Friday, February 24, 2012

Thessaloniki's Taxi Drivers

Taxi drivers are a breed apart in every country and Greece is no different. While I might have got use to their tricks in the country where I come from, in Greece everything is still new to me.
One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the concept of competition is unknown to this area of activity. Well, if we are to split hairs, competition is barely known in other more important domains in Greece also, but let’s not goes there just yet.

The price is unique for all the taxis and dare I say uniquely high also. If you order a cab you are going to pay an extra tax. Why? I haven’t figured that yet. I strongly doubt there is logic behind it. It just IS.
Taxi driving is not a free profession in Greece. There are a certain number of taxi driver permits allowed to function in the area of a city, which is normal. What’s interesting thought is that permits don’t expire. The person who has this permit is allowed to sell it and the prices reaches as high as 100 to 150 thousand euro or why not, leave them in their will to their grand kids.:))

It’s not cheap to be a taxi driver in Greece but it pays to be one.
Last year they’ve tried liberalizing this domain but taxi drivers demonstrated for their rights of “monopole” so in the end nothing happened.
Another thing, and this one really drives me crazy, is that taxi drivers in Greece take more than one passenger per route. Most of the times they don’t even ask you if you are ok with the idea. Confused? That makes two of us.

I was in a cab going home when, at some traffic light, a lady came, asked the driver if she can get in as if I wasn’t even present and got into the car.  First I thought he knew her and he wanted to give her a lift but by the time I reached my destination one other guy joined us.
Later I found out that is a common practice of taxi drivers in Greece. They get the start tax (1 euro) from each of the passengers and then they get paid three times the value of their route because most of the client’s routs overlap. Aren’t they smart…? What I don’t understand is why people put up with it? I guess I’ll never know.
To finish in a lighter note, taxis in Greece are not the same color everywhere. In Thessaloniki for example, where I live, they are dark blue. Being used to seeing yellow cabs, the first time I came to Thessaloniki looking for a cab proved very difficult because I was looking for yellow cars – which are not that many in traffic - and I was missing the taxis which were the dark blue ones since they didn’t attract my attention in any way.

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