Sunday, February 15, 2009

Service Industry <3

One upside to this job is that we are essentially customers "people" so in addition to the taxi drivers themselves as dispatchers we are often speaking to the secretaries, hotel front desk people, restaurant hostesses, bartenders, travel agents, store managers etc. that are also in contact with customers and thus also know how crazy they are.

Tonight I got a call from a Joe's Crab Shack in one of the suburbs to take some ladies back to their hotel nearby. I did have a cab going that way but he had just picked up at the airport and needed to drive out there still and the drive would be about 30 minutes from the airport plus another 15 minutes from the drop off point to Joe's Crab Shack. I told them about 45 minutes and asked if they wanted to wait and they said okay.

During that 45 minutes I got repeated calls from the people at Joe's Crab Shack and a guy at their hotel checking on the cab since the ladies kept getting more and more pissed off and yelling at them despite being told from the get go how long it would take. (Mind you this was at 11:15 on a Saturday night so they were lucky to get a cab out there period.)

When my cab finally got to Joe's Crab Shack no one was there. I called the hotel they were staying at and talked to the guy I had talked to before who had been telling me how crazy pissed the ladies were already and how they were going to chew them out. He said that they had been yelling at the manager of Joe's Crab Shack so he probably just brought them back and they were probably going to walk in there in a minute with a gun.

The hotel guy told me one of the ladies said to him that they could sue all the restaurants and bars and hotels out there for not providing cab service (as if they somehow have control over cabs) and that this would never happen in New York City. I started laughing hard and said- Not only do they want to try and compare St. Louis with New York City but they're not even in St. Louis. It's not like they're downtown. They're in an outer suburb!

Drastic example image. (Point A is downtown. Point B is the Joe's Crab Shack.)

The hotel guy said- I know right! Look around you, you can see forests what about that makes you think there would be cab service comparable to New York City!??!!?

He said he was glad I could laugh about this because I'm working the Saturday night shift and so it must be horrible for me.

Fucking lovely. Made my night.

Friday, February 6, 2009


One of the largest wastes of time in any given order call comes from people spelling (or attempting to spell) words for me. For the most part it's unnecessary, annoying and insulting spellings such as "road", "lake", or "circle". I assure you that if you can spell the name of your street I can too and if I can't you've called the wrong cab company because you are nowhere near the area my cabs are. The only way to effectively cut someone off who is spelling out a street name to you is to quickly spell out the rest of the word for them. Saying something like "okay" or "I've got it" just causes them to continue spelling out the word. You must actively demonstrate to them that yes, you did pass the 1st grade and are capable of spelling out A-V-E-N-U-E avenue or they will never let you continue with the call.

Perhaps more off putting is the tendency of some people to start spelling the word without first saying the word. When I ask you the name of your street I am expecting you to respond with something like "Wildhorse Parkway" not "W-I-L-D-H" etc. depending on the name sometimes trying to process it as a spelled word, putting the letters together can actually be somewhat difficult. In a hilarious converse if I am asking for clarification there is only about a 10% chance that they will give it to me before I have asked again at least three times. If I can't tell if you are saying "bridge" or "ridge" and you just keep repeating the word with no emphasis on the beginning and not saying something like "with a b" I am not going to understand you when you say it again. Did you notice how when I gave your options to you I put an obscene amount of emphasis on the br or the singular r sounds? DO WHAT I DID. If I ask you if a letter was "p as in paul or t as in tom" and you insist on saying "pin/tin" we are not going to get anywhere. If the rare occasion comes that I actually ask you to spell out a word and you just keep saying that word I am not going to magically learn its spelling just by hearing it said some more.

Sometimes it's which words one chooses to spell that is amusing. I once had someone call for an airport pick up with a common American 3 letter first name (think Bob, Ken, Tim, etc.) and a 10 letter Japanese last name. He spelled his first name. He did not spell his last. We have one person call occasionally from Les Cherbourg Ct. who always says Les Chesbourgh C-T-period. Rarely does anyone who lives on a "glenn", "brooke", "pointe", or "passe" decide to spell their street name, however people named "Smith" and those on "Lindbergh" (which wraps around the entire city and remember this is St. Louis) always spell.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I keep wanting to make a blog but putting it off because I know I'm bad with keeping up with what I do online but decided I better just jump in and do it when I do it or I'll never start.

I've been a dispatcher for about three and a half years now. This is by no means my dream job. In fact I hate it. I have plenty of past call center and customer service experience, and past management experience but none of that really adds up to how ridiculous this job is.

I should note that since we're a fairly small company (we've stayed pretty consistently between 25 and 40 cabs during the time I've been here and usually have 30-35) I am here by myself. Unlike larger companies that have separate order takers and dispatchers my job actually entails taking the orders, doing the customer service, dispatching, general office work, and sometimes what feels like driving the cabs FOR the drivers (What do you mean you can't find SAM'S CLUB? See that ridiculously huge building next to Walmart...?).

Please keep in mind that I realize every generalization I make will have exceptions. I know this. I will still make generalizations. The most common being- taxi drivers like to make no money. This is part of a general theory I have concerning how in any given situation 75% of drivers will make the choice that is going to make them the least profit. This is not just a matter of me having the schedule and thus more information, this is basic math. Drivers will turn away 4 customers in an hour wanting to make $10.00 runs because they'd rather have one $30.00 run. I also have a foul mouth. I think fuck and its variants are probably the greatest descriptive terms we have today. If you find this offensive this is not going to be the place for you. I'm still trying to decide if I will come up with some font based indicator of what I'm saying when talking to customers and what I'm thinking. I decided I'd like a dispatcher's blog both to try and preserve my sanity and also as a counterpoint to all the taxi driver blogs I have found. The only other "dispatcherish" blog I found was Blanktop Chronicles by an order taker and much to my chagrin it seems to have been taken down. It was EXCELLENT. If nothing else though I will be able to use this name to comment on taxi blogs without always having to start out with "I'm a dispatcher and.." so that's useful.

Some basic terms I may use:

10-1- A 10-1 is a walk-up. A customer that the driver got on his own either because someone came up to him or called him over while he was on a post or flagged him down. This is an order that was not placed through the dispatcher.

Post- A post is a cab stand specific to a cab company. Drivers line up on a post to get trips dispatched in the vicinity of that post. (Our posts are all hotels.) There are secondary posts- we will call the post closest to the post that a trip is in for cars if there are no cars on the post that the trip is in before calling for light cars.

Light Cars- are cars that do not have a passenger.

Starter- Starters are glorified security guards who are also a tiny bit like dispatchers. The St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission has granted a monopoly cab stand at the airport. Other cab companies are allowed to pick up there but they must be called by the passenger and given the passengers name and flight information before the cab is allowed to go to the airport to pick up. The starter sits in a booth in front of the airport taxis and guides people to the airport taxis (in theory) he is supposed to stop other taxis from stealing fares from the airport taxis and make sure they only take their reserved customers. The Starters also act on behalf of the Taxicab Commission issuing tickets for violations of the MTC code. This puts some Starters on ridiculous power trips that lead them to do things like issue tickets to a driver who is wearing the regulation white collared shirt under black sweater but whose collar has tiny cream pinstripes on it while the passenger of that driver is angrily yelling at them for holding their driver up.