The Passenger, The Driver, The Owner & The Call Centre

The Passenger, The Driver, The Owner & The Call Centre

By Ejaz Shah  — 18th December 2020

The Passenger

The Passenger

The Passenger

The wind blew the rain on my face as I stood waiting for my taxi, they had said 5 minutes so I saw no point looking for shelter. The minutes passed by, but no taxi came. I rang the taxi company to enquire why the driver was not here yet but before the operator could answer the phone, a Volkswagen Passat pulled up in front of me. I hung up and got in.

“Aright mate” the driver asked,

“yeah, I’m good, how you doing?” I replied

“all good, Stanley Road?”

“Yeah mate, thank you”

The rest of the journey passed by with no other words uttered aside from Capital FM playing in the background. When we pulled up outside my house, I handed the cash over, tipping the driver an extra few quid and then made a dart for the front door through the now, much heavier, rain.

Ten minutes later, as I finally sat down in some fresh clothes, I realised that I did not have my phone on me. It suddenly dawned on me that I had no recollection of getting out of the taxi with my phone. 

I grabbed the house phone and dialed my mobile number immediately. One ring…two rings…three rings…four rings…five rings and then my own voice asking me to leave a message. ‘Damn it!!!!’

I rang the taxi company office and explained my predicament, the operator put me on hold while he tried to contact the driver. After a short while, he came back to me apologetically saying the driver had finished the shift for the night and he couldn’t get hold of him.

‘Really?!?’ I could feel my temper rising.

“What do you mean you can’t get hold of him?” I demanded

“Please ring back tomorrow, if I manage to get hold of him today, I will ring you back on this number and get the driver to drop it off to you”

I hung up the phone frustrated.

Watching tv the evening slipped away and no phone call from the taxi office came. This is ridiculous, I thought, surely, they have the driver’s personal number?! Thoughts continued to build up in my head, he’s going to keep it, he is going to keep my phone and deny seeing it. It’s my word against his! Aaargh!

Impatiently and getting more and more frustrated, I rang back and explained to the operator once again what happened. Again, I was told to hold whilst they tried to get hold of the driver.

The operator returned having had no luck getting hold of the driver and then repeated to me what the previous operator had. With my patience running very thin and my frustration turning to anger, I demanded to speak to whoever was in charge. After another what seemed an eternity on hold, the manager came onto the line.

“Sir I believe you have left your phone in the back of one of our taxis?”

“Yes, I have” I replied

“Like my colleague explained, the driver has finished for the night and will be back tomorrow, we have tried to reach him but have had no luck. If your phone is still with him, you can pick it up from the office tomorrow or we can get someone to drop it off to you”

I knew it!! A voice in my head screeched. “What do you mean IF my phone is still in the back of the taxi?!”  I bellowed back.

“The driver had another pickup after your job sir, so someone could have picked the phone up, let’s wait until we get hold of the driver”

“This is a joke!? Come on!! I am a regular customer; I have paid so much for your taxis over the years and this is what I get?! This the best you can do?!”

The manager tried to get back into the conversation, but by now, I was completely seeing red.

‘I am disgusted by the way you are treating me. Let me make it very clear to you, IF I do not get my phone back, not only will I never use your taxi firm again, I will make sure everyone hears about this!!’

And with that, I disconnected.

I pulled out my laptop, went onto the companies Facebook page, and started typing away furiously. One negative review down, I turned my attention to google and continued venting my frustration.  

Overnight I had decided I was going to uber it to work the following morning. However, I soon realised Uber was on a surcharge, again. I had no choice. I didn’t mention my phone to the operator when I called in, I was going to wait until I met the driver.

As I hastily finished the last bite of my breakfast, the usual familiar sound of the taxi horn alerted me to its arrival.  

With a stoic look I jumped into the front seat, ready to start the conversation. But before I could say anything, the driver turned to me with my phone in his hand.

“Oh, thank you, thank you”, I gasped, the relief tangible in my voice. The rest of the journey consisted of a big grin across my face and my face in my phone. As I left the taxi, I made sure I tipped the driver a quid or two extra and thanked him once again.

Work was craaaaazy busy. I had lunch at my desk and just managed to meet my deadlines as the clock struck 5pm.  Exhausted at home, I was about to call it a night, when I remembered the bad reviews I had left the taxi company the night before. I quickly logged onto my laptop and then froze at the sight of what greeted me.

My Facebook review had gone viral!!

The Driver

The Driver

The Driver

2020 was to be my year, it’s certainly been a year to remember. The muscles in my neck ache every time I turn my head. My shoulder feels heavy, stiff and heavy. 

What an awful, awful year. I can’t remember the last time I had a day off, 14-hour days, 7 days a week and not a penny to show for it. If it carries on like this, I’ll be paying for the fuel out of my own pocket, fuel to just roam the streets looking for work! 

The virus has scared away all my regular customers. There’s barely anyone to see on the streets. More money, more problems they say, no money and so many problems for me.

Missus isn’t happy either, she barely gets to see me and when she does, I’m zoned out, no help at all with the kids. We’re living on basic rations, hand to mouth stuff. The bills are piling up and I am already behind on my mortgage payments. 

There has been no help from the government, not surprising, although thankfully the taxi company reduced the rent but at the same time, they reduced the fares too!!

It was getting late and I was exhausted. I had only five jobs to show for the whole day. When I spoke to the operator at the office, I asked him to find me something to take me home.

‘Stanley Road, ready for pick up now?’

It wasn’t quite near my home, but it was in the same direction and I wasn’t in a position to decline.

I headed straight for the pickup and as I turned the corner, I could see through the rain the passenger waiting by the side of the road. We exchanged greetings and I started on with the journey. The passenger seemed lost in his thoughts and as experience had taught me, if they don’t instigate the conversation, it means they want to be left alone. So, we continued in silence.  

I felt a pang of guilt as the passenger walked away, after tipping me for the ride. Maybe I should have struck a conversation with him??  Maybe I got the tip for the silence?!? Bless him, either way, it can’t be easy for him either in the current climate.

I was still thinking about it, when I heard the operator call in another job, the drop off was right next to my house. I took it and sped towards it as quick as I could.

A couple got into the car, they seemed friendly and we chatted along the way. As we pulled up near the drop off point, the husband leaned forward:

“Mate, just drop my wife here, we live in that cul-de-sac and can you drop me off around the corner”

“Yeah no worries” I replied, as I pulled over

As the woman went to leave, she whispered to her husband

“Don’t do it Pete, don’t.”

She then turned around to me and softly whispered ‘sorry’.

I smiled back at her, caught up in the situation I didn’t pay attention to what she had said. I drove around the block and pulled up to where I was instructed to. The male passenger got out of the car, reaching in his back pocket as he did, I started rolling my window down in anticipation. 

But as soon as he had shut the door he darted off, jumping over a fence and disappearing into a field. I got out of the car but there was no point, he was long gone. The wife’s ‘sorry’ echoed in my head, as I turned around and drove back to where I had dropped her off. I had been too distracted by the male passenger and hadn’t seen the house she had gone into. Completely downtrodden, I called the office and reported the ’runner’, as per office policy. 

They blacklisted the caller’s number and offered me another job close by, I refused. I was fed up, I switched the system off and drove home.

Just as I got home my phone started ringing, I couldn’t face talking to anyone, I was done for the day, the week, the year. I walked in, went straight to the shower, chomped down some dinner and hit the sack. I heard my wife whisper ‘good night’ as I drifted off, I was too exhausted to reply.  

My eyes awoke to a silent house, my wife nowhere to be seen. I had overslept. Why had my alarm not gone off?! I searched around for my phone and realised when I saw it that the battery had died – I’d forgotten to put it on charge. When I got out of the shower, I could hear my phone ringing, on charge in my bedroom, it was the office;

“Where have you been, we’ve been trying to ring you all night”

“Sorry my battery was dead, I’ll be logged on and ready in a short while, is it busy?”

“Can you come into the office; I need to see you. In the meantime, a driver is headed towards your house, someone left a phone in your car last night, can you give it to the driver, he will pass it on”

I went to look in my car and under the passenger seat there was a phone, it was locked and on silent but had a few missed calls on it. When the other driver turned up, I handed it to him and headed to the office myself, wondering why he wanted to see me. He rarely calls drivers in.

He was fuming. The guy who had left his phone in my car last night had left a bad review on Facebook. Unlucky for us the review had hit a chord with several people and was now doing the rounds on social media.  

“How many times have I said, check the car when you drop a passenger off before heading to your next job”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry. It was just such a long day yesterday man, I usually do but I don’t know, I got another job and it was near my house so I just kind of sped off for it. A waste of time, it was a bloody runner!”

“You’ll get compensated for your dead mileage on that don’t worry, part of the job, but why the hell was your phone turned off all night? We could have rectified this issue straight away if you answered your phone”

“Sorry man, my battery went dead, hence the late start today! Sorry.”

I left the office feeling crap. It wasn’t a telling-off really, the gaffers a good man, but I’d caused a big problem. What a start to the day!? I logged onto the system and was greeted with the news that I was at the back of a 55-car queue. Brilliant, another long day, another day to figure out how to get on top of those bills and keep a roof over my head.  


The Owner

The Owner

The Owner

I looked at the accounts, slowly turning the pages of the books, work had been cut by 70% and I had lost about 50% of my fleet. 15 years in the making and I was witnessing all of my hard work, blood, sweat, and tears going down the drain. If it wasn’t for the school runs, we’d have completely folded, however, I don’t know how long they alone could keep us ticking over. The drivers that still remained with us were on a pittance, earning below the bare minimum. 

My hands were tied, I had already offered them reduced rent rates, there was no more I could do. My thoughts were disturbed by the office phone ringing, I answered to the voice of my main dispatcher speaking over me:

We’ve got an irate customer on the line, wants to speak to a manager but he is on a call, can you deal with it?”

“Yeah, what’s the situation though?” I replied.

“He’s left his phone in one of our cabs and the driver has finished for the night, we can’t get hold of him”

“Ok no worries, put him through”

I tried explaining the situation to the customer, but he wasn’t having any of it, he very abruptly and rudely hung up on me, midway through my explanation. I called the dispatcher into my office and we pulled the customer’s records of the system. I valued all customers, but regular customers were a precious commodity nowadays, we couldn’t afford to upset them.

However, to my surprise and contrary to what the customer had said the cheeky bugger had only used us once before about 6 months ago and then earlier on tonight, so much for being a regular customer! I got the driver details and tried ringing the driver but it went straight to voicemail.

He’s probably sleeping” the dispatcher said, as I hung up.

“Minor issue”, I replied, “it’s only a phone, the customer should have been more responsible with his belongings, the driver is a good guy he will most likely hand it in tomorrow, he probably doesn’t even know…” the dispatcher interrupted me mid-sentence

“the driver had a runner on his next job, got a funny feeling the phone went with the runner”

“Great!” I sighed

I returned to looking through my accounts when I noticed a notification on one of the tabs. I had my company social accounts opened, it’s an old habit keeping an eye on all the business fronts.

Someone had left us a review, and to my horror, it wasn’t the positive review that I was hoping for

“Useless company made me wait an hour in the rain, rude driver barely uttered a word, ignored me throughout the journey and then drove off with my brand-new phone. To make matters worse when I called the office to report it, they CUT ME OFF!!! ***DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY – UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE TREATED LIKE SHIT AND TAKEN ADVANTAGE OFF***

Our calls are answered by an oversea call centre, we only have a main dispatcher in this office and a manager during office hours. Without thinking I typed an email to the call centre manager asking for an explanation as to why customers were given the wrong time and why they were being hung up on?

I went back to the review to leave a reply apologising and assuring the customer that I would be getting the matter looked into, when I noticed several people had jumped onto the post, the customer had tagged a number of people and had used some popular hashtags, which had led to the high traffic the poster was now getting. Aside from two people sticking up for my company, the rest were going all out tarnishing our name!

I stared at the screen, shocked at what was unfolding in front of my very eyes. The business was going viral but for all the wrong reasons.  I called the office manager in, who walked in red-faced, his laptop in his arms. He had already seen for himself what was happening and turned my attention to our business page on google. The customer had left the same negative review on it.  There was nothing we could do, but report both reviews and then wait and watch the business name being tarnished.

My computer beeped with a notification of a new email. I had been sent both the transcript and call recording of the original call the customer had made to us. As I expected, our operator had been polite, professional and respectful throughout the call, something that could not be said about the customer!

We put a statement out on our Facebook page, clarifying everything that had happened. There was nothing more we could do.

In the morning the office manager alerted me to the fact that the customer had booked another taxi with us, I quickly rang the driver from last night, luckily managing to get through to him. By the time the customer had taken his seat in our taxi he had had his phone returned to him.

I scrolled through our social media. The reviews were still up, both platforms had refused to delete them, I was in despair, I had tried everything, but we had no power. The post was still getting hits and it didn’t look like it would stop anytime soon.  

I was lost in my thoughts when the driver from last night walked through my office door, I looked up and wearily forced a smile on my face. Someone had to try and keep the mood lifted, if not me, who?

The Call Centre

The Call Centre

The Call Centre

Six months that’s all I needed. Six months of hard work, head down and I would pass the probation period. With that came a permanent contract and a pay rise and then, maybe then, I could finally enroll into university and complete my studies. That was me four months ago and I was struggling now. 

Redundancies had taken place, out of the ten of us that had started together, only four of us were left. The business was struggling, it was clear to see, the managers were stressed and the atmosphere was tense. I just tried to remain as focused as I could.

“Believe it or not you can smile through the phone”, that’s what my trainer had told the group on our first day.

That’s what I reminded myself, every time I took a call, smile…smile…smile.

The call last night had caught me off guard. The customer would not let me speak and was absolutely fuming. There was nothing I could say or do to calm him down. He had left his phone in one of our taxis and for the life of me I could not get through to the driver. The customer had hit the roof. I recorded everything as per company procedure and although I went home with an awful headache, I felt I had done everything I should have done.

This morning, the feeling was different. Overnight a negative post left by the customer had gone viral. It was the talk of the office and I had already been pulled into the office, ‘if the customer was so upset why had I not come to one of the managers?!’. I had tried to look for a manager, but everyone was busy, I tried telling them this, but fear stopped me, I could barely get a word out. I just sat and listened. 

They were going to listen to my call and speak to the CEO who was in the UK and then decide on what action needed to be taken. 

We were ahead of U.K time by several hours so it was a waiting game and time seemed to have frozen.

I couldn’t remember if I raised my voice at the customer – did I??

Did I ring the right number?

I don’t think I did, I should have rung his personal number, did I ring his personal number??

My head was filled with thoughts, thoughts of my failures. I pressed print on my letter.


I looked over, Asif from two rows down was trying to get my attention.

‘Umer’s gone. They let him go yesterday, something about poor quality’.

Umer had been here for three and a half years, me just over four months. My head throbbed. It had been so difficult to get this job. It was a highly sought-after position. There was no way I would be able to get another job like this if I was dismissed, I could not afford a bad reference. I just couldn’t.

I sealed the envelope and scribbled my manager’s name on top. They were looking to reduce the numbers, so they wouldn’t take my departure to heart. With my resignation letter in hand, I slowly walked over to the manager’s office.

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