Faux cabs: A tourism industry perspective


I got a fascinating letter from a person who's worked in the tourism business in San Francisco for many years, and he's very worried about the impact of the faux cabs on the city's biggest industry. Here's his note:

I'm a concerned representative of the tourism industry who read your article, "The cost of fake cabs," with great alarm.  In fact, I think you should have mentioned more on how it could affect tourism beyond that just "inexperienced drivers aren't good for the city's reputation."  I've been the Chief Concierge of a major Union Square-area hotel for the last 11 years, and if even half of what you say is true, then I fear there could be even greater damage than what your article portends.

According to the last statistic I read from the SFCVB, San Francisco welcomed 16.5 million visitors to the city in 2012, and although many of them may be "tech savvy,"  they often do not bring their smart and cell phones with them because it cost to much to use outside their own countries.  Therefore, they are just as dependent on our taxis as those seniors and disabled San Franciscans you wrote would be disenfranchised.  if, as your article infers, companies like Lyft and Sidecar (Et Al) continue their dominating trajectory over our traditional taxi industry, I worry how the millions of visitors who come to the city will be affected.

Unlike the aforementioned vulnerable San Franciscans who at least are somewhat familiar with the city, many of these visitors often have never been here before, so they have no knowledge of alternative ways of getting around and know only a taxi as a means of transportation.

Again if, as your article infers, this trend means a "race to the bottom" of qualified drivers, I fear the detrimental affect would greatly damage our city's number on industry - tourism.  I know first had how sites like TripAdvisor can enhance or diminish a hotel's reputation, imagine what would happen if that were expanded tenfold and millions of visitors who could have negative taxi experiences damage the image of the city on line.  It's not beyond the realm of reason to imagine if one of these under-regulated and under-taxed companies didn't like tourist A or tourist B for some reason, and then disseminates that information to the other companies; essentially blackballing said tourist completely.

As much concern as I have for those of our most vulnerable citizens who are already suffering the deleterious effects as these companies proliferate, I fear that our city's greatest industry would be harmed in ways not yet imagined.  We really have no idea yet what the future is, and I fear those who can can do something about it are doubling down on an untested concept with possible disastrous effects.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my observations.

Peter Nasatir


every way, and trumped up "stories" like this are not even remotely convincing. Let's have some real competition in SF and if, as you claim, the yellow cabs are better, then they have nothing to worry about, right?

Posted by anon on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

Hotel concierges get tips from cab drivers when they steer airport-bound customers to cabbies.

This particular concierge is worried about losing his backshish.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

The faux cab business:

1. People volunteer to be cab drivers using their own cars.
2. Customers trust the drivers/strangers to give them a lift.
3. The customers and the drivers can give instant critiques of the services rendered.


The conservative status-quo in America will never allow this kind of collective, feel-good transaction. It's too anti-capitalist.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

"If, as your article infers, companies like Lyft and Sidecar (Et Al) continue their dominating trajectory over our traditional taxi industry, I worry how the millions of visitors who come to the city will be affected."

Yes, the trouble with these new companies is that customers now find it much easier to get a cab than before. Tourists expect long waits for cabs. Making life easier for them will only discourage tourists from coming to SF.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

>"they often do not bring their smart and cell phones with them because it cost to much to use outside their own countries."

That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The phones are so small, even with a charger, and there are so many scenarios where they could be very important. I've traveled in parts of the world where a voice call would cost $5 a minute but texts were still fifty cents. And then there is the hotel wi-fi. If you are traveling the ability to quickly coordinate with a companion is essential, even if it does add $5 to the cost of your trip.

Sound like this representative of the tourist industry doth protest too much. There is also the possibility that the locals will be using the ride share services and there will be more cabs for out of towers.

But Tim got to use the silly picture of Mayor Lee with the pink mustache. Like we are back in Kindergarten.

Also, it is funny to hear that tourists who don't get turned off by our homeless situation will somehow give up on San Francisco because it is hard to get a cab.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

Data roaming is what kills ya, these are all web app services.

Just because US telco regulators allow providers to walk all over customers does not mean that European regulators allow the same thing. Their data roaming could be like their prescription meds, regulated and affordable, not junctures for windfall profits.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

So you can usually get some type of signal when out of town.

Every European I see in SF seems to have a smartphone.

Online cabs are here to stay.

Posted by anon on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 6:38 am

on these comment pages is undoubtedly the biggest deterrent to potential visitors to San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

Yes, siree!

I couldn't have said it butter.

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

all tourists read this rag before deciding to visit.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

Which is why they want to shut down AirBnB - because it endangers The Tourists.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

And now he suddenly cares about people who don't even vote here?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 5:29 am

Tim has spent years worrying whether San Francisco is sufficiently nice for tourists!

It's his biggest concern!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Apr. 15, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

Because the yellow cabs have done right by the tourist?
How many times have I had a legal cab take the long way to my destination because he thinks I dont know where he is going?
How many times have I been asked where I am going before I am even in the cab, or told that the credit card system is down?

The cabbies in this city can enjoy the bed they have made - they are in close running with the MUNI union as the most profoundly self absorbed industry in SF

Posted by Erick Brooks on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 6:34 am

distinctive look and markings, as they pick people up on the street.

But when it comes to "booking" a cab, whether by phone or internet, then it's good to have more choice. Town cars, limo's, radio cab's have been with us for decades, so I really do not see what is different about these new entrants to the field.

Let's have more competition, cheaper prices and drivers therefore having to up their service levels.

Posted by anon on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 6:53 am
Posted by anon on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 6:39 am

It's actually the second time in a week that Tim has used the sophomoric image.

It is easy to understand why. There is a new social movement called the 'shared economy' that is gaining traction. And the Mayor of San Francisco isn't doing everything he can to squash the movement. People like it and the Mayor is trying to work with that enthusiasm.

You need to understand how this frightens poor Timmy. It could change the status quo. It might require the cab industry to up their service levels.

But mostly the livelihood of cab drivers would not be guaranteed, regardless of their level of performance.

So, again, this terrifies Timmy and he reacts by painting a pink mustache on the Mayor. Over and over again.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 7:53 am

I think it suits him.

Posted by tagletigre on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

I called THREE taxi cab companies back in 2011 because I had to get to SF General and MUNI takes about two hours from my part of town.
Guess what?--I'm STILL waiting.

Posted by the dude abides on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 7:14 am

Wow, it's a troll tsunami on this particular thread.

I wonder if Tim will drown before he can come back to the surface with his usual flippant comment:

"My Trolls say X, as usual, but they don't understand the complexities and truisms, which are ([here Tim states the party line])/

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

I work full time in the San Francisco tour bus and private SUV tour industry. I know that concierges may mean well when they start, but the very nature of their jobs runs them ragged and makes them fed up with humanity. We tour companies pay concierges a hefty commission. Yet do they help us to find the tourists they have booked when we arrive? No too busy. Sorry! Meanwhile Latino tourists mostly the wealthy of Mexico and South America, clearly cannot speak English but the concierge throws them on to the English -only tours and insinuates they can splu translate

The sound of translating ruins the tour for everyone else. The Latinos are often late and rude and disrespectful to the driver and guides and waiters. We all suffer. But could that hardworking concierge help these people get to a real Spanish tour for everyone s benefit? No. Too much effort.

Posted by Mark McGreevey on Oct. 04, 2013 @ 11:04 pm