I drive the world’s best taxi giving a level of service that is second to none. How do I know? Well, the annual survey of 4,821 respondents from 23 countries by Hotels.com has revealed that London taxis polled 28 per cent of the votes putting us way out in front of our nearest rivals in New York who only polled 9 per cent. London Cabbies came first in five out of the seven categories including safety, friendliness, and cleanliness, quality of driving and knowledge of the area. Our famous chat and banter weren’t so popular with 37 per cent of Korean and 30 per cent of German visitors who said that they hated “chatty drivers”.
No matter, group hug chaps.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE, what empirical evidence was used to reach this conclusion? Precisely none. Every contributor used their own judgment of what they wanted from their taxi experience. And that is the problem; all these sites on the World Wide Wait provide a means to express one’s own opinion. Mister Angry to Miss Supine all has a chance to express their view. And who are these people? I don’t know, and nor do you, they could be genuine or one of my colleagues’ brother-in-law.
It is the modern curse, this information overload. A guidebook, written by professionals can at least be relied on to be consistent; but these sites rely almost solely on user-generated content – and there is plenty out there in cyberspace – I should know, contributing more than my fair share of personal opinions which my Korean and German customers seem to abhor.
One of the biggest sites is TripAdvisor who boast 45 million users, who once claimed on its homepage that it had ‘reviews you can trust’, but following from an allegation that up to 10 million reviews of hotels, restaurants, and holiday businesses could be fakes, possibly posted by the proprietors of these services, which prompted an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority, TripAdvisor has dropped their claim of trustworthy reviews. Presumably, now you should only use these comments as a rough guide.
So I decided to do a little research of my own in relation to the London taxi service and tripped over, so to speak, to TripAdvisor:
Moi0606 asked, quite reasonably I thought: “Can anyone tell me how difficult it is to get a cab from Marble Arch to [Natural History] Museum and then return at end of the day. Your advice is very much appreciated”. To which ajeleonard gave this valuable advice: “About as difficult as sticking your arm out and hailing one with its light on”.
Linet wanted to know: “We will need to take a 5-10 minute cab ride in London when we visit in May. Approximately how much would this cost?” CheshireCat helpfully writing from Chester some 170 miles away gave this answer on London cab fares which should leave Linet in no doubt as to the cost: “Assuming you hail a taxi in the street or pick one up from a rank, my best guess is budget for about 5-7GBP. But . . . this isn’t a straightforward question. Depends on lots of things as fares are a combination of distance and journey time plus a whole lot of “extras” (e.g. how many people, how much luggage, time of day). Also if you pre-order one expects to see £1.50-2.00 on the meter before you start your journey. Fares are regulated so see: londontransport.co.uk/pco/taxi_fares.shtml for details of how they arrive at a figure.
Clearly concerned by being ripped off Rickamandog inquired: “I was reading a recent posting that said that the cabs [fares] in London were outrageous.” TexasEllen replied: “Black Cab drivers are a whole lot better than they used to be and generally are very appreciative when you tip them. Unfortunately we came across one of the old school who took us to London Bridge Station, his technique was to get out of the cab walk around the back of the cab and accept the fare on the kerbside, the fare was 7GBP I only had a 10GBP note as he walked back around I heard him say “I guess we will call that even” yeah like a tip of 40 per cent whatever per cent is even, I would have given him a pound coin, I’m a pretty good tipper but 3 pounds on a 7 pound fare was an attempted rip-off. I have never come across this before and don’t expect to again. We have found them to be knowledgeable and if you treat them well you get the same back. We even had one sing The Yellow Rose of Texas, after we told him we were from Texas.
Well thanks, Ellen, your review is obviously genuine.
So there you have it, you pays your money and takes your choice, or in the case of the internet don’t pay your money and take your chance.
A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 11th October 2011