George the Cabbie: A Tale of Customer Service

Every now and then, a stranger crosses our path, sometimes just for a mere moment, and we catch a glimpse of greatness.  We catch a glimpse of what it means to serve others with a glad heart, a lively spirit, and personal integrity.  We catch someone ‘getting it right’ and we want to share their story.  So it is with George the cabbie.

I met George last weekend in Orlando, while standing in line outside my hotel, waiting to catch the bus that ran between the hotel and convention center.  Buses ran every thirty minutes, and all of us standing in line were anxious to arrive in time to hear the morning keynote speaker, Marcus Buckingham.  The bus came, picked up five people, then announced it was full, pulling away and leaving the rest of us waiting in earnest for another bus.  Impatiently, I turned to my new friend, Lorin, and asked if she wanted to grab a taxi instead.  She agreed and within seconds, we were joined by Peter from Japan and Jan from Belgium.

Quickly we piled into the nearby town car, my leg still hanging slightly out the door on the verge of doing a slight split, when the driver, George, started to pull away.  We were nonetheless greeted with a smile when George jokingly assured me he had insurance, just in case I needed it.  We were off, and in the span of a less-than-five-minute drive, we had all managed to introduce ourselves and pass out cards, including George.  Without being pushy, George also managed to pass around a spiral notebook in which he asked us to write our name, number, and when our departure flight was.

At this point, I had been collecting cabbie cards throughout the previous few days, including one from Samuel, who shared stories of his hurricane-wrecked home, Haiti, various relief efforts, and his perception of the Americans who have extended a hand to help rebuild.  “Who” he asked, “comes and serves others so selflessly, and with such love and generosity?  People don’t do that much anymore, but your people do.”  I liked Samuel, and though George was courteous and entertaining, I wasn’t ready to commit my transportation needs to him.  Instead, I politely filled in my name and number, telling George that while I was leaving the next day, I wasn’t prepared to make firm plans.

Departure day:

Eating an early breakfast with my girlfriend, I remembered that I had not yet made taxi arrangements, though I was scheduled to fly out just before noon.  I quickly retrieved Samuel’s card and dialed his number, to no avail.   Hmmm.  What other cards had I saved?  Before I could even look for another number, my phone rang.  It was George.  “Good morning, Ms. Reed.  I remembered you were flying home today and wondered if you have already made transportation arrangements, and if not, if I could be of service to you?”  “Absolutely,” I exclaimed, and proceeded to give him instructions for picking me up outside of the convention center at 9:45 a.m.  He reconfirmed the time and promised to call me at 9:40 a.m. to let me know he was five minutes out.

9:40 a.m.

My phone rings, though I missed the call because I still had my phone on silent.  I listen to the message.  It’s George.  “Hi, Ms. Reed.  It’s George.  I apologize, but I am running five minutes late.  I realize that there is a line of cabs outside of the convention center, but I’m asking if you will please wait for me.  I have confirmed with the airport that the lines are short and the traffic is light.  I promise you will get there in plenty of time.”  I called him back and agreed to wait for him.  He recommended that I wait inside where it was cool, and promised to call when he was within one minute of arriving.  And so he did.

He told me on the way to the airport that most people would not have waited for him, and he greatly appreciated my willingness to do so.  I admit that I took a chance, and for a brief moment while I was waiting for him to arrive, I wondered to myself:  should I trust his word?  If I’m wrong, I will miss my flight and it will cost me hundreds of dollars and a great deal of wasted time.  But if he’s being honest, then I want to deliver on my end of the deal.  I won’t sell him out to someone who hasn’t earned the business.  Sometimes, amazing things can happen when you take a leap of faith.  Even on the little things.  Like a cab ride to the airport.  As he pulled up to the airport, he reminded me to stay safe, gave me a big hug and bid me a pleasant farewell.

End of the story?  Not quite…

True to his word, the lines were short and I had plenty of time before my flight took off.  Feet sore from three days of walking endlessly around in high heels, I got to my gate, dropped my bags, took off my shoes, and breathed a sigh of exhaustion.   Just then, my phone buzzed, indicating a text had arrived.  From George.  “Hi!  This is George.  I just wanted to wish you a safe trip home.”

A chance encounter.  A random cab.  An unknown driver.  Four initial passengers.  At least two repeat passengers (and loyal passengers for life).  One referral passenger.   As I picked up the last text from George, I smiled deeply and thought to myself, “George gets it.”  Life is so much more than just an exchange of goods and services.  At it’s heart, life is about people.  It’s about connections.  It’s about service.  It’s about living, leading and serving from the heart.

Postscript:

For those of you who took the time to read the tale of George the cabbie, I
thank you. To my surprise, it proved to be the most popular post I have written
to this blog. Perhaps it’s because it was a post celebrating another – catching someone doing something right. Perhaps it’s because customer service, like personal accountibility, is eroding in a world where people have become commodities, bought and sold to the highest bidder (or to the next cabbie in line). Perhaps it’s because in this age
of technology, people still crave personal connection and want to believe in the
word of another. At the end of the day, we all need affirmation that doing what
is right is…well…right.

If you read closely, you saw that the tale of George was more than
just a tale of excellent customer service. It was also a tale of personal
integrity. George could have made different choices. He could have chosen not to
call me to tell me he was running late, afraid that I might catch a different
cab instead, disregarding my schedule and how I might feel about having been
kept waiting. He could have been selling me a line about the light traffic and
lines at the airport, willing to say whatever might create the sale, though he
proved to be telling me the truth. Likewise, I could have chosen not to trust
George’s word and/or hung George out to dry and caught one of the cabs outside
when I first learned he was running late. No one would have blamed either one of
us, and many would call me naive for trusting my flight to the word of a cabbie.
Still, it is the everyday little choices we make – to trust or not, to tell the
truth or not, to do what’s right or not, that add up and ultimately shape one’s
character.

13 thoughts on “George the Cabbie: A Tale of Customer Service

  1. George, indeed “gets it.” That was very impressive service.

    I’d also be willing to bet that George makes a heck of a lot more money than other taxi drivers in Orlando. And he probably has a lot more repeat passengers than the others too.

    What really impressed me was something you told me about this story in our phone conversation last night. That was that George left a final message for you so that it was timed to reach you right after you got home. It was a welcome home message. Now, that’s awesome customer service.

    I know if I’m ever in Orlando and need a cab, I’ll be contacting you to get George’s number.

    Great story, Sharon.

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  2. Before publishing the post, I called George to ask his permission and thanked him again for the excellent customer service. His reply? “Please don’t thank me. It was my pleasure. Thank you and have a blessed day.” His kindness and humility continue to shine!

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  3. Sharon,

    Thanks for referring me to George. He took care of me, well, also. I love that you took the time to share his story. Friends… going to Orlando? Need a cab? Be sure to get George’s number from Sharon. He’ll take care of you for sure!!

    Becky

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  4. So glad you took a chance on my recommendation, Becky! 🙂 Years ago, another driver made a similar impression and many years later, he is still who I (and now my parents) call when I need a driver in Houston. More importantly, over the years he has become a family friend. Who says customer service doesn’t breed loyalty and build relationships?

    Like

    • oh MY goodness… this is the very best part!
      I love that you’ve used the same driver over and over… I used to travel to NYC regularly many yrs ago, and it never occurred to me to do that… (duh?!) … there was always such an abundance of drivers it was just never something to even think about… But I too have had some great convo’s and connections with cabbies in many places over the years… so now, I get it! Why not show some loyalty!? (and make things that much easier… “they’re waiting when I get there?!” … silly me -> good idea!!)

      Very sweet story… with many life lessons in the simplest places!
      Thanks for sharing Sharon ~

      Like

      • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Sharon. I believe good service is a dying art form, but essential to long term success. And when it comes to folks like George, I believe that his genuine love for people and desire for connection is every bit as important as the referral or next sale. Interestingly, George is from Cairo, and having just taken a trip there recently myself, we talked about customer service as a matter of survival in Giza, where young children lead tourists on camel rides across the Sahara. Though most of them cannot read, they have learned to speak multiple languages, the art of story telling, and the ins and outs of their own trade, knowing that their lives literally depend on their ability to serve others with a glad and entertaining heart.

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  5. Sharon,

    I always enjoy your blog and often want to share it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love the story about George especially since as a former frequent traveler I recognize the angels that sometimes show up in the least expected places. Especially when our hearts and eyes are open to them…and we’re willing to take a risk.

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    • Alicia,

      I am blessed to have known several ‘angels’ along my journey. Strangers who have shown up in the least expected places and under circumstances when I needed a helping hand. You’re correct: they find us when we open our hearts and our eyes to them and are willing to take a risk. Know, too, that you are always welcome to share my blog. So glad you are enjoying it!

      Sharon

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  6. Terrific story of a great service encounter! The positive feedback is great, but would you consider posting his business contact information as a referral so that he can benefit from his great service / your great story?

    Like

    • Thanks for chiming in, Chris! I would love to have included George’s business contact information, but when I contacted George to ask his permission to retell the story in a public forum, he politely requested that I not openly publish his number.

      Like

  7. Heart-warming story, Sharon, and should be shared with as many people as possible. I’ve been to the Orlando convention center and know how hectic it can be with the taxis line-up. Best regards.

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    • One of the great blessings in my life has been the opportunity to connect and share with others from around the world. In doing so, I have met many amazing people along the way, including George. What was most striking of all about George was his humility. His service was not, in his opinion, an act to be exhaulted; instead, he saw it as a priviledge to serve others. Thanks for stopping by, Gary. I look forward to checking out A Hopeful Sign! Warm regards -Sharon

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  8. Pingback: What Gives You Hope? | Sharon E. Reed

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