back to article Oh those crazy Frenchies! Parisian cabbies smash up Uber-booked rival ride

French taxi drivers have taken to the streets to show their displeasure with Uber, a smartphone app that helps people find drivers-for-hire and car sharers. Uber-booked motors yesterday came under attack from cabbies, who are furious that they must compete against the internet service. Kat Borlongan, co-founder of open data …

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Happy

circumventing the heavily regulated systems

They are certainly doing that. You could argue it is a feature!

...but yeah, the regulations exist for a reason. Why don't they apply to these companies? In what way is their business model different?

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

We're going into another legal gray area here. The cabbies have a point. Cab licenses and permits help enforce standards of service. In general, cabs needs to be clean and well-maintained, drivers fit, properly licensed and trained, and fares assessed fairly and clearly posted. Service should be prompt, swift, and direct within reason and non-discriminatory.

Now, if the regulations raise other issues apart from the above, that's a matter to be argued on its own.

If Uber and the like provide an alternate means to obtain a ride, that is one thing. But should Uber be subject to the same regulations as those for traditional taxi services? The argument CAN be made in that regard, and a serious discussion needs to be made regarding how to proceed.

As for the cab companies themselves, I suppose rivalry prevents them pooling their resources, but I wonder if a few of the savvier companies have considered fighting fire with fire: using the Web and/or smartphones to provide an interactive portal for their services. One could use their smartphone location to page a cab. Perhaps inputting a destination can help in estimating a fare total, giving the customer time to get the appropriate cash if needed. Once the cab is selected, its location and current status can be pinged back to the prospective customer, letting them know with at least a little precision when to expect their ride. It would be a way to add value to the service and distinguish themselves from the Uber rides.

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Anonymous Coward

Having been taken through Paris the 'long way' round and being presented with an extortionate bill for the fare my wife who incidentally is a adopted Parisian having worked there for many years pointed out to the driver that he might have fooled her husband ( who was sitting next to her at this point in time ) but not her. Thanking him for his tour of the city she told him he could have shaved off 20 minutes of the journey if he had taken the direct route and not given the tourist tour.

So stuff the taxi drivers.....

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Unhappy

Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Some very good points and ideas above.

But angrily breaking things and hurting people is easier.

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

This really is simply spite. Just like many other areas of the business world, their business model needs to adapt to the new world. Whilst they are regulated, this is simply part of their business model. So, people have a choice. Take a taxi and get all the benefits you've listed above about cleanliness, well maintained etc.etc. Or, use an alternative service and take their chances. It's up to the customer!!

Should customers be forced to use one option over the other? Personally, I think it's up to them. You pays your money and takes your chance. If you choose to use a lower (for whatever reason) service, then you take more of a chance. Your choice. So, the legislation that requires a 15 minute wait between booking and pickup is simply protectionism.

It's much like minicabs and taxis in the UK. Regulated differently and you can choose. Personally, I've found not a lot of difference. They both have good and bad. Some minicab drivers are excellent with decent cars and some taxi drivers are appalling thieves with rubbish cars. Also, the other way round.

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Does Hailo not work like this already?

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Facepalm

You heard it here first: Cartelization works!!

Cab licenses and permits help enforce standards of service. In general, cabs needs to be clean and well-maintained, drivers fit, properly licensed and trained, and fares assessed fairly and clearly posted. Service should be prompt, swift, and direct within reason and non-discriminatory.

ITT: People who actually believe that "licenses" and "permits" enforce "standards" (well, they DO enforce high prices and enable taxation).

Brands and customer discernement should "enforce" things nicely, thank you very much.

And sometimes I would like to exchange a cheap unregulated ride that is dirty for an mind-blowingly expensive one that is clean but has a grumpy driver complaining about how I want to only go 5 miles to boot.

People downvoting this are probably also the first that cry about "discrimination" when an indian takes their lousy job.

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the long way

Happens here too. As an Irish guy living in England calling a taxi can sometimes lead to a grand little tour, after a few minutes of which (to really annoy him) I'll inform him I've been in this town for 12 years and I think I know my way to my mother-in-law's house and that it's a 4.60 fare with his company...

Phoenix in newcastle are good though. you can book a taxi with an app (which also uses GPS iirc as well as an ETA display) and they (and LA taxis) use GPS to monitor any drivers who take a route that's a bit naughty for the start and end points

With unlicensed taxis though how liable are they for a drunk girl who claims to have been assaulted etc? how much checks does a driver go through?

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@AC 8:16

"Having been taken through Paris the 'long way' round and being presented with an extortionate bill for the fare"

I would up vote your post as many times as possible if I could.

Parisian taxis are a monopoly, there are not enough taxis in the city and the ones that are there are all queued up at Gare du Nord waiting for the eurostar to get in. They then refuse to carry your bags because they are too big, or your destination is not in "75" paris.

3 - 4 more companies competing in paris would rectify the situation. Instead the taxis go on strike or result to violence the moment there is any sign of competition.

Stuff the taxis, the metro / bus system works fine. If you are going to Paris for the first time, get the Rossybus from CDG, or the Air France bus from Orly then use public transport. Or use the RER if you have been before.

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Re: the long way

@Valeyard.

Seems like some taxi companies in your area have come into the 20th century. Wish they were all like this.

Your comment about the drunk girl being assaulted is very valid. However, it's her choice. If she uses a Taxi and believes this gives her safety as the drivers have been vetted etc., then fine. If she chooses a minicab (or whatever) and decides to waive those checks, that's her choice also. If she gets assaulted as a result, that is the risk she took. It doesn't make her any less a victim or make it her fault, but if she knowingly took a riskier option, that's her choice.

We can either live in a country where everybody is told exactly what to do when and how and the state takes all responsibility, or one where people have choice. However, in the latter case, people must also take responsibility for their choices and the good and bad that comes out of them. Too often we see people take chances or act stupidly and then complain when something bad happens.

It's a difficult balancing act, but in this case, it looks like taxi drivers in Paris trying to use the system to remove a competitor.

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Anonymous Coward

Parisian taxi drivers do themselves no favours, as I know many people who've been ripped off by being taken on a decidedly longer route than necessary. There's also the bizarre rule where city centre cabs cannot operate in the outskirts of the city, and I've been dumped at the boundary on a number of occasions - late at night, and with no suburban cabs anywhere in sight. So if services like Uber and Lyft break this crappy system then so much the better.

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Re: the long way

yeah that's very true (what you said about knowing the risk and taking it) as long as they know it's a risk and these guys aren't vetted or whatever.

I'm not sure, This is the first time I've heard of uber so I don't know if it's made clear or people assume "it's a company with apps and EVERYTHING so the drivers will be fine"

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jai
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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

why don't the cab companies implement a similar system then? like the Halo thing some of the cabs here in London have?

They're still licensed cabs, aren't they? But you can book one via your phone so much easier than wandering the streets in the rain looking for a cab that isn't already taken.

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Which particular standard of service are you referring to?

London cabbies clocking extra 5 miles on any route around LHR by giving you the "scenic route" around Terminal 5 instead of driving you directly where they are supposed to? Add to that the vehicle being the shttiest possible ride quality on the planet? Prague cabbies having a special "foreigners tariff" hacked into their systems and clocking it when they hear foreign speach (immortalized in half of their comedies)? Sofia cabbies trying to exchange 1 £ for 1 lev (when the exchange rate is 2.4) and throwing toddler tantrums if you hire them for any route less than 2 miles out of the airport? Israeli cabbies not knowing the names of major towns (3rd and 4th in size after Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) - we had that one a few times. Canary island cabbies giving you a ride which you will never forget (after you finish shaking from seeing the bumper of the car in front of you at 30cm while at 130km/h)? Madrid cabbies doing the scenic route around the city center at any possible occasion? Athens cabbies charging you extra for the aircon? Shall I continue? I would not even mention cabbies in Bangalore, Moscow and a few other places. The regulated taxi industry cannot be described in a way that will pass by the moderator. It should have a good shakeup.

If I can take a private hire company instead I always do or just book a car rental. It is usually 2x cheaper, 10x more comfortable, you are not fleeced as much as the traffic can bare (and cheated on top) and is subject to the same regs. The difference is that they are enforced by the insurance companies, not the regulator. The only thing which needs to happen to Uber is that all of its vehicles get a full Taxi insurance same as the private hire guys. That will deal with it.

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

"If I can take a private hire company instead I always do or just book a car rental. It is usually 2x cheaper, "

In many places taking a hire car in town and dropping it at the airport is one

of the easiest and cheapest ways to get to the airport. (e.g. Anywhere on the French Riviera to get to Nice airport.)

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

They are only circumventing the heavily regulated system of taxis, they are not escaping the heavily regulated system of private hire vehicles. These are not unlicensed cabbies, they are fully licensed to pick up passengers at point a and transport them to point b for a charge.

The taxi drivers are upset because modern technology has meant that a person walking down a street can reliably and simply arrange for a private hire vehicle to come collect him, where he is. If the average joe can do that, then he no longer requires the expensive taxi service.

PS: Licensed cabbies are no guarantee of a safe ride - see Worboys.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Add to that the [London cab] being the shttiest possible ride quality on the planet

To be fair to the cabbies, they hate the London cab as well. Trouble is that the tourists love it, as it's an iconic part of London, where in reality it's an antiquated, expensive and unreliable anachronism.

I would not even mention cabbies in Bangalore, Moscow and a few other places.

Never found Moscow cabs a problem. They do stink of petrol, but that's a combination of the awful Volga cars that most cabbies drive and the poor quality of Russian fuel that conforms to a less stringent standard than fuel in other countries. It's also a bit disconcerting to see the chipped billy club that many cabbies have next to their seat, but I've been told by Russian friends that attempts to rob cabbies are very frequent.

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

"cabs needs to be clean and well-maintained, drivers fit, properly licensed and trained, and fares assessed fairly and clearly posted. Service should be prompt, swift, and direct within reason and non-discriminatory."

Have you *been* in a French cab?

"The cabbies have a point. "

They lost it when then physically assaulted and intimidated people. So...fuck 'em. I have no sympathy for violent thugs.

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

In other countries taxi companies are doing exactly that. For example in Vilnius, Lithuania, there is an app, etaksi.lt, where you can call a cab from the smartphone based on your location. You enter the destination and the app shows which route will be taken, and you can see on the map the location of taxi cab as it is arriving near you. Magic.

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Thumb Down

Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

it may achieve a quicker resolution overall

It sure got Jews out of Vienna quickly, back in the day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

It sure got Jews out of Vienna quickly, back in the day.

Blimey, Godwin's Law in a discussion about taxis. Although given the views espoused by many London cab drivers it may be appropriate ...

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

quote: "It also gets more public awareness of the issue than the "follow the democratic channels" alternative, and it may achieve a quicker resolution overall."

Sweet, must remember to use this myself. I didn't realise that "get(ting) more public awareness of the issue" to "achieve a quicker resolution overall" validated normally criminal behaviour (like assault, battery or criminal damage) in that manner, cheers for the heads up :)

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Uber promote themselves as a premium 'limo' service

The idea is you pay extra up front to get a nice (for your definition of the word, there are pink Hummers etc) car and rapid service, I don't know if there is any vetting of drivers beyond their up front payment to get into the scheme.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 8:16

So agreed, same experience on my side with taxis in the Paris area.

I'm really sorry that the public transport system is rather confusing for a newcomer, what with the lines operated by SNCF and/or RATP depending on the location, and ticket machines from the wrong company accordingly sometimes refusing to sell to your destination. But they're improving, and their human staff is usually helpful.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the long way

Licencing makes sod all difference. One in Aberdeen got off with rape last year. Then there's the ones that give you thinly-veiled threats while showing off their metal torch that they'll beat you with if you dare to suggest they're the scum that they are.

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Re: Downvoting

"People downvoting this are probably also the first that cry about "discrimination" when an indian takes their lousy job."

Or possibly downvoting because of that statement

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Yes but it only works for licensed taxis instead of minicabs, so that makes it good instead of evil.

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Re: the tourist tour

In my experience a Parisian taxi driver who takes an indirect route isn't trying to fleece the customers, he's just lost. There is no equivalent of the London "knowledge", give a Parisian driver an address and he's likely to ask you where it is, assuming he speaks intelligible French anyway (most seem to be immigrants). On one memorable occasion the taxi drove past my destination three times before finally dropping me nearby and suggesting I ask a passer-by which building I needed (it was only later that I found out we'd driven past it several times already). He still managed to be upset about not getting a tip. Like so much in France, some decent competition could only improve things.

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WTF?

Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Be reasonable, the entrenched mob never has the slightest interest in customer service. What you are suggesting would prise them forward towards the 21st Century and in the direction of service..

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Paris Hilton

Same thing happened to me on Saturday night. The driver (I think unintentionally) missed a turn into the road I wanted when the meter said €6.10. Only having been in Paris for 24 hours I assumed he knew a short cut. When it became clear he was clueless I directed him to the road in question and paid up the €7.95 that was by then on the meter. Grrr. When the regulated services start to behave competently and/or with decency then they may have a case.

Paris because of the geography and the air-head greedy taxi driver.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You heard it here first: Cartelization works!!

"Brands and customer discernement should "enforce" things nicely, thank you very much."

They never have before.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

Not sure I follow. A lot of London cab drivers are Jewish, though this may just be my experience as a North Londoner.

The most honest and helpful cab driver I have ever met was a Mumbai Muslim who was a Communist Party member. He took me all over Mumbai one day, made sure I got all my errands completed, and refused a tip.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Downvoting @wikkity 13:25

"People downvoting this are probably also the first that cry about "discrimination" when an indian takes their lousy job."

Or possibly downvoting because of that statement

----

Nice to see someone else share my sentiment!

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Re: circumventing the heavily regulated systems

"They are only circumventing the heavily regulated system of taxis, they are not escaping the heavily regulated system of private hire vehicles. These are not unlicensed cabbies, they are fully licensed to pick up passengers at point a and transport them to point b for a charge."

If Uber cars are actually licensed "private hire" or "car service", then these are licensed vehicles, and I have less issue with them. Americans call a private hire a car service, and they have their own sets of regulations that legally distinguish them from taxi service.

"Have you *been* in a French cab?"

I was speaking in general terms about what customers expect of a taxi. If French taxi services are, as mentioned, exploiting an oligopoly, then as I've mentioned before, that is an abuse of regulation and a separate issue from the intention of regulations to enforce fair service.

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Yeah I work in Paris and I have had the same experience. Multiple wrong directions, the long way round, a booked cab arriving with over €20 on the meter before you even get in. Rudeness. Lateness. Refusal to take you where you want to go (a la "south of the river" anecdote in London). So I agree. Sod em. Parisian taxis are a licensed cartel and it should be broken.

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Closed shop?

The "heavily regulated systems for licensing and managing taxis" was obviously set up with the best intentions of customer safety and fairness in mind. However, it's easy for such a system (I wonder if it bars people from becoming taxi drivers if they have a criminal record. For, say, causing damage to a competitor's vehicle?) with a high barrier to entry, to become devoid of competition and for the scarcity of qualified operators to reduce the levels of service, timeliness and customer convenience.

Maybe what Uber illustrates, due to its popularity, is that the restricted licensing of parisian cabbies has been overdone. Rules that were set up in the prehistoric times, before the internet, may need adjustments and the market opened up so that the number of "legitimate" taxis can grow to fulfill the demand - and introduce some competitiveness to keep prices reasonable.

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When in France, do as the French do

i.e. resist change, piss of your customers, complain, piss off your boss, be proud of being French. Oh, I forgot one of the most important ones: work for the government or don't work at all.

Let the down votes begin! However bad they will be, it won't be nearly as bad as the French protectionist economy. But first, let me give some examples. Going on strike against about everything, e.g. raising retirement age of train drivers, which was 50 because of all the carbon dust. Or Bossnapping, a national sport and generally not prosecuted. Or asking Germany to damage its own economy to make up for the French's competitive failure.

Stereotyping, of course. Exaggerating, too. That's part of the fun.

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Anonymous Coward

At least they can find a taxi driver

Over here you could die of old age before one turns up.

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Anonymous Coward

Most Valuable Single Asset.

I do not know what the situation is in Paris, but in NYC, in order to operate a taxi you need to have a "medallion" which is more or less a license to pick up passengers on the street. These medallions are fantastically expensive - up to $1 million. If taxi owners in Paris have anything similar, then Uber and friends are undermining the value of the single greatest asset that the taxi drivers will ever own.

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Re: Most Valuable Single Asset.

Yes, it's the same principle as in New York. A Parisian medallion costs € 200,000 - € 250,000 so obviously the drivers need high fares to recoup the cost. The government could lower the cost of medallions (and hence lower fares) by issuing more medallions, but it chooses not to, because it would anger existing cab drivers.

A medallion is not a natural asset. It only exists thanks to government rules. In Britain we have a similar situation with planning permission: it's a piece of paper issued by the government which is only valuable because the government restricts their numbers. If the government issued more of these pieces of paper, their cost would go down and we'd have cheaper housing; but they choose not to, because it would anger existing home owners.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Most Valuable Single Asset.

"If the government issued more of these pieces of paper, their cost would go down and we'd have cheaper housing;"

Yeah, because it's the government that's FORCING the builders here to put up the most expensive, lowest quality housing in western Europe.

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Re: Most Valuable Single Asset.

"I do not know what the situation is in Paris, but in NYC, in order to operate a taxi you need to have a "medallion" which is more or less a license to pick up passengers on the street. These medallions are fantastically expensive - up to $1 million. If taxi owners in Paris have anything similar, then Uber and friends are undermining the value of the single greatest asset that the taxi drivers will ever own."

Yes, I'm aware of the New York medallion. Thing is, most of them aren't owned by the drivers themselves, but by tycoons and corporate figures who see them as a steady source of revenue (IOW, an investment) and therefore worth the high prices. Because they're considered an investment, the prices would remain high EVEN IF they issue new medallions: more investors would simply appear to invest in them, making them inflexible. I think the number is kept low more for reasons of SPACE (consider the geography of Manhattan Island).

How is the situation in Paris? Do drivers own most of the medallions?

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French Taxis

Biggest rip-off in Europe.

Example: A 16km/15 minute taxi ride from office to airport: 70 Euros.

And they try for a tip too.

They also refuse to take fares from the airport if the ride is "short".

No taxis run at night because after a couple of airport runs they've made enough for the day so are all in bed by 10pm.

They need some competition.

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Re: French Taxis

This French taxi is the only one I'd consider paying for, tbh...

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Anonymous Coward

1/2 OT, meanwhile in London...

a tube strike is due, planned to boost commuters' support for the plight of tube workers.

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Anonymous Coward

I despise taxis/taxi drivers! Lying cheating deviants the lot of them. Would be very happy to see the lot burned in a big pile. I rarely use taxis, I'm not supporting them.

They have not got a leg to stand on. Hope Uber and its ilk gain traction quickly and wipe taxis out completely. Deserved of them.

Technology and peoples blind adoption of such affects more and differing sectors of life. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it ain't going back in!

The dinosaur taxi will have to adapt.

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Megaphone

AC @09:52 - you're going too easy on them

Parisian taxi drivers are the distillation of everything that is wrong with Paris.

My personal pet hate is that drivers ordered to a hotel turn up with 'travelling time' already on the clock. I've had a taxi turn up at a CDG airport hotel with €12 on the clock already. Of course you know full well that they just sit round the corner with the meter running waiting for call outs.

It's why I always where humanly possible take the Metro, or walk. Sure the metro is not exactly the most pleasant experience, but it beats the hell out of taking a taxi.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC @09:52 - you're going too easy on them

It's why I always where humanly possible take the Metro, or walk. Sure the metro is not exactly the most pleasant experience, but it beats the hell out of taking a taxi.

Didn't they finally find a disinfectant that got rid of the stench of urine in the Metro stations? Or did it just inadequately mask the smell in the same way that many Parisians resort to putting on more perfume rather than having a wash?

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