Chatty London Cabbies? – Shut It!

March 12, 2010

London cabbies like a chat. Anyone who has ever been in the back of that distinctive black car knows this. They’ll wax lyrical about almost every subject under the sun and give you unknown facts about London Taaahn. You get quiet or grumpy ones of course, but in the main they’re very entertaining. This could be set to change.

The taxi regulators at Transport For London are currently looking into placing some additional training for newly minted cabbies. As well as going through ‘The Knowledge,’ a three year training, which involves memorising thousands of streets and routes, they may now have customer service training. This includes welcoming passengers, dealing with stressful situations and knowing when the passenger doesn’t need to know what you think of the economy, immigration, or some obscure fact about Jack The Ripper. The goal is for passengers to have a better experience and therefore a good impression of London, hopefully leading to a return visit. Personally I think it’s more micro managing in Great Britain PLC. I expect most cabbies will continue to build on those skills using a tried and trusted method, like their instincts and in the absence of that, good old-fashioned trial and error.

I’ve only had one surly driver in all the years I’ve taken a black cab. My experiences have been almost universally positive. If anyone has used a London cab recently, or in the distant past, give me the benefit of your experience. Good or bad, funny or sad, I’ll take them all. If you have stories of using cabs abroad, even better.



  1. Well I do have cabby stories to tell. But only one from London. The rest are from other parts of England and the world.

    The one London cabby I had was rather friendly. He was more than just friendly though. He was actually helpful and patient enough to drive down a long stretch of dark dark road till I locate my hostel. This may not seem like much to many people out there, but to a traveler like myself, a helpful and friendly cab driver is your best friend in a strange city. Sometimes your only friend too.

    When I was staying at the Lakes, I use the cab service frequently to travel between the towns and villages. The drivers were all local and very friendly. I asked a driver if he ever saw one of them headless horsemen that tourist pamphlets talk about sometimes. He laughed and said no, but he would be sure to tell me if he saw a headless horseman. I told him he’s in a good position because the towns in the Lakes were all connected by those dark country lanes.

    Then I moved to Stoke-on-Trent. There the drivers tend to speak more about unemployment. And I noticed a marked difference in service between the local drivers and migrant ones. The local British drivers tend to be friendlier to me. They don’t mind answering my questions about the city too, sometimes giving me advice like where to buy good weather-proof shoes. And they charge me a fair rate according to the meter.

    The migrant drivers from countries like Pakistan and Iraq, tend to be less chatty. After 2 unpleasant incidents, I try to sound as British as possible because once they knew I was just a visitor, their rates went right up. For a trip that would normally cost me a mere 5 quids, one driver charged me a ‘discounted’ price of 15. I only found out about the scam because the very next day, I took a cab from my place back to the same pub and the local cabby told me so.

    In Los Angeles (USA), I came across the rudest cabbie in the world. I was at the airport and got to the waiting line for cabs. I took the first one that came up, and when I gave him the address, he f**ked me and asked if I could choose a different hotel! When I asked him why, he told me my hotel was just a few city blocks away and no way was he going to leave the line just for a cheapo like me. He asked if I would like to walk my way there or take a bus and leave him free to earn more money. Fortunately, a porter at the airport got involved and told the rude cabbie that ‘rules are rules’ and he would have to take me wherever I want.

    To make my ride safer, I offered to give him a tip once I reach my hotel. That cheered him and I reached my hotel without accidents.

    • Wow, Mallcop, you’ve been everywhere!

      I’m happy to know you’ve had good cab experiences in the UK overall, but I’m sorry to hear about the migrant drivers. Unfortunately, there are people, whether migrant or indigenous, who live by the maxim that if you don’t have a local accent, you’re ripe for a rip-off. I’ve had it happen to me in other situations and it’s not nice. As for the Los Angeles experience, that is outrageous. You could’ve been a millionaire going incognito, but that muppet would never had known it. Unless every fibre of your being tells you this person is a wrong ‘un, you’re obliged to take the fare, aren’t you?

  2. When I lived in Miami for undergrad my friends and I used the same cab driver every time we went out. His name was Nazir. (I’m not sure if that was his real name or one that we made up for him…)

    Any time we would go out we’d call him up, on his cell mind you, and he’d drop whatever he was doing to come pick us up.

    Bless his heart… He actually ended up rescuing me one night when I decided to (drunkenly and stupidly) walk home from a party. I was miles away from where I lived… Nazir and my friend had to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego my ass… Until he found me on the corner of two random streets. Then I made him drive me to an ATM because I didn’t have cash to pay him.

    He was a tad creepy though… He said he looked like Ron Jeremy and proposed to a friend. He also may or may not have tried to cop a feel. We avoided sitting in the front seat from then on….

    • Ron Jeremy! Dear God! Sounds like you got off lightly there, B, but you did well on it while it lasted. Well done to you.

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