Does the way we dress, as taxi driver's, have an effect on our earnings? ------- and our personal safety?
It is common knowledge in the business world, and in our values of society, that the clothes that we, as individual persons wear, tell a lot about us to other people.
Right ---- please give me a break, now you are going to tell me that what I wear today will affect the outcome of my day! What next?
First we must say to ourselves --- is it really possible ---- and if so, how does this affect our work?
Perception is why. How other people see us and perceive us ---- not how reality is.
In the world of animals, the utmost goal of each animal is to survive --- and eat again another day --- and to reproduce their species --- and if the animal cannot eat to survive, then obviously, they will not be able to reproduce.
Lets look at it in a simpler vein of thought. Animals, when hunting, as a general rule of thumb, select their prey with great care and thought. What they want and need to do is to bring down their prey in the most efficient and easy manner possible. So they will study the prey, especially if there are options like selecting one or two victims from a large or small group.
What they do is look for what appears to be the weakest -- they young, the old --- the sick and the injured. They instinctively know that these are the easiest to bring down, therefore the selection of the victim --- after all, why take on something than can run fast to escape, or worse yet, fight back?
Sure, sometimes we must take risks, and subject ourselves to possible injury or even death, so on occasion a good, strong, healthy prey is taken --- to survive!
So now, lets apply these basic principles to humans --- people like you and I. The only difference between humans and animals is that we are strongly controlled by our thoughts - good or bad - and by our emotions -- which we all have been learning and developing all our lives, and of course in most cases, very superior in intellect compared to animals.
One emotion we have is greed. This appears to be a key factor in some humans thinking and subsequent actions. This emotion comes into play when they see others with more than them, or less, but it doesn't really matter, we just want what they have! Thus the motivation to rob or steal.
As to dress now - humans do dress - and animals have no need to, so let's go further.
If we are business executives, both male and female, we always dress not just to please ourselves, but to ensure that we are seen by others in the best light. We want to be seen as successful, able, (both mentally and physically) to perform our job and in turn, increase our personal status in the eyes of others.
Most successful hotels, restaurants, and other service related industries spend good money, lots of it, to ensure their human resources - people if you will, look good, as they know that good dressing can have a very high influence on how the customer views "the company".
That's why many delivery services for example, US Mail and Canada Post, Federal Express, UPS, police, fire, ambulance, transit drivers, gas and telephone company employees are all uniformed. To project a good image that clearly identifies the company!
Then, it stands to reason that we, as the taxi industry, one of the major players in the social structure and economy of each city around the world, should be doing the same thing!
Dressing properly to maximize our business potential and to encourage repeat business, the lifeblood of any company, and in the interests of our own personal safety. OK, we say, we can buy (accept) this argument -- but I sure as hell don't want to wear a suit and tie all day --- and I am my own boss, sometimes my own company (owner/operator). So?
Every day we start out to drive our taxi, we want to attain as much business as possible, and we want it to be profitable and safe, and to maximize our income, especially the tips.
So we get ourselves washed well, shaved and well groomed, and we pick out some nice, clean and comfortable clothes that feel good, breathe easy, but look nice. This includes the footwear (no runners please....not even Nike's), and jackets when needed.
By making this our "working costume" or "working dress", we will project an image of cleanliness, knowledge, high self esteem, and most of all confidence and sureness. Our fares will view us, assess us, and perceive that we care about ourselves. So it stands to reason, in their mind, we will operate our business (taxi) in the same manner, professional and well --- they perceive that they will get their money's worth -- or to politely use the term "get good value for their money". This is also very important with tourists who will feel safer with this kind of appearance. (image)
However, if we dress poorly, in old jeans, T-shirts with writing or photos on them, runners and baseball caps on backwards -- if we haven't combed our hair or shaved and bathed -- the perception of us that the customer gets is very poor, and they relate that to us not being professional and caring -- and they will always get an impression -- "this driver looks like he doesn't care about anything, so I will not get good service -- and he probably will cheat me, or try to". This does not encourage " repeat " business.
Of course, this may not even be close to the truth, but what really matter's is: "How does my customer perceive me? What image am I projecting?
It is a know fact, documented by much research from private and University sources, that the better dressed you are, the better you will feel about yourself, and the better service you will provide -- because you are confident and feel good, and, in turn, this will greatly enhance your gratuities (tips) which of course you do not share with the owner, and very little of it with the tax guys.
Research done by many groups has shown that:
They judge the City and it's people by how the taxi driver is dressed. A very specifically done research project proved this without a doubt.
Now, let's get to you and your personal safety, and I will be very blunt about this for the simple reason that I want you to be happy, successful, and go home intact every night to your family, ready to drive again tomorrow.
If you dress poorly, shabbily, or inappropriately, and do not maintain a well groomed, clean, and very confident appearance, then you may be setting yourself up for both poor income and gratuities (tips), not to mention lost future business, -- BUT you have also set yourself up --- to become a victim! If you dress like a nobody or a bum, or in an "I don't care" manner, the odds are very high that you will be "selected" or "chosen" by a greedy fare as low in social status, low self esteem, and most of all, "weak", that you will be easy and not fight back. As in the animal world, you are seen as "easy prey" to those persons who actively search for possible victims, and, I can almost guarantee it -- you will become a "chosen victim".
The person who is the "hunter" will perceive you as "easy prey", that if you don't care about yourself, then you are very low in status, and that no one will really care if you "live or die"
-- So what does your attacker have to lose -- very little, so he robs you, he beats you, he may even kill you -- all because he perceived you as "weak" by the clothing you wear!
Where is this writer coming from ? Who is he? how does he know this? And why has he written this article?
I'll tell you why. Because I care about you! Each and every one you. You are all human beings, with hopes, families, and a desire to live and progress in this tough world. I am also a 25 1/2 year veteran of the Winnipeg Police Service - all spent in uniform - beating the streets like you - and being abused by the same people that abuse you --- but you don't have the defense mechanisms , resources, and support that I do. I work long, rotating shifts like you do, and my customers are the same ---- only my ride is free. And why do I still tell you this ... because I have always seen and understood that in most cases, most of the victims I have dealt with in sexual assaults, robberies, assaults, and killings, were all dressed poorly. I don't mean poor in the sense of no money, but poor in the choice of clothing. They were all chosen to be victims because they were perceived as weak and not able to defend themselves. Granted, this is not always the case, but overall the majority were poorly dressed.
A research project is underway in Canada right at this moment, to determine why so many taxi drivers become victims. I am involved in some of it and so are many owners, drivers, companies, and regulatory authorities. The report, being done by a very respected and experienced criminologist from the University of Ottawa, is being conducted on behalf of the Canadian Justice Department. The report is due out in April 1995, and the "dressing" issue is being seriously considered.
I am the contract instructor for the Manitoba Taxicab Board in Winnipeg, Mb. Canada for over two years now, and have been teaching these theories all this time, with excellent results. I have been tracking them for three years. Of over 260 students who have passed through the course, we have only had three robberies at gunpoint, no harm to drivers, and two assaults, both minor, on these students, and the feedback obtained was that "they did what they were taught to do". It is very promising.
In conclusion, let me give you a quote from Professor Ann Fairhurst of the University of Tennessee, previously of the University of Indiana who stated: "Let your clothes do the talking! What you are is what you wear !". and I thank her for her assistance and insight in the making of this article.
Please feel free to contact me by mail, Internet, telephone, or fax if you have comments on the article. The feedback should be honest, but in constructive manner. I will gladly accept information, both positive and negative, with a view of helping all taxi drivers to enhance their earnings--but mostly to avoid becoming a "victim".
Our taxi drivers are the most valuable asset we have in the taxi industry, and we must assist them to the fullest. To all of you out there in "Taxiland", have happy and safe driving.
Back to the Taxi-L Safety Page