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A Taxi Kickback? by David Gill

Dilemma

I work at the front desk of a hotel, and in this position I am often responsible for scheduling taxi rides for our guests. I have been approached by a number of drivers with an offer: If I call the driver directly for a long cab ride, he will give me a certain amount of cash, depending on the distance. Initially I considered this to be unethical, as the driver is probably not putting the job through dispatch, and could therefore be receiving a larger share of the lucrative pick-ups at the expense of the drivers who play by the rules.

I recently learned, however, that the dispatchers do not distribute the good calls equitably, as they have their “favorite” drivers and presumably are receiving a cut of the proceeds. Does this change the game? Also, I would be calling a driver whom I know has good service, punctuality, a clean car, etc., as opposed to playing the lottery through dispatch.

Thanks for your help,

Undecided Guest Services Representative

Response

Dear Undecided,

The ethical issues are primarily about honesty and fairness. One can imagine lots of different systems and traditions for calling taxis for customers (and for remunerating agents who arrange the rides), and if everyone knows and accepts the working “rules of the game” I’m not sure there is a problem.

I would first of all clarify those rules of the game. Ask around: what are the protocols? Are any of these actually written into law? (Violating a law raises the stakes). Perhaps customers, as well as competitors, should publish those working rules to be sure everyone understands. If there are rules but they are frequently flouted, it teaches contempt for a rule-ordered way of life. Better then to get rid of them and be transparent about the Darwinian way things are done.

Maybe this current way of operating invites abuse and even harm to some parties. Maybe it discriminates unfairly against some group. Maybe it could cause jealousy and conflict that could escalate to violence. Maybe, then, we should work together to devise a new set of rules (“regulations,” if need be). Could you take the lead in this effort or gather a small group of the stakeholders to invent and promote a new and better system?

David W. Gill, PhD
Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology and Business Ethics
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

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