Andino Also Known as Bombero Taxi Driver

For the past few weeks I have read negative things about Cab Drivers in Puerto Rico. I myself have one very awesome experience to share about a local cab driver that saved me from replacing around $1K in camera gear.

When was the last time those complaining took an Uber or Cab?

Sadly most of the folks complaining about the cab drivers have either never taken a ride in a cab or haven’t taken a cab ride in years. Others fall into the few bad apples category that might not help cab drivers express the many hurdles they have in operating on the Island.

These same hurdles are felt by the many local small business owners competing with larger corporations.

Looking only at Price

These same folks mostly complain about the high prices of taxi cabs here on the Island. I do agree that some of those rates need a revision from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.

But one thing I see people doing is bashing and talking about cab drivers in a general way. I sort of understand these folks. Their ignorance leads them to believe that only cab drivers are at fault. I myself might have done the same thing many years ago when I did not understand how the pricing of taxi cabs in the tourist areas are regulated.

Doing some research and digging deeper into the problem

I see many talking about the cab drivers calling them the Mafia. But very few of those accusing them have taken the time to study or ask why a Cab ride in a tourist area is set at those prices.

The Cab Drivers are regulated and the Tourism company has control over those prices. The Puerto Rico's Tourism company does very little to fix this issue, much less reach an agreement where all parties, citizens, tourists, cab owners, and the tourism company have the best option.

I prefer and Support Cabs

I myself take a cab pretty often. I am lucky enough that I can walk a few steps and they are usually waiting for me at the hotel next door. When they are not, I can get one in minutes.

I know most of the drivers at this particular stop and say hello every day to them. These are hardworking men and women that I see as part of my daily routine trying to make a living.

More Connecting Less Complaining Behind a Keyboard

Not once have I felt that I was cheated out of my money or that I had a rude taxi driver. Maybe it’s the approach I take when I get into a cab. I engage in conversation and ask them how their day went. I look for a way to connect so I can make the ride less awkward.

In an age where people sit next to each other across a restaurant and can't let go of their phones, I choose to talk to the humans near me.

How Being Human Saved me $1,000 in Camera Equipment

This approach saved me last Friday when I decided to call a cab to go to Old San Juan and back to Isla Verde.

After spending most of the day in Old San Juan, we took a cab from where the cruise ships dock.

As we got in the cab, my conversations with driver included the topic of Uber coming to the Island. I shared my opinion on Uber and my many negative experiences using Uber and Lyft.

A Retired Firefighter now a Cab Driver

I told Andino ( also known as Bombero), my cab driver, why when I travel I choose a cab over a "ride sharing" service. Andino shared some stories on how people think being a cab driver is easy. But there are many risks you take especially in a tourist area.

Andino himself is used to dealing with highly stressful situations. He is a retired firefighter who climbed his way up to an officer position.

After retirement like many other retirees on the Island, he is now working as a cab driver to take care of his family.

He also shared stories on how some folks saved up the money and worked hard to be licensed as a cab driver. And know, someone can just grab a car and start giving services with no investment or training whatsoever.

When we arrived next to my apartment, I said goodbye and told him how I would continue to support professional cab drivers. He thanked me and we chatted for a few more seconds.

Leaving My Mirrorless Camera in a Cab

I took my daughter out of the back part of the taxi and laid my Camera with some equipment in the back seat.  A few hours later, I realized I had left my camera in the cab.

When that happened, I freaked out. I was worried that someone else sitting in the back of the taxi would take the camera. I went downstairs and spoke to some of the cab drivers waiting for tourists. Two of them called every cab driver that might have worked in the area where Andino picked me up.

I went online and started searching for Andino and was not able to find him. I called a few cab companies and I realized there were many cab companies on the Island.

I sat down and went back to our conversation and how Andino mentioned being part of a union at one time. At that particular moment Lucy sent me a couple of phone numbers, one being from one of the representatives of a Taxi Association.

Taxi Association of Puerto Rico Helped me Recover my Camera

I called Jose Nin's phone number and he answered. He was very polite and helpful. Thankfully he knew Andino and within a couple of minutes, I had a phone call from Andino telling me he would check his vehicle.

I received a call the next morning and it was Andino letting me know he was in route to deliver my camera.

Andino arrived in front of my apartment building. He handed me my camera and I offered him a tip which he refused to take. He went well out of his way to bring me my camera since he usually works in another part of San Juan’s metro area.

A Great Human Being Committed to Making a Living

Andino's actions are a reflection of the many other cab drivers I have interacted with; they are great human beings trying to make ends meet.

Some of them would even lower the tariff if they could, but they would be violating the laws established. The same way they can't overcharge, the law prohibits them from undercharging.

Foreign Companies are Not the Local Economy's Friend

So before you go behind the keyboard to support a foreign company like Uber, keep in mind companies like Uber extract money from our local economy. They also exploit those who are willing to take many risks to make some extra cash.

Ask yourself, when was the last time I took a cab? If I had a good or bad experience, what did I do?

If I don't agree with the Taxi fees, what can I do to have the Puerto Rico Tourism Company change it?

I Choose Quality & Professionalism over Price

As a small business owner I have learned to value quality over price.

When people just want to save money with no logical reason, the quality of services and professionalism degrades.

Everyone has a right to decide what is affordable for them; what they have to realize is that they get what they paid for.

Thanking Every Local Puerto Rico Taxi Driver

I have to apologize to the many other cab drivers that have given me excellent service and I have never thanked them publicly.

Thank you for what you do.