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The situation in the taxi actually begins on the morning of 2012-02-01. This was the first day of my three-day conference at The Hilton in Gateshead. It was cold so I decided to take a taxi from City Express Hotels to the Hilton at Gateshead. I called Budget Taxi’s. A taxi marked Budget Taxi’s arrived on time to collect me. The meter started at £1 which Budget Taxi’s had advertised it would start at. The driver took what he said was the quickest route. The journey was about 5 min in duration. When I got to Hilton Gateshead, the meter in the taxi billed me for £3.50. I gladly paid and collected a receipt.

On the following morning, I called Budget Taxi’s, for the same journey. At 9 AM a taxi with markings indicating ‘Noda Taxis‘, turns up. He confirms that he’s been sent by Budget. The driver took a faster route across the High Level Bridge and got me to Hilton in about 3 min (2 min faster than the previous day). There was no greater amount of traffic. The only difference was the route taken. I was unable to see the meter in the taxi and I was not looking; confident as I was that for a journey of shorter duration I would probably be  charged less than £3.50. However, the driver requested £4.60. I expressed concern and explained that on the previous day had paid £3.50 to Budget Taxi’s for a journey that was longer in duration. The driver then appeared nervous and quickly agreed to charge £3.50 and provide a receipt. All that time I was unable to see a meter. In retrospect I should not have entered the taxi if I did not see a meter.

On the third morning, now vigilant and wishing to avoid the complications of the previous day, I approached a taxi that was waiting just outside of City Express Hotel. It’s markings were ‘Noda Taxis“. The driver was reading a book which I could see was the Bible. I tapped gently on his window and enquired what might be the cost to get to Hilton Gateshead, and whether his taxi was metered. He stated that the taxi was metered and he pointed to the meter. He appeared suspicious about my enquiry as to whether there was a meter in his taxi. I therefore volunteered that on the previous day I entered a taxi and there was no meter visible, hence the nature of my enquiry. He told me that the meter would start at £2.40. I expressed surprise about that because Budget Taxi’s would start at £1. He explained that they had a business arrangement with Budget Taxi’s and would start the meter at one pound if they obtained a direction centrally from Budget Taxi’s. I walk back 50 m to City Express Hotel, where I make a call to Budget Taxi’s. I wait for about 2 min. The said taxi and driver that I had approached about 3 min earlier, drives up to City Express Hotel, and I enter the taxi.

The driver pointed to the meter and in a gruff tone of voice said, “I don’t know what is the problem, why you need to see a meter but there it is!“. I summarise and explain the difficulty I had on the previous day. As we took off he continued for the next couple minutes taking issue with me. The conversation went as follows:

Driver: I don’t know what is the big deal, why you think people are here to rip you off.

Me: I don’t think people are here to rip me off. Yesterday I thought I was about to be ripped off and therefore today I am careful when with the same company, that I don’t place myself in a situation where I might be ripped off.

Driver: but you seem to feel that people in Newcastle are here to take advantage of you and that the taxis are here to take your money. What is your problem?

Me: I don’t feel that people in Newcastle are here to take advantage of me. I don’t have a problem. I have seen your meter and it has started at one pound. I am very happy with that. If on one day a driver from your company attempted to rip me off it is reasonable for me to be vigilant that the same thing does not happen again.

Driver: Look, I understand the situation with Noda and Budget. They have an agreement in to discount the fare. If something went wrong with that it is for you to call up the company and make a complaint.

Me: Look, you understand that I’m passenger and a customer – you think I wish to take my time to understand your contractual arrangements and go chasing taxi drivers and making complaints? Get real. I just want to pay my money feel treated fairly and say thank you very much! Is that too much to ask for?!

Driver: Chuckles a bit. Silence for 2 seconds.

Driver: but you are making such a big deal of it, I use taxis when I go to Manchester or London and I don’t ask to see people’s meter. If they tell me it’s £5, or £7 or whatever, I pay up and I don’t make a big deal of it.

Me: that’s fine for you. It is your money and your affair whether you check that you are being billed accurately. You seem to be a rich man. I think you are probably a secret millionaire driving around in a taxi cab as a hobby. However I am not as fortunate as you appear to be. I work very hard for my money and it is my responsibility to ensure that I get the best value for my money.

Driver: breaks out in laughter, acknowledging the difference in perspective.

Me: I realise you’re a Christian and I don’t believe or think that you as an individual might intend to rip me off, so it’s nothing personal. But look, money doesn’t bear on trees and if you don’t watch your money people will take advantage. My money does not come from a money tree in my backyard, you know!

Driver: I see where you’re coming from, but you know when you are good the Good Lord provides a way and the money comes to you.. it may not be from the sky, but you get a big job.. and that is how it comes.

Just then we arrive at the Hilton Hotel at which point he explains to me that he is a pastor. I said to him that I think he might have material for a sermon. We went our different ways without any animosity. No – it was clearly not the time or the place for me to give him my sermon! LOL. I left him with the advantage of his beliefs about God and money. Oh the fare – that as £2.90!

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