Gift for a DC cab driver?
June 6, 2012 1:56 PM   Subscribe

I left my dead-battery smartphone in a cab to Dulles. I rudely took the driver's card on the way out even though I didn't want to. I phoned the driver an hour later, and he actually said he'd return it to me, but I didn't have high hopes.

Two days later I got a package and the dude had overnighted me my phone, from DC to CA. It cost a lot. I wasn't super-nice to him, but he did something really great for me. As someone who talks a lot of trash about DC cab drivers, this blew my mind and I found it oddly touching. Also, it makes me less fucked, because I can again function as the loser work-cyborg I've become.

I've got his return address. I am going to send him a cool gift.

At first I thought about a gas card, but I wonder if that's less of a good gift for a cab driver because of some sort of bulk gas-buying arrangment-eh?
If not a gas card, than what? The guy was Middle Eastern or maybe North African so I will stereotype him to the extent that I think there's a chance booze wouldn't go over well.

And yes, I already intend to hold onto his card, call him every time I go to DC for work (which is quite often) and tip him well. But I always tip well and the whole point is that I want to do something especially nice.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly to Human Relations (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My cab driver friends spend a lot of time reading the paper etc. while waiting for fares. Maybe a newspaper or magazine subscription, or a gift card for a newsagent or bookstore?
posted by CheeseLouise at 2:00 PM on June 6, 2012

How about some kind of gift card or prepaid Visa card so that he could choose something that works best for him?
posted by medusa at 2:00 PM on June 6, 2012 [16 favorites]

Wait, you are totally sending him a cheque to refund his overnight charges, right? Besides whatever gift you decide to send, you are totally taking care of his out of pocket expenses, yes? Because before we get into especially nice, we just need to make sure we've covered the basics here.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:01 PM on June 6, 2012 [81 favorites]

This may be over the top cool, but how about a Kindle or eReader of some sort? That goes with what CheeseLouise said and he can regift it quite easily since people like them so much.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:06 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I'd send cash money (or in this case, check money)--the cost of shipping, plus $25 or so. I think that's the best way to ensure your gift is both useful and easy to use. Include a nice card, and send a letter to his cab company letting them know what a great asset he is. For what it's worth, cash gifts are not stigmatized in many cultures the way they are among Anglo-Americans.
posted by drlith at 2:13 PM on June 6, 2012 [16 favorites]

He is a DC cab driver. They work hard, with lots of frustrations, and for long hours. He has no use or no time for gift cards and etc. He is probably a nice guy personally, and has proven to be honest.

Send him a crisp $50 bill, if that leaves $30-35 over the overnight cost. Or 3 $20s.
posted by caclwmr4 at 2:13 PM on June 6, 2012 [8 favorites]

I agree with the cash idea. I have been told that business is VERY slow these days and many cab drivers wait for such a long period of time just to get one trip.

I'd also write a short thank you note that says something like this:
"I just wanted to say thank you so much for sending my phone back to me, especially through overnight shipping. I definitely appreciate it.

You are a great driver and next time I'm in town, I'll be sure to call you when I need a cab ride."
posted by livinglearning at 2:17 PM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

Cash - or a cashier's check (make it about $5 over what you'd send him in cash, in case he's unbanked) sounds perfect to me. Add a note and definitely let the company know. Might want to pass it on to local tourism-promoting types (I have no clue who that is in DC; here the convention & visitor's bureau would LOVE to put him in an article.)
posted by SMPA at 2:27 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suggest sending cash. Being a cab driver is hard work and I'm sure he's supporting a family so cash is the way to go. Just make sure you give him the cost of the shipping plus extra and include a nice note saying thanks and apologizing for your rude behavior.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:47 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

and send a letter to his cab company letting them know what a great asset he is

This. DEFINITELY this.

Making him look good to his boss (in addition to sending something to him, directly) can pay off for him in many ways.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:49 PM on June 6, 2012 [26 favorites]

Seconding cash. And also a note to the DC cab commission for his file.
posted by gjc at 2:53 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Agree on sending cash, but I'd send more than others suggested -- say $100 -- if you can afford it. Shipping this was probably a hassle and it spared you a large amount of money and angst.
posted by brain_drain at 3:00 PM on June 6, 2012 [9 favorites]

nthing real cash money or good-as-cash (cashier's check, money order), plus a note to him, his company and the cab commission.
posted by holgate at 3:00 PM on June 6, 2012

Could you send him both money and a giftcard? If he's anything like the other cabbies I know, he's probably working super hard to take care of himself and his family, and the cash would cover the cost of shipping you your phone + time, and the giftcard could be something just for him. I would personally do it for something like Panera or Starbucks, because coffee is pretty awesome.
posted by spunweb at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2012

If you really want to make him shine to his bosses, what about a letter to the local paper (I'm sure Mefites could advise which one). Wouldn't need to be much more than what you've put on here, plus the company and driver details.
posted by prentiz at 3:53 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know if Yelp allows reviews cabbies but, if so, that would be cool, too.
posted by SillyShepherd at 5:29 PM on June 6, 2012

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 5:44 PM on June 6, 2012

Seriously? No one has suggested a DVD copy of DC Cab? A gift card is nice, but sending the gift of Mr. T shows that you really care.

OK, maybe a gift card is better...
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 6:57 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Always always send a letter to his supervisor.

Massively important that they know how good a job the cabbie in question is doing.
posted by chris88 at 7:12 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the letter to the supervisor. I have written up a good deed and published it under the Letter to the Editor section, and it thoroughly blew the good deed-doer's mind that anyone would publicly acknowledge what they did.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:20 PM on June 6, 2012

I've received a couple prepaid Visa cards in the past and I find them to be a pain in the ass to use.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:29 PM on June 6, 2012 [6 favorites]

Send him a check for the cost of sending you the packet, and a nice note plus an additional tip so he can buy whatever he wants. The gas card is really nice idea because he can use it for his own home vehicle too.
posted by discopolo at 8:18 PM on June 6, 2012

Reiterating cash, I'd do $50+ over the cost of shipping if you can afford it, and a glowing letter to his supervisor. That's so great that you got such an honest, above-and-beyond helpful cabbie!
posted by shooze at 8:58 PM on June 6, 2012

Oh my god are $50s hard to break at the usual places blue-collar workers go! Definitely twenty dollar bills. If you want to send him a postcard or a charming photo of you with a sign that says THANKS, BEST CABBY IN DC holding your phone like it's your only friend...that would be cool too. He could post it in his cab.

But the key is cash. Cash, cash, cash.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:58 PM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

Aside from the many suggestions of cash, if it's possible, a Yelp-like recommendation or simply referring him in as many possible ways to cab/car service-using folks in DC is probably the best thing you can do long term. As with many trades, word of mouth validation/recommendations are worth their virtual weight in gold.
posted by eggman at 9:21 PM on June 6, 2012

I agree with all the recommendations for cash, a thank you note, and a note to his supervisor and/or the local paper. If you're feeling frisky, you could also make him a "world's best cab driver" t-shirt or mug--something inexpensive but that will make him smile when he wears it or uses it. And in your note, mention that he restored your faith in humanity, because your post has restored mine.
posted by pompelmo at 10:07 PM on June 6, 2012

I have had phones left in cabs returned to me 4 times now by cabbies, over nearly 15 years, by various means. Twice in NYC, once in DC, once in SF. Two of those involved downright heroic efforts by the cabbies inolved. Every one of them was an immgrant (two Panjabis, an Ethiopian, and a Dominican, if it matters at all).

I have never lost a phone I've left in a cab, which says something profound about the average cab driver, or person perhaps. it's one reason I've upped my tip percentage as I've gotten older and wealthier to 25% for all but the crappiest of rides.

I have always given the guy $50 plus whatever his out of pocket (usually the fare, approximately, he gave up by driving from wherever he was to wherever I was). Twice the cabbie made a sincere effort to refuse the reward until i practically had to force the cash into his hand.

When you lose a phone, you'd easily pay more than the phone is worth, or I would, for the peace of mind of having your entire life returned to you unscathed, so I consider $50 plus expenses entirely fair and cheap at the price, plus honesty like that should be rewarded so there's more of it in the world.

I have also gone far out of my way to return the two phones I've found, weirdly in both cases at Newark Airport. Pay it forward, and give this guy at least $50 plus his expenses.

However, I now have a ritual of checking the cab seat right after I get out and before closing the door, and haven't lost anything in a cab for 5 or so years as a result.
posted by spitbull at 12:42 AM on June 7, 2012

Most cabbies don't have supervisors who are like normal retail managers, or if they do, they not only don't care but probably want a cut of the reward. Waste of time. You might even get him in trouble, and he's not going to get a promotion or a raise for it. This ain't like an office job.

Cash money, nothing says thank you like a crisp fifty. For what his cat did, I'd consider $100.
posted by spitbull at 12:47 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

The dude saved you between $200 and $700 in phone charges alone, let alone peace of mind. Give him $100+expenses and don't bother sending a letter to his boss, per the comment above.
posted by speedgraphic at 12:04 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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