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Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taxi driver gets glimpse into many walks of life ­

Jayhawk Taxi driver Randall Barnes takes a brief break from sitting on his 12-hour shift the night of Jan. 16. Barnes works from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. four nights a week, driving around Lawrence and delivering people to their destinations.

Jayhawk Taxi driver Randall Barnes takes a brief break from sitting on his 12-hour shift the night of Jan. 16. Barnes works from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. four nights a week, driving around Lawrence and delivering people to their destinations.

January 29, 2012

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It’s part comedy club, part retail operation.

Randall Barnes should know — he’s been working the night shift, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., for more than a year; some 30 years before that, he worked the streets, too. That was before he got, and then got laid off from, a job in manufacturing electric train motors.

But this gig is “a pretty fun job, pretty easy,” he says. There’s just the grumpy people to watch out for, to try to make happy. There are the flaggers, the frustrated drunks and, oh yeah, the yellers.

Barnes is one of six drivers for Jayhawk Taxi, a local business that’s been run by Shawn Hoefler since 2008 and is nearing its 100,000th ride.

Hoefler says the job’s not that easy: “It’s a lot more than just driving.” But he says Barnes is one of the best.

That’s because he’s good at customer service, the “making people happy and getting them along through their day.”

“Yeah, it’s a job,” Barnes said of the 12-hour shifts of constant sitting and driving. “But I actually have fun doing this; sometimes it’s like a comedy club. It’s entertaining to just sit back and listen to different stories people have to tell.”

He doesn’t mind the nights and weekends either, he says, even though “not everybody can deal with the bar crowd” because “a lot of people don’t realize how many people work the night shift — plant workers, law enforcement, people at the hospital — good people just living their lives.”

That’s the bulk of what it takes to be a good taxi driver, they both said: the ability to work with people.

“You’ve got 15 minutes to make them happy or keep them happy,” Hoefler said.

Only secondary to providing good service likely is strong map skills.

Barnes has lived his whole life in Lawrence and has never used GPS or gotten lost, he says. But he did have to ask a cop for directions once. Some of the new streets in west Lawrence developments trip him up sometimes.

“It was Doolittle Avenue, not on any map, not that I could find,” he said. “The police officer didn’t know either.”

He eventually found it (behind Hy-Vee on Sixth Street) and now he knows.

“People give vague descriptions all the time,” he said. “We prefer address to address, but we gotta know the town.”

Barnes is an independent contractor with Jayhawk Taxi, meaning the company owns and services the vehicle, takes and dispatches the calls and gets a cut of the $10 flat fare. Barnes gases up the minivan he drives — with nearly $10,000 in 2011 — and takes tips. Hoefler said the service is offering 10 free rides to the customer who takes that 100,000th ride, which he predicts will happen in the next month.

In the meantime, Barnes drives four nights a week, getting glimpses into other peoples’ lives in his minivan.

“We get people from all walks of life using taxis,” he said. “We get them picked up and dropped off.”

Comments

tange 2 years, 2 months ago

"Taxi driver gets glimpse into many jaunts of life"

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 2 months ago

This guy is trying to make a living. Not only does he have to put up with those above busting on him, but also compete with that money pit the regressive sales tax supports called the empT.

You see, taxi drivers and their owners actually put tax dollars into the system, while providing employment. The empty bus system is nothing but a leech.

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dcap 2 years, 2 months ago

I worked for Mid-West Taxi, and yes like the other people have posted they abuse the 1099 Independent contractors tax status. After working there for two months I figured out I was making less than five dollars per hour, so I quit. The IRS is supposed to be cracking down on 1099 contractor abuse. The IRS website says "You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed." Both taxi companies (Mid-West and Jayhawk) control everything about what their employees do (there is a set schedule and a company dispatcher gives them their orders).

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geekin_topekan 2 years, 2 months ago

Another cab company operated under the same guise, taking all the money from the driver after making him pay for his own gas and then cut him a check every week with no tax deducted at all.

A true independent would lease the car, pay for all his expenses, keep all the cash and return the car at the end of his shift without any new dings and a full tank. He would also have the option of being an owner/operator and paying only a minimal fee for dispatch services.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

"Barnes is an independent contractor with Jayhawk Taxi, meaning the company owns and services the vehicle, takes and dispatches the calls and gets a cut of the $8 flat fare. Barnes gases up the minivan he drives — with nearly $10,000 in 2011 — and takes tips."

Sounds to me that by IRS standards as applied to other businesses, he's an employee, not an independent contractor. Are there different rules for taxi companies?

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