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First Week Driving a Taxi in Las Vegas

First, I need to apologize for the delays of my writings here, but as you will see, the hours are not beneficial to having much of a life until I get a better shift. I will try to do my best to better chronicle my life in a timelier manner.

Well, after all the paper work, drug screening, physical, studying, testing, training, I am finally a Taxi Driver.  My schedule is Saturday through Wednesday from 4:00 am to 4:00 pm. When I meet for my schedule, I had a choice of these hours or work 4am to 4pm shift. I felt, until I get to learn the city and the roads better, it would be best to be out in the sunlight. I can always in the future apply for a shift change.

To understand more, let me explain about taxis in Las Vegas. As I have written so far, the Taxi Authority governs the taxi industry. This is an organization that controls the types and amount of taxi medallions, who can drive and where taxies can pick up passengers. They are here to regulate the taxi industry and protect the customers and the drivers.

Different from most other places in the States and the world, in Las Vegas it is illegal for a taxi to pick up “flaggers.” A Flagger is a person who just stands on the street, and waves or “flags” a taxi. In Las Vegas passengers can only be picked up legally at taxi stands or if they call into a taxi company and orders a taxi. A Taxi stand is the location in front of hotels, restaurants, attractions, and some shopping malls where taxi’s can legally line up to accept riders. This is to protect both the passengers and the taxi drivers.

Most Taxi Stands have video surveillance so if there is any problems, such as a robbery, the taxi can be tracked and the alleged person can be identified through the video. It also protects the passengers in case there is a complaint, the video can be used to spot which taxi and driver was involved with the complaint. Also with all the traffic, especially on the Strip, a taxi stopping for a fare can cause an accident. The Taxi Authority can also give tickets with large fines too.

There are also different types of Taxi Medallions here in Las Vegas. A medallion is a license for a taxi to operate. Here there are many types. Some are unrestricted where you can pick up customers anywhere in Clark County. Then there are restricted medallions. One is Geographically Restricted where you can pick up customers anywhere except Downtown, the Las Vegas Strip and the Airport. Then there is one called North-North. With a North-North you are limited to the northern part of the city to stage or be on a taxi stand. You can take radio calls in a larger area but still not everywhere. Once you have a customer, you can drop off anywhere in the state of Nevada.

If you want to take radio calls you need to book into a zone. The city is divided by zones. You have to tell the dispatcher what zone you are located and you are willing to take radio calls in that zone.

Now back to me. My schedule is Saturday through Wednesday from 4am to 4pm. getting used to this schedule and sleeping early is difficult. I get home around 5pm, have dinner as I chat with Elena and then try to get to sleep my 6 to 7pm. Saturday and Sunday I have a North North medallion taxi but Monday thru Wednesday I have what is called “Extra Board.” Extra Board is where you wait for the shift to come in and if there is an extra taxi, you can get picked to drive. The order of being picked is seniority with the company.

Saturday morning I arose at 2:00am, if that is the word to get up at such an ungodly hour. I made my coffee and English muffin and was even able to video chat with Elena for a little while. Since I have to arrive a minimum of 15 minutes before our scheduled start and driving the scooter, I left the house at 3:15. It was 61F degrees when I left the house and even with my jacket, it was nippy.

Once at the Taxi Company I check in and wait for my Trip Sheet. Then I go to my taxi and on the sheet put all the existing information such as odometer and info stored in the meter.  Miles, paid miles, # of fares, airport fees and such. Then I inspect the taxi and make sure it is clean and gassed. I then get on the road.

Since I have a North-North medallion, I drive to the Red Rock Hotel and Casino which is in the north western part of Las Vegas. They have a taxi stand and long staging area. On my first day I booked only eight rides but I booked $208.00 in fares, I received $64 in tips. I think mentioning I was in Vegas only 3 weeks and about my past 2 ½ years, they wanted to help. Sunday I also had 8 fares but only booked $125 and only received $25 in tips. Of this, one tip was $7.00 so you can see how bad the rest of the tips were.

You never can figure out how the tips will be and who are the big tippers and who will stiff you. Sunday morning my first ride was from downtown to the MGM Hotel. The fare was $19.20; the girl gave me a $20 and told me to keep the change. You smile and say thank you as you curse under your breath.

Monday was Memorial Day and a holiday is not a day that drivers want to take off, so after a while a most of us on Extra Board was told that we could leave then or wait until 6am to get Shift Credit. Since all bonuses and benefits are based on shift credits, I waited until 6am and then went home.

Tuesday I got an unrestricted taxi and had fun staging at the hotels and going to the office and other locations in the city. I booked 13 rides and made about $35 in tips. It was nice since I like to talk and so did many of my customers. I have had customers from Germany, England, and Holland and from many states. It is interesting, many customers are from Michigan. Go figure.

Wednesday I got a North North taxi and had to take radio calls. It was not too bad but not as busy as working the strip.

Thursday and Friday, my day off, I tried to stay as close to my sleeping schedule so I would not have any trouble getting to sleep by 7pm Friday night and be able to get 7 hours sleep. Over my two days off I did my laundry, ran some errands, shopping and most important, I mailed off my petition for Elena’s spousal visa.

I will write next about my second week and try to relate funny stories about some of my customers. I thank my readers who have more of an interest in the Philippines and Davao City, but have made a connection with me and are interested in my life now back in America.

28 Responses to “First Week Driving a Taxi in Las Vegas”

  1. maria says:

    bruce
    YOU CAN DO IT!

  2. Tom says:

    Good luck Bruce.

    How much of the fares do you keep or is it just the tips?

    Maybe we will head up there one weekend.

    • Bruce says:

      Tom,
      I get 50% of the meter minus a .20 fee to the Taxi Authority per ride. I also have to pay for the gas and a $16 per day fee. The tips are all mine.
      Please come to Vegas, I am off on Thurs and Fridays, otherwise you might have to ride in my taxi to get to talk to me. 🙂

  3. don m. says:

    so far so good. Hang in there. My wife ased me when we were going to Las Vegas to see you! Just got a deal in the mail from wynn hotel today.

    • Bruce says:

      Don,
      I would be happy to meet you and Mercy. As I replied to Tom, I am off on Thursdays and Fridays. If your here on a weekend I might be able to spend a little time visiting but need to be asleep early for my 2am wake up.

  4. John in Austria says:

    Hi Bruce, Don’t fret about your writing. It is interesting to many people who have never had a job as a taxi driver, me included! If more people did this, people might appreciate what makes a taxi driver tick! Keep feeding us the information.

    • Bruce says:

      John,

      Thanks, I will continue to write as long as people are interested. My writings will be less frequent having to work 12 hour days.

  5. Marcel says:

    I wish you luck with your new job and more importantly with Elena’s petition.

    • Bruce says:

      Marcel,

      Thanks. I am praying her petition comes through fast. Even though we video chat twice a day, I miss her hugs and kisses.

  6. Ben says:

    Bruce:
    Happy to hear you have a job. Also happy to hear that you were able to get Elena’s petiton started. Hope you sleep well. Stay safe, my friend.

  7. JakeB says:

    Hey Bruce,

    Thanks for keeping us informed as you readjust there. Hang in there and keep up the good work.

  8. Joe says:

    Congratulations Bruce, Hope everything goes well with your petition. Lily and I have received our first NOA and our process is in initial review. You are working crazy hours like myself now.

    Best Wishes
    Joe

  9. Anthony says:

    Bruce, Wow man, you just flip your life,turn it and make it work. Let me be the first on record to say that at somepoint in Vegas you will meet a Power broker or Celebrity and the next thing we know you will have your own radio station broadcasting all over the world. If other readers out ther have never spoken to Bruce by phone or otherwise then you dont know that he has a voice that is deep and one weve heard in that tone on the radio many times.Keep doing it how you do it my brother!!!!!

    • Bruce says:

      Anthony,
      As my mom would say “From your lips to Gods ears”
      I hope someday someone will offer me a better occupational offer so Elena and I can have a better life here in the stated.

  10. Greg says:

    I find it a bit ironic, having just come from the Philippines, that you now have an occupation where a large portion of your income will be based on tips. From my observations, tips in the Philippines are only expected from foreigners, and even then, the recommended amount was minimal.

    For example, in a restaurant the amount I was advised to tip was 10-15 pesos per person dining. This amounted to about 5-8% of the tab, unless a service charge was already applied, in which case the tip should be withheld.

    I rode in taxis quite a bit during my visit to Davao. I inquired as to what amount of tip was to be given, and the normal advice was if I felt a need to tip, it should be just the amount needed to round up the fare to the nearest even amount, which would be 10-20 pesos at the most. This would be on taxi fares that amount to normally 100-200 pesos, so about 10 percent.

    This being said, one learns real fast that if you have white skin, you are expected to tip or pay extra. I could not even walk down the street a block without having every passing cab honk trying to get my attention. In once eatery, where I walked in any place a take away order, the tab was 185 pesos. I handed the girl a 200 peso note, and stood waiting for my change. The girl said ‘sir, it was 185 pesos out of 200 pesos.’ I said yes, correct, and she still looked at me with confusion. She repeated the same statement adding, ‘you only gave me 200’. I finally had to say yes, and 15 should be my change.

    So, the irony is in that what Bruce considered to be a poor tip day, his tips were 20 percent of the fare. The amount he stated on his first day was 31% average gratuity.

    Now, in the USA I have my own tipping guidelines: 15% for restauarant servers, bartenders $1 per drink (hey, they mix it, pour it, deliver it, and stick around to chat to you, and have to wash your dishes when you go), but sorry Bruce—taxi drivers never get more than 10% from me.

    In my city, almost all taxi’s drivers pay a fixed price per week for the lease on a taxi. This amount includes the vehicle, insurance, dispatch service, maintainence—almost everything except the fuel. The drivers keep 100% of the taxi fare, plus sny tips. Now in my town, where incomes are modest, taxi service is a very expensive luxury. A ride will run about $3.00 per mile. With typical distances being 10 miles, thats 30 bucks. And 60 dollars round trip.

    I never could justify taking a already high-priced service, and voluntarily increasing the price to more than the amount you are charged or asked to pay. And then, knowing that in my town, the drivers got to keep the entire amount I am charged. To me it was analogous to being offered a hotel room for $50 plus taxes per night, and then saying “hey, how about $60 plus tax instead”.

    Now I know there are valid arguments suggesting the tips are appropriate. And just because we (or we being the USA and Canada) are the only country in the world that makes a gratuity a standard part of many person’s compensation package, it doesn’t mean we are wrong I guess. It is now factored in to prices, so we will never be able to go back.

    And as for my barber? No, he does not get a tip. Gus charges $10 for a haircut, and if Gus wants to earn more, he will raise his price to $11.

    But my only intent is to point out, that 20% on average seems pretty good for tips, especially having come from a place where taxi drivers do not normally get tips, and if they do, 5% is a realistic possibility.

    Now, in fairness, Bruce expressed that being more fortunate than so many in the Philippines, he and Elena do go out of their way to tip ‘a little extra’ when it seems warranted or charitable. I am sure gratuity kharma will be kind to you Bruce. Plus, you are in a city famous for people blowing a little more cash than they should. Hang in there—you will learn the secrets of how to get more runs.

    • Bruce says:

      Greg,

      Well in reverse from what Elena would tell me, I am not in the Philippines anymore. My costs vary depending on what area restrictions I might have. As for tips, it balances. I had 3 guys from Bermuda that went to Caesars Palace. They were talking about all the clubs they visited and the gambling they were doing. The fare was $19.90 and they gave me $20 and told me to keep the change. I wanted to give it back or throw it at them, but I said thank you. I have also had an old retired man who gave me a $20 on a $5.70 fare and told me to keep the change.

      As for your barber. Any service person who owns the business should not be given a tip since he gets all the profit. If it was a shop with many barbers and you are serviced by someone that is not the owner, then he should be tipped.

      It is difficult to say what types that tip and who doesn’t.

  11. Rick Levy says:

    Bruce,

    Best of luck in your new endeavor. I’ve often wondered how a taxi driver learns the lay of the land in large cities such as Manila and Las Vegas unless they’ve lived there for many years. And even then it seems impossible to know every nook and cranny.

    I was a courier for a few months while residing in Southern California, and if I wasn’t sure how to get my assignment, I could take a few minutes and consult my Thomas Brothers’ Directory to find the route. I would imagine that you don’t have that luxury as a taxi driver when a passenger boards and wants to get to his destination “yesterday”. So unless you do know every corner of L.V., what’s the secret?

    • Bruce says:

      Rick,
      Before I even moved here, I ordered online a GPS. I(t has been invaluable to me finding addresses and best routes. There is also a book here that is called directions and has every street in the Valley including Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. YOu look up the street and if gives you directions from an easily known location.

  12. Caesar Erel O. Macahilig says:

    Hello Bruce,

    I am happy to hear that you are doing well in your job and setting a routine of activities that will make you productive (both in work and in your personal time).

    Your description on the taxi system there in vegas is very interesting. There is order. I now fully understand what you were talking a long time ago while you were still in davao about the taxis here.

    I hope that you will get a lot of tips from your passengers in your next work shift.

    Take good care of yourself Bruce.

    Caesar Erel Macahilig
    Davao

    • Bruce says:

      Caesar,
      I am sorry I have not replied to your direct email, but it is difficult working 12 hour days. I have just enough time to talk with Elena and then go to bed.

  13. Emelina says:

    Hi, Bruce. Your blog on taxi driving in Las Vegas is interesting. I find taxi riding too expensive anywhere in the US, including in Las Vegas where I live. Plus, I still get confused as to how much is a reasonable tip. It varies from place to place &, in some cities in the US, the rate also varies between night & day. So I found it cheaper in the long run to just lease or buy & drive a car on my own. Sorry, but I only take taxis in the US when it’s really very necessary. I take taxis more in New York (Manhattan) than anywhere else in the US because it’s more convenient and cheaper than driving & finding parking on my own. In contrast, riding a taxi in the Philippines, especially in Davao, is so-o-o inexpensive & I take taxis most of the time when I’m there. Of course, the system & traffic is so different & you’re right about the lack of discipline among drivers in the Philippines. Can’t believe I used to drive stick shift cars around Manila & Davao many years ago. After getting spoiled with automatic cars & good roads in the US, taxi-riding is the more convenient & affordable mode of transportation in Davao for me now.
    BTW, I’ve written several emails/comments on your site earlier & I’m wondering if you ever got the chance to read them. As I said in my earlier email, I’m preparing for my trip to Davao with my boyrfriend soon & we’re interested to meet you now that we’re still all here in the same geographic area. I also read that you’re looking for contributors to your website & I would like to explore the possibilities of making regular inputs to continue the original purpose of your website that informs foreigners who are interested about life in Davao. Pretty soon, my BF & I will be “Americans in Davao.” I look forward to your reply & wish you & Elena the best. As the saying goes: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” So, more power to you & keep going.

    • Bruce says:

      Emelina,
      I just replied to your previous comments and emailed you my cell number. I hope you will want to contribute to keep American in Davao alive. Thank you.

  14. leo says:

    great reading, thank you for spending your valuable time! i have a quick question though, how long will it be till you have a good shift or route with the cab co?

    • Bruce says:

      Leo,
      Twice a year there is a bid usually in June and December. The drivers with the highest seniority bids first and down the line. Because of bad administration, we had a bid in June and again in July. Since we bid twice the Union would not allow the December bid since we had 2 already. Between bids. you can put in a shift change request and that is up to the manager who deserves it. I am thinking it is set up for favoritism, but the Union is not much help for the drivers either.

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