Yesterday I completed my move from New York City (a move that began 3 weeks ago and paused for a moment in the Midwest) into San Francisco. I was feeling pretty great when I landed; friendly, accommodating people, easy trip, and hey, exciting new beginnings!
I debated my choices in transportation — lugging my suitcases to a train that would take me to the center of the city, or taking a taxi that would run me upwards of $40-50…or happily, taking a door-to-door shuttle for a mere $17. I of course chose the shuttle and was incredibly relieved to find such a convenient option, and could finally just sit back and bask in a future of possibilities.
Until passenger number two arrived. I was engrossed in a book, so didn’t notice the commotion in the backseat until I heard voices rising. Apparently the driver had asked the man if he preferred to pay by cash or credit card. His answer: credit card. However, in order to pay by credit card, he had to fill out a form (I was allowed to skip this ‘ordeal’ because I paid cash).
He told the driver to do it. “I’m the customer, right? Right?” With a mere sigh, the driver acquiesced and filled the form out for the passenger, even though it would have been MUCH simpler for the man to fill it out himself.
After the form was completed, the driver wrote down the fare ($17) and asked the man if he’d like to add a tip to his credit card. The man said no, of course not. He would add a tip at the end of the trip. A reasonable response in my mind.
What was not reasonable came next. The driver asked the passenger to sign the receipt. The man refused. He said he would sign at the end of the trip. The driver explained he needed this signature now. The man refused again, and in a slightly threatening manner, told the driver not to get him agitated. The driver stopped asking and tried simply staring him down.
The man, indeed growing agitated and more threatening, started yelling. “I’m the customer, aren’t I? I am! I am the customer.” He was in the poor driver’s face, raging.
When he caught me peering through the seats in front at this unsettling exchange, he tried to bring me into the fray. “Ma’am, this is crazy, isn’t it?”
Well, I didn’t think it was crazy. In my experience, all shuttle services ask you to pay upfront. I understood the man’s hesitation to add a tip at the beginning of service, but my solution would have been to cross out the tip line on the credit card form and pay the tip in cash once the destination was reached satisfactorily.
I probably should have offered up that solution — it certainly would have saved the driver a headache, and saved this man from a possible stroke. Instead, I huffed (yes, I literally huffed) and turned around in my seat, crossed my arms and pouted. Who was this guy and why was he ruining my bright new future on the west coast?
Well, the driver gave up, the man got his way by being nasty, and the trip into the city was tense and uncomfortable, to say the least.
I had time on the ride to rethink my non-involvement. I started to wonder if sometimes stepping into an uncomfortable and possibly volatile situation would have been the correct thing to do. In my opinion, my solution would have been a good compromise, possible defusing tempers before an explosion. Instead I fell back into thinking about me, me, me.
Granted, I could have made the situation worse. Sometimes minding your own business is the best thing for everybody.
What do you think? Would you have gotten involved to bring about some peace? Also, who do you think was in the right, the driver for asking the passenger to validate his credit card purchase with a signature, or the passenger for insisting he arrive at his