Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Doorman's Guide to Not Getting Ripped Off in NYC: Part I

Part 1- Gypsy Cabs and Pedicabs 
I get into a verbal altercation, on average, about once every two hours while I'm at work. I wish it were because I was standing up for something I believed in, or for something for the greater good of humanity, or because I was defending a loved one, but I'm not that important. The vast majority of fights that I get into are because I'm defending some idiot tourist that's about to get ripped off in front of my hotel.

Quite frankly, I'm really fucking sick of it. Not enough people use common sense when they visit New York. There are plenty of ways to get scammed over here, and if you avoid the following things, you'll be able to sniff out something fishy and not get fucked out of your money. Remember, I'm a life-long, street-smart, New Yorker and I spend five nights a week staring out into one of the busiest streets in Manhattan, watching visor-wearing mouth-breathers get ripped off by hustling scavengers. You should listen to me. I'm not some fanny-pack-wearing ninny who spent a week in NYC and thinks that they own the town. 

Black Towncars

NEVER set foot in a car that isn't a yellow taxi unless it was pre-arraigned by a friend or travel agent or booked through your hotel.

It starts at the airport. New York has 3 major airports- LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark. If you're going to take a taxi from any of these airports, do so from the taxi stand, meaning don't take anything that isn't a METERED cab. In JFK and LaGuardia, it will always be a yellow NYC Taxi. Newark is in New Jersey, which is a little different, just make sure that whatever taxi waiting at the stand is running on a meter going to New York. Toll are always added to the price. Yellow taxi rates can be found here for the airports. I won't list them on this blog because they're due to increase this coming September, but the link will still be good. 

Here's why you don't fuck around with black town cars:

When it gets busy in Manhattan, (specifically during rush hour, Friday and Saturday nights, and when it rains) black cars come out of the woodwork and begin preying on people desperate to catch a cab. We call them "Gypsies". They'll pull up, honking the horn, asking where you're going, tell you they're giving you a good price, then take you for a ride. They can charge you $20 more than what you would be paying because they don't have to worry about you reporting their medallion number. Above and inside every yellow taxi, there's a 4-digit number that identifies every driver's vehicle. If a yellow taxi tries to fuck you over in any way, you could report them using that number. With the black cars, they can give you any random price, judging by whether or not you know where you are. Some of you tourists, sorry to say, might as well walk around with bulls-eyes on your "I Love NY" shirts.  Not only can they give you what you think is a fair price to bait you into the car, they can pull whatever bullshit they want once they drop you off. 

"It's $45, PLUS $10 gas, PLUS gratuity!" 

I actually heard one of those savages say that one night. When I asked where he picked them up, it was, no joke, 3 and a half blocks away. The motherfucker picked them up, drove them around in circles for a half hour, then dropped them off in front of the hotel and pretended like he took them halfway across the city. 

Another woman once told me that she was outside a Broadway theatre in the pouring rain with her very young daughter. A gypsy pulled up and asked where she was going. She knew that she was only a couple of blocks away, but her kid wasn't feeling well and just wanted to get her home. After telling the driver this, he lied and insisted that there was $20 minimum on all trips. Desperate, with no yellow cabs to be found, she took it, knowing that this asshole was taking her for a ride. When she got back to the hotel and refused to give him a tip, the driver called her a "cunt" in front of her daughter. 

The worst that I've seen was, by far, while I was working as a concierge. A woman from Spain, slightly concerned, approached me with a hand-written receipt. She had taken a black town car from JFK airport:

Woman- "eeeehhhh is to pay too much for this?" 

My response was cruel, but I can never pass up a good punchline: 

Me- "Did you take a helicopter here?"

Here was the price breakdown on the receipt: 

Driver Fee- $100 
Gas- $35
Tolls- $40
Parking- $15
Gratuity- $50

Grand total- $240 

My favorite part of that is the PARKING. He picked her up and dropped her off. What parking did he have to pay for? She must have led on that she couldn't read English, and the son of a bitch just went to town. 

If you're going to spring for a nicer car to take you to and from the airport, and your party can manage to fit all your luggage into a sedan, pay no more than the following numbers for there or back:

LaGuardia: $60
JFK- $90
Newark- $120

These are expensive, but I've seen people spend this much without blinking. You can get them for less than this, just know that this is the ceiling. Every company is different, and every hotel works with a different company. If you want to get to the airport in a Mercedes or Escalade, then you're looking at a larger price. If you're a Brazilian, shopping twat, and you have 12 dead-weight, bellman back-breaking, luggages and only two people, then prepare to pay more to accommodate all of your bullshit. Know about the yellow-taxi rates beforehand. If you don't mind being in a shitty cab, then you'll pay a lot less. If you're looking to take a nicer car, then you'll pony up a few bucks. Just make sure it's through someone you trust or a hotel employee. 


This is a growing problem in the city. You wouldn't believe what these animals get away with. 

Actually, I take that back. People are fucking stupid. 

The key to taking a pedicab off the street in NYC is is very simple and can be summed up in one sentence:

Don't take a fucking pedicab off the street in New York City.

The ONLY place, and I mean ONLY place you should ever set foot on a pedicab is Central Park. That's it. There are legitimate, hardworking, experienced, licensed tour guides and New Yorkers that will give you a wonderful tour of the park and charge you a fair hourly rate. I know a few of them personally and they're great people who are watching their business go down the toilet because of these pieces of shit who have taken over midtown Manhattan and given pedicabs a horrible name.

You think what I just explained about gypsy cabs is alarming? Here's a breakdown of the pedicabs that troll Times Square- 

On a flimsy piece of paper, hidden on the side of most of these shitboxes, is a very, very fine print that gives you a list of how the pricing works: 

Initial Fee- $5 
Per Street- $2 
Per Avenue- $5

(If you're not from New York, just know that streets are short and avenues are long.) 

Then, in an even finer, finer, print below the prices, you see some more text:

Price breakdown is per person. 

Say you're a family of two adults and two small children and you want to go from 42nd street and 6th ave to 50th street and 5th ave. That's 8 blocks (streets) and one avenue. Before the driver pedals a foot, that's a $20 initial fee. 

Now he goes his 8 blocks (streets)- that's $16 x 4 people. Remember, the price breakdown is per person. 

16 x 4 = 64

So with your initial fee and 8 blocks (streets), you're already at $84. 

We're not done.  

Avenues in New York mostly run one way. Pedicabs have to, by law, go with the flow of traffic. So this means to go one avenue over, they have to go up and around, and they count it as going two avenues. How does that add up? 

2 avenues = $10. Times 4 people, you've tacked on another $40. 

So to go nine blocks, your grand total is $124. 

Then they get combative if you don't sprinkle in a tip. I've seen countless arguments in front of the hotel between tourists and these fuckers. All the drivers do is point to the fine print and tell them "next time, read the fine print and be more careful." I've actually heard several drivers use that line. Imagine that? They can just brazenly tell them "yeah, I just fucked ya, now ante up and don't be such a dumbass next time."

What makes my blood boil the most about this is that so many of these fucking parasites barely speak English and are here illegally. They don't provide a tour or any information about New York. They just pick you up and rob you blind. Would you rather wait around for a taxi or, god forbid with you fat, lazy, midwestern fucks, walk those 9 blocks? Do yourself a favor- either wait around for a taxi, take the subway (no, there isn't a residential mugger/rapist in every subway station), or move those chunky little feet back to your hotel. Do you really want to pay 100 bucks to have some smelly savage whip his B.O. back at you, while he talks to his savage family back at home on his bluetooth? 

Many of the legitimate tours can be found along Central Park South near Columbus Circle. You can also pre-book something online, or ask your hotel concierge. In many cases, $75 can get you an hour-long, informative pedi-tour of NYC. And if your guide is good, throw him another 20. Because we remember our tipping, right? 

More to come. If there's anything you want me to answer, seriously, don't be shy. Email me at and your question will be answered in a future blog. 


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