It’s a hustle-and-bustle world, and it seems everyone’s in a rush all the time. You’ve got places to be, just like the hundreds or thousands of people jamming the city streets each day.

You’re so busy and so distracted with getting there, do you ever simply hand the cab driver whatever amount he said you owed once you got to your destination. Without giving it thought, you hand over what you “owe,” and probably a tip, too. Maybe it’s time to re-think all that.

New York City Cabbies

Dr. Mitchell Lee regularly takes cabs to and from the New York University Medical Center in Manhattan. His usual fare is $5. Late in 2009, a cabbie charged him $7. When he questioned the charge, the cabbie offered him a “discount.”

Dr. Mitchell didn’t take the bait. He charged the full $7 fare to a credit card and then contacted the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (T&LC). It’s in charge of many things, from making sure the City’s taxis and other for-hire vehicles are safe, to setting the fares they may charge.

Dr. Mitchell’s complaint led to an investigation by the T&LC. It found cabbies had bilked their customers for $8.3 million by overcharging fares. This was done over a two-year period and about 1.8 million cab rides.

How’d they do it? The cabbies set their meters at a higher rate than what they were supposed to be charging, and unaware riders simply paid what they were told to pay.

The City made efforts to refund the money to the bilked cab riders. It also installed new devices in cabs letting riders know if the meter rate is changed when they enter the cab. Riders have to authorize or accept the new rate before they can be charged.

Weights and Measures

Of course, a lesson to be learned here is to pay attention to the meter when you ride a cab, whether you’re in New York City or Boise, Idaho. Not all cabbies are crooks, but you never know when you may meet one who is.

Scams Outside the Cab

Perhaps a bigger lesson is to understand that you could be victimized by a similar scam or crime without even looking at a cab. For instance, when was the last time you:

  • Put $15 dollars of gas in your car
  • Bought a gallon of milk
  • Bought a pound of lunchmeat or cheese at a deli or supermarket
  • Had your groceries scanned at check-out

These and hundreds of other everyday sales and purchases – including cab fares – involve measuring or weighing whatever it is we’re buying and making sure we get exactly what we’re paying for. Do you want be charged $4.00 for a half gallon of gas when the sign says $4.00 per gallon?

Next, Someone’s Watching Out For You

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