Catching a taxi during the festive season is an extraordinary feat that requires extraordinary measures to achieve. And those measures are sobriety, high heels, being female and a preparedness to bribe your way to a lift home.
As Melbourne cabbie Bruce Tootell told The New Daily: “A cab driver will always pick a woman over a man” and “ditch your drunken friend” if you want to get home.
That advice recalls an experience I had last weekend. Late on Friday, my male friends, husband and I tried to flag a taxi on Melbourne’s Chapel Street. I was standing a bit further up the road from the fellas. A taxi approached but ignored the men and smoothly pulled up at my side.
Later that night another friend posted an admission on Facebook about the value of lying to get a cab. In particular, telling a porkie about your destination – preferably that it is somewhere very far away and expensive to get to – just so they could get home to St Kilda from the Melbourne CBD, which is about 7 km.
But sometimes it feels like there is nothing you can do to get a taxi.
Fact: You have a better chance of picking up Miranda Kerr at your local pub than you do of getting a taxi in Melbourne. #nightmare
— Lucy Zelic (@LucyZelic) December 13, 2013
So how can you do it? Here are 10 tips from the taxi driver’s front seat. They might not be politically correct, and, frankly, some could be offensive. But will they help you get a taxi? Absolutely.
1. Be a lady
Mr Tootell says women have the edge when it comes to hailing a taxi.
“A cab driver will always pick up a woman before a man because they figure she won’t be a problem.”
However, taxi booking app goCatch claims single drunk women are the worst fares. goCatch says drunk women are more likely to falsely accuse drivers of crimes and less likely to ask the driver to pull over before vomiting.
2. Be a lady in heels
Even less politically correct, and possibly more effective in cab attraction is this advice from Mr Tootell.
“If there is an ugly girl, and a good looking girl, get the good looking girl to do the talking. Legs work. Heels work. All those types of things, because most drivers are male.
“I have a friend who couldn’t get a cab about a week ago and she’s a close friend and God was very kind to her and I told her, ‘If you can’t get a cab, make sure you take your cardigan off. She rang me back and said ‘I got a cab immediately’.”
3. Money talks
If being an attractive female is either not working or not an option, there is hope – pull out some cash and wave it at the taxi driver. Fifty dollar bills work just as well as a pair of high heels.
4. Bribery talks louder
If flashing your cash isn’t enough, try adding a tip to the fare.
“The money bribe is the best,” Mr Tootell says. This will even work on the phone.
“Anyone can be bought, so if you ring an individual cab and say, ‘Look can you pick us up?’ they all have cell phones, you can buy your way in or out of a situation.”
5. Sober up (or fake it)
A drunk person will never get a taxi in festive season.
“Taxi drivers don’t like drunks when they have sober people around, the only time they’ll pick up drunks is when there are no other fares,” Mr Tootell says.
Mr Tootell says that goes for your friends too: “If you have a friend who is drunk, get rid of him and let him walk home if you want a cab. Desert your drunken friend.”
6. Don’t queue EVER
goCatch says taxi ranks are among the worst places to get a ride on a busy night. Drivers don’t like them because drivers are obligated to take whoever is next in the queue, regardless of their condition. Mr Tootell agrees. He says standing anywhere there is competition is a bad idea.
7. Don’t call in peak times
Calling a taxi through the general line anywhere in the peak is almost a waste of time. Likewise, never ring a cab from a main road and never ring a cab from the city because you’ll do much better trying to hail.
If you do, the best chance you’ll have is to call the Silver Service taxis which charge a premium – and even then it’s not a sure thing.
8. Share with strangers
Share with a stranger to get home faster. goCatch says this would be particularly helpful if the other person has a longer fare, as the spoilt-for-choice drivers may shun short fares in the peak period.
9. Location, location
goCatch says don’t stay in the city centre. You want to pick a road heading back into the city after a suburban ride. Walk along the road to try nab a taxi heading back into the CBD. The best place to snare a taxi is at a red light, where they are a “captive audience” and to ensure they see you by standing under a light.
10. Be friendly
Even in the taxi world a smile will go a long way. So be friendly, hail demurely and be nice to the driver. And if you are booking the ride, offer a tip over the phone. As goCatch says, “it is Christmas after all”.