New Orleans Cab Company Owner Calls Uber A 'Cyber-Terrorist Group'

from the like-Anonymous-on-wheels dept

Cab companies are still fighting Uber and Lyft, and each turf war seems to drag out the worst rhetorical devices and statements from these companies which have enjoyed long, monopolistic runs. Most have gone running to city legislators, hoping to add further regulatory hurdles to the upstart companies, asking for anything from limits on number of vehicles in service to rates considerably higher than cab companies charge.

But because you can only do so much arguing on behalf of an entrenched incumbent before you start sound like you truly loathe the public, taxi defenders are also finding creative ways to attack the new services in hopes of making them seem sketchier than cab companies themselves. In New Orleans, the argument took the form of a bunch of words tumbling out of a flustered cab company owner’s mouth.

Owner of Liberty Bell Cabs in New Orleans, Tony Makhoul, called Uber a “cyber terrorist organization.”

Based on…? Well, the report at WDSU doesn’t specify. [CAUTION: Autoplay in effect.] Apparently the fact that’s its an app-based ride service was enough for Makhoul to float this claim during the city council’s discussion. Presumably, Makhoul was using this metaphorically, presenting the company as a cyber-threat (because it’s from the internet) to poor, downtrodden cab companies who have enjoyed years of uninterrupted success thanks to protective walls of regulation.

Makhoul previously showed his propensity for using words without regard for clarity or meaning in a statement made in July.

“It’s hypocritical, preposterous and indeed disgusting that we are entertaining Uber in our market today.”

Those words may mean something subjectively to Makhoul but they don’t make much sense to anyone else listening in. There’s nothing “hypocritical” about considering a new entrant into a market, and the only thing that’s preposterous and disgusting is the amount of resistance being deployed by incumbent service providers. But this is the same cab company owner that pushed back against the deputy director of the city’s Taxi Cab Bureau for enforcing existing regulations — like requiring credit card readers in all cabs and setting a limit on how many years the same vehicle could be in service.

But this one tops his previous wordsplosions. Uber — which will be forced to charge the highest minimum fee in the nation ($15) as a concession to New Orleans’ cab companies — is here to destroy computers… by driving people in cars. Or destroy Makhoul’s business… by providing customers with a competing service. Competition is the new terrorism. Inform the NSA.

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Companies: liberty bell cabs, lyft, uber

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Comments on “New Orleans Cab Company Owner Calls Uber A 'Cyber-Terrorist Group'”

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32 Comments
Michael (profile) says:

Owner of Liberty Bell Cabs in New Orleans, Tony Makhoul, called Uber a “cyber terrorist organization.”

Liberty:
1) the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views
2) the power or scope to act as one pleases
3) the name of a cab company that would like to prevent any other car service from doing #1 or #2

Mike says:

Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

Major Cities charge tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a taxi license.

The cab companies came up with the money – probably by borrowing – for the taxi license. Usually a BIG amount of money, with a smaller amount paid annually.

If others are allowed to provide the same exact service without the expense of a license, the expense of all kinds of regulations and the expense of buying the actual cars, it doesn’t sound fair.

If the cities would refund the original license fees, that would probably make it fair?

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

Let’s talk specifically about NYC – which recently auctioned off 200 taxi medallions for $200m

Yes, the medallions are extraordinarily expensive, but do you know why NYC has them? At the behest of the cab companies, the medallion system was established to limit the number of cabs so the market would remain sustainable. The cab companies that were entrenched at the time feared that the market could get flooded and they could not sustain their fleets so they lobbied for a system that would prevent this from happening.

While they may have a legitimate complaint about taxi services that are not getting a medallion, they should not be whining that the system to limit competition, that they actually wanted in place, is too onerous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

Yes, the medallions are extraordinarily expensive,

Which would indicate that they have too few taxis in the city. This also makes the taxis more expensive to hire, they have to recoup the cost of the medallion from the people that they take for a ride… um.. transport for a fee.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

Cab fares are fixed by the city as well. The price of the medallions is driven by interest rates. If a cab brings in $X per year, the cost of a medallion gives you that as an ROI. The price of a medallion will always end up just below $X being the interest you would earn on the money in a year (factor in maintenance, paying the driver, etc.).

Fixing the prices makes sense when just hailing a cab – how do you price shop? If people kept hailing cabs to find a good price it would make a traffic mess.

It doesn’t make as much sense in the digital world with apps for hailing cabs since you really could look at reviews and prices when selecting, but that would also rely on everyone having a smartphone.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

“Fixing the prices makes sense when just hailing a cab – how do you price shop? If people kept hailing cabs to find a good price it would make a traffic mess.”

That’s a bit of a silly argument. First, the market itself will ensure that the prices for cabs will all tend to be pretty close anyway. Also, for people who use cabs more than rarely, they’ll know which companies are priced the way they want.

But this might be a New York thing. Where I live, you can’t flag down a cab at all — they’re not allowed to stop to pick you up. You either have to go to a designated cab area (such as at the airport or a hotel) or call the cab company and have them send you a car. In either case, price shopping won’t hold anything up.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

First, the market itself will ensure that the prices for cabs will all tend to be pretty close anyway

I would tend to agree, but I also see the point that the market cannot function without people learning prices for cab companies and either accepting them or rejecting them – and the act of hailing a cab, finding out the price, rejecting them, and hailing another cab could easily be a traffic nightmare. When you think about the number of travelers that go through a city like New York, the number of people hailing a cab for the first time in that city is probably huge on a daily basis – imagine if they had to try three to find a price they liked (or realized the cab fare in NY is crazy expensive).

Maybe if prices had to be labeled on the cabs in huge numbers or something, but in a world when you had to hail a cab from the sidewalk (when this law was set up), I can see the concern. Now that we are in the smartphone world – and hailing a cab can be done through a UI that shows prices, I think the law probably needs to be re-visited.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

“the act of hailing a cab, finding out the price, rejecting them, and hailing another cab could easily be a traffic nightmare.”

It could be, true. But I rather suspect that won’t happen. What would be more likely is that someone would hail a cab and take the ride — then when they discover it’s overpriced, would avoid hailing a cab from that company anymore.

However, I’m partial to the solution in my part of the country: make it illegal for cabs to pick people up when hailed on the street.

Stuart Gray says:

Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

I work in the field.
It is not just the fees but the massive regulations that counties and or cities put on cab companies that make life difficult. Cab companies are regulated out of even being able to compete between each other.
Innovation must have approval from government drones or no go.
I for one would love to see the playing field leveled (Remove regulations from the cab companies as well as ride sharing services).

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

That’s the problem, to much Government Regulation. A lot of it put in place because these Taxi company’s wanted it when it benefited them. Now that it doesn’t they want even more Regulation for anything NEW.

If these Taxi company’s were so great, there would have been zero need for Uber and others. You would have never been able to get their foot into the door as no one would bother using them because taxi service was so great. In some countries I hear Taxi service IS great, here in the U.S, there’s some really junk Taxi’s on the road being driven around by poor drivers and you’re scared for your life!!!

These people continue to drive no matter what. On the other hand when you can rate the Cars and the drivers, you know what you’re getting into. The Bad ones go away, and only the good ones stay. It’s like Public schools. Can’t have Vouchers so a child is free to go to the school of their choice, NO, they are forced to go to the school they’re told to go to. be taught by teachers that don’t give a crap anymore. Protected by the Unions. Unless you’re RICH you’re stuck. Government protection, just like the Taxi’s. Doesn’t matter is there’s something better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

In a lot of places companies have been doing the same as Uber on a small scale for years, but they relied on people telephoning them (and generally owned the cars themselves, often because they were only tiny little firms of a handful of drivers and a single dispatcher/phone monkey/accountant). They’re usually good if you plan ahead for a journey, but they can’t tout for trade and there’s usually so few cars in any one company that you have to wait a long time for a pick-up.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

Here’s a idea for these taxi company’s. If they don’t like it, join them!! Create your own App service with it’s own cars and then you don’t need a bogus Taxi license which really doesn’t mean much other then a way for the Government to get a lot of money, and the Taxi company to have a Monopoly!!!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Large Cities Ripped Off Can Companies for Years

“If they don’t like it, join them!”

That doesn’t solve their problem. Their problem is that they want to retain the onerous licensing fees and requirements. Those things present a substantial barrier to entry for new competition. That’s the whole point.

Their problem is that they want to maintain a playing field that is tilted in their favor. Your solution is to level the playing field — exactly the opposite of what they want.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

I seriously doubt if Makhoul actually knows what “cyber terrorist” really means; but it sounds good to him. It sounds like a term that should decide the future treatment of a “G*****ned competitor” that is stealing his rightful, entitled profits.

Given the name of his cab company, Liberty Bell Cabs, I’m willing to bet he claims to be a libertarian who spouts continuously about how government is destroying good American companies, regulating them out of existence, preventing them from achieving maximum free market profit.

But as is so often the case for “libertarians”, they’re all for free market…right up until the free market starts stepping on their personal profits. Then the facist comes out and we find out the “libertarian” only favors a free market for themselves.

Dave Johnson says:

Re: Re:

So in your head you’ve established that because the common “Liberty Bell” is in the name, this guy must be a libertarian who is actually a fascist so that you can complain libertarians or fascists (not sure which one you really mean because you jumped to the conclusion he’s a pretend libertarian or something who is really a fascist or is it vice versa?) only favor a free market for themselves which really wouldn’t be a free market by definition?

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