and go to their destination. If you’re off-duty, don’t troll for short fares. If you want to pick & choose your passengers, sell your cab and start a car service.

          • Kathy

            They are all individuals. They don’t have a hive mind. Don’t blame one cabbie for another’s shortcomings.

        • Christine1kane

          Why is it that in the pouring rain, all the cabs that drive by are off duty?

          • Kathy

            Because it’s hell dealing with rain and traffic and they’re going home? My dad’s been a black car driver for decades and he always worked from 10am to midnight. The only times I saw him was if I stayed up till 1am or had a morning off from school.

        • ban cabbies

          Right… JUST ONCE I would love a cab driver who didn’t talk my ear off, no matter what or flirt. I got the news my father had just died and had to get a can and not even that would make the cab driver shut the hell up and stop yamering at me. I am paying for a service, not providing you a social life… Also THE LAW states you must take passengers anywhere in the 5 boroughs…Half refuse, the other half make you miserable over it… even had one slam my hand in the door to avoid letting me in so he’d not have to leave manhattan… Tips? Why are the tips set to start at 25 percent and go up fromt here, no matter what?

        • Mike castellano

          You got a 17 percent raise your tips are back gas is way down percentage of tips are up and you still can’t get better service . You still can’t a cab from 4 pm thru 6 pm on the east side can’t anyone devise a way to change a shift or stagger the shifts for the busiest time of the day 5 pm you can’t get a cab and then the driver bitch moan and groan they can’t make money when they lose million a year by not picking up passengers from 4 pm to 6 pm I just don’t get it . They complain the 17 percent went to the garage owners in increases in oil changes car washes late fees either the cab drivers are getting screwed or stupid not sure . But I want to get a cab from 4 to 6 to go from the west side to my home on the east side I am willing to pay . So m
          Now I take black cars pay a little more how is this smart the yellow cars are losing all this business and they complain about losing money is there anyone in this industry that has a brain

          • Aster Lund

            Mike castellano,
            thank you, I totally agree with you — it is wrong and stupid of the yellow cabs to institute this “change of shift” when no person can hail a freaking cab!!! And you are soooo right about their (drivers’) attitude — they act like they are doing US a favor!!!!
            My advice to NY cabbies is — you don’t like it then don’t do it! They feel very strongly about passengers being rude and tipping bad……How about all of you taking a shower, NOT blabbering on the phone during my whole ride in Urdu and not stinking up the cab with your food!!!!

        • Tim Hall

          Great post! As a former Las Vegas cab driver, I think the drunks should be higher on the list.

          Here in Vegas, many drivers are striking against Yellow Checker Star due to substandard working conditions and pay that is usually less than minimum wage after a 12 hour shift.

        • Hassan

          I feel bad about that drunk thing. In Hong Kong, if you vomit in the backseat you just have to pay extra.

        • Eric O’Malley

          As Australia Taxi cab driver what is not mention here and is often ignored by taxi industry is The following passengers who get in and do you know who I am.

          This is the rich person syndrome I am important so do what I say or else.

          When passengers start that capper with me they immediately tell them to exit the cab reason I do not care who you are and as I am a low income earner I take offence to wealthy business people, sport stars, big time celebrities, and off duty detective trying to use there influence to get potential treatment over another person who would not receive it if they were average Joe blow.

          Another thing that gets up my nose is this craps that taxi drivers are suppose to know every road and street no person in the world can name as well as demonstrate where every road is in there country.

          Recent test on a Melbourne radio station proved it with even the government own transport minister unable to answer the test.

          Reason New street are constructed and some renamed all the time I even had a London cab driver tell me it is a myth about London cab drivers knowing every street in England.

          The last thing that gets up me hot under the collar is passengers who touch you especially males who can not keep there hands to themselves and females constantly touching you between the legs wanting cheap ride I just now stop the cab and kick them out if I am not allowed to touch my passengers during the journey why do passengers thing it is ok for them to touch a cab driver especially while driving very dangerous.

          Also why do people think all cab drivers want hang around picking up idiots on Friday, Saturday nights and mornings from dance venues high on drugs I have better things to do with my weekends and I am not paid a weekly wage and cleaning cost to put up with idiot party goers who show no respect to cab drivers giving up there days and nights with their families and friends having no social life at the best of times during weekdays.

          I now refuse to workends because of university drugged up drunks and weekend snobs andthe violence that goes with it.

          Not worth the stress or money.

        • Amaury

          Recently I took a taxi from my location to work. it was about 20 minutes before the hour I had to arrive at work. The reason:a rare situation in which three express trains arrived one after the other. After waiting for the train, I realized that taking a taxi for a second time was time since I started working for the company was the best way to make sure I get to work asap, maybe early. The cab driver ask me at least four times for the address and expected me to show him the way around by providing him with direction. I explained clearly where the destination was a he kept being confused, making my commute extra long. When he got stuck in a traffic Jam, I explained to him that usually it takes much less time to arrive to the destination; he accused me of providing home with the wrong direction. As a result of the bad moment and terrible service I ask him to stop talking to me, I did not want to hear his big mouth. He continue being verbally aggressive and making false claims so I off the taxi cab, he tried to grab me and I avoided him. As I walked along the side walk, he got off the taxi cab and chased me, he places his hands on me and ask him to pay him. Lesson learned: Taxi drivers need to learn to treat their passengers politely and to driving their way around NYC without asking the passenger for consistent directions. They can use a GPS or call the base to get specific direction, the problem is they are too lazy and consider bullying a form of service. In the past there has being taxi drivers that by telling them the address destination and famous landmark, they remain confused and lime to speak harshly. I hate taking taxi cabs, the drivers need proper training in so many areas. s PS

        • Fred Bloggs





          I have been driving Taxis since 1983 and the NSW Government has never considered to give me a FREE Taxi Plate.I will not complain if you do.

          UBER are out to make some fast BUCKS.

          They are trying to get 5,000 PLUS FREE TAXI PLATES.Maybe 10,000 FREE TAXI PLATES.

          They have a BILLION DOLLAR SLUSH FUND to grease the PALMS of people LUKE FOLEY.

          You will not have Professional Taxi Drivers.

          It will damage the Tourist Industry and impoverish all kinds of Taxi Drivers.

          Taxi Driving will be come a good Part-Time Student or Backpacker Job.I do not use a phone in the Taxi because a lot of my passengers are heavily inebriated and its nice to forget about them and start again the next day as if nothing has happened to say nothing of people with substance abuse.

          The minimum wage in England is Five Pounds an Hour but many Sydney Taxi Drivers work for less than this.Unsworth allowed investors to buy the Taxi Plates.I do not complain to my Passengers about Taxi Driving.
          Yes you can change and improve the Taxi and Hire Car Industry but UBER is JUST ORGANISED CRIME.

          Sydney is about the same size as Manchester but with a lot more Car Owners.Taxi Driving in England is a very Exclusive Job.There is a big Shortage of Taxis in England.They have a big Tourist Industry.There is room there for Mini-Cars.
          What UBER is doing is TOTALLY ILLEGAL but for some Economists this might appeal to them to turn me into a casual worker working for absolutely nothing.

          They are good Software App Developers and Possibly they have been recruited from some WAREZ Website but I would rather keep the Job Anonymous as a lot of things happen out there that is best to forget about.

          You can turn me into a Mini Car Driver but Sydney won the Olympics and you certainly did not think about Mini-Cars then.

          Making 5000 Taxis compete with 10000 Mini Cars is BARBARISM.

          Your Job is to make and enforce the LAW.

          You are not enforcing it.

          I make less than 5 Pounds an Hour

          America is the home of the MASSACRE


          UBER IS EXTREME BARBARISM in that in turns me into a Part Time or Unemployed worthless PersonS.

          It will be the end of Sydney Taxis

          They did Total Deregulation of Taxis in Ireland.Many Drivers with borrowed to the hilt and then just KILLED THEMSELVES the end of the CELTIC TIGER

          Bicycle Taxis are totally Deregulated in London but the Tourists like them but there is a Ring of Steel when you leave a Theatre in London.You have not Deregulated Bicycle Taxis in Australia.

          UBER stand to make BILLIONS OF DOLLARS with a deregulated Taxi System

          If there is a shortage of Taxis WHY DONT YOU release more Plates.

          Neville Wran said there was was BUCKETS of money around when he Quit Politics

          You wont have a tourist Industry if the Taxi and Hire Car Drivers are making nothing.We are entitled to Holiday Pay and Sick Pay but we dont get it.

          You can make the Taxi Drivers more Professional but the UBER Business is CRAP and Barbarism

          Sydney has 5000 Taxis and these Organised Crime People like STANDARD OIL say they are taking over.

          Why dont you give the Taxi Industry to COCOA COLA or Pepsi or James Packer.

          They say UBER has already 2000 Taxis working in Sydney.Its your job to enforce the LAW not TURN A BLIND EYE





          The same people who run Mini Car offices in London run Brothels.They are Territorial and you cant just go there and open a mini car office





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