Cab Etiquette Rules That Everyone Should Know
New York City is the land of cabs — 13,237 at last count — and catching one is only half the battle (see our story, 6 Surprising Tips for Catching a Cab, for more on that aspect). Once you’re in and on your way, there’s a lot to know about what to expect from your ride and how to behave if things start to go wrong. Read on for our four handy tips for navigating the interior yellow cab experience with style and aplomb.
Is it ever acceptable for a cab driver to refuse you service?
Technically, the answer here is yes, but only if the trip will take more than 12 consecutive hours, which is illegal, or if the light on top of the cab is off, indicating that the cab is off duty. Otherwise, drivers are obligated by law to drive you to the destination of your choice within the five boroughs. Most New Yorkers wait until they’re safely inside a cab with the door closed before revealing their destination, especially if it’s to an outer borough.
Can you insist that a driver hang up the phone if he’s in the middle of a hands-free call?
It’s happened to all New Yorkers. You jump in a cab happy to be on your way, but the driver is yapping away on his mobile, blasting music or ignoring the comfort of the rider. Once you’re inside a taxi, you have rights. Too hot on a summer day with the windows rolled up? Request the driver turn on the air conditioning. Can’t hear yourself think from the cell-phone chatter? By law, drivers should not be using mobiles, smartphones or other such devices while driving (even hands-free), so don’t hesitate to ask them to get off the phone.
What’s the right amount for a tip?
Tipping is a way of life in New York when it comes to restaurants, hotels and taxis. In most American cities the tip threshold is lower than in the Big Apple, around 15 percent according to many surveys. But, hey, this is New York and everything is better, bigger and more expensive. That doesn’t mean you can’t tip 15 percent or whatever number you think is fair, but it’s important to remember that 20 percent is the general rule. If you pay by credit card, there are automatic gratuity settings of 20, 25 or 30 percent gratuity, although you can add any amount. If a cabbie has been incredibly helpful and friendly, it’s always good to show your appreciation, especially if he or she helps you with unwieldy luggage. If they are flat-out rude or get completely lost, tip at your own discretion.
Is it acceptable for a cab driver to tell you to stop talking on your cell phone?
Legally, a driver can’t make you hang up your phone, but as a rider it’s common courtesy to avoid loud conversations and rude conduct. “I think drivers overall appreciate being respected for their professionalism and the service they provide. Driving a taxi is incredibly difficult, and requires great patience and skill, and the more passengers convey their understanding of this, the more drivers value it,” says NYC TLC Commissioner/Chair David Yassky. The best advice is to treat your driver with respect, and you’ll likely earn their trust and get to your destination quickly and safely.
Is it rude to pay with a credit card if the driver asks you to pay in cash?
Taxi drivers love taking cash just like every other New York business, but don’t let that stop you from pulling out the plastic. All New York taxis are required to take credit cards, so if a cabbie tries to tell you the machine is broken, don’t take the bait. Another common trick is for a driver to say that he (or she) has already hit the “cash” button, but don’t let that fool you either — switching from cash to credit is as simple as pushing a button. After the transaction, ask for a receipt. That tiny piece of paper can come in handy — it has the official medallion number on it, which is important if you lose something or need to file a complaint.
What do you do if a cab driver refuses to comply with your requests?
As a paying passenger you have rights, including the option to get out of a cab at any time. If serious issues arise, write down the medallion number, which you can find located on the license plate, hood of the vehicle, on top of the taxi, and on your receipt. You’ll need this to submit an official complaint online at nyc.gov or by calling 311.
What’s the best way to acknowledge a driver for exceptional work?
A nice tip is more than enough to show your gratitude, but if you’d like you can also commend a cabbie for going above and beyond the call of duty on the same website that the city uses to track complaints.
For more New York City tips, visit www.newyork.com.
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