Friday, June 10, 2005

Before you board the rickshaw, be sure you know the fare

We needed to get from the Royal York hotel in Toronto to the CBC Broadcast Centre, and I spied a rickshaw whose driver importuned us to take a ride. So without thinking I hired him to travel the intervening five blocks. My wife thought I was nuts.

Turns out, I was nuts. We've taken a similar ride, a pedicab, in Key West several times. It's more expensive than a taxi ride in a real car, but not outrageous.

The situation is different with a rickshaw ride in Toronto. This dude solicited to drive us:

He pleasantly chatted us up during the 5 minute, 5 block ride. At the end of the ride, we got out of the rickshaw, and I asked what we owed.

"$30" he said.

"WHAT?!?" I demanded to know.

"Yes. $3 per person per block. 5 blocks. $30."

Think about it. Five minutes is 1/12 of an hour. World-class attorneys bill at this kind of rate -- $360 per hour.

I paid the $30, but he sure as hell didn't get a tip. So here's a tip to travelers to Toronto: Avoid this guy, and the rickshaws you see on the streets of Toronto, at all costs. A local driver of a real cab pointed out that some realistic downtown rides from starting point to destination might cover 30 (relatively short) blocks -- and with two people, you owe this ripoff artist $240 at the end of the ride.

Thought experiment: Conservatively, if he pulls this ripoff a mere 10 times a day, that's $300. If he works 200 days a year, that's $60K. If the average number of rides, or length of rides, exceeds these assumptions, he's easily earning six figures.

Gee, I wonder how much income he declares to Revenue Canada for his annual earnings. And does he include revenue from the "HOT OIL MASSAGE 24 HOURS A DAY" sign on the back of the cab? (We didn't see that before we boarded.)

Does anyone in Toronto government, or the convention and visitors bureau, know or care about this ripoff? It's not hard to find the guy -- he trolls Yonge and Front streets for naive tourists. Will someone in authority please react? Why isn't this guy regulated as traditional cabs are?

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