Updated: May 8
Being Bilked is one of the worst things that can happen to a taxi driver. Most cabbies work long hard hours and face large running costs to provide an important service to local communities throughout the UK.
When a taxi driver does not get paid for providing that service it can leave a bitter taste in the driver's mouth. A person not paying, known as a ‘Bilker’, can extend shift finishing times and impact on family life.
Most experienced taxi drivers will have been affected by a runner during their career. TaxiPoint asked cabbies what their worst Bilking experience was, which shows the variety of situations cabbies find themselves in and how they deal with it.
Let’s start with some of the more sinister incidents facing cabbies. Taxi driver Ian Small relived being threatened with a knife through the back of the seat because he “asked for the full fare as on the meter”.
One cabbie got roped innocently into a ‘drugs run’. They said: “Had a couple late one night had me going all over town to different places, when meter was £40 told them I needed money to go any further. Off they ran.
“Police recognised their description and they'd done it to another driver the night before and had caught him. A week later every address they had gone to was ‘raided’ for drugs. He ended up in jail for something so stopped paying his £1.84 a fortnight owed.
“They chased him up when he got out. Didn't pay. Ended up in jail again.”
Oliver Lane from Southampton said: “A colleague years ago took a pre priced job worth £300, the passenger showed him the money when he got in, changed the drop location when nearly there, he had 5 or 6 mates waiting when they got there, said he would pay next week. Obviously never did.”
One cabbie fell for the more used bilking trick. They said: "The lass was in a wheelchair and I fell for the oldest trick in the book. I’ll just get the money it’s inside she said. So I undid the ratchets away she went through the key coded gate… never to be f**king seen again!”
Alan Foster was left a bag as insurance… or so he thought. Alan said: “Had someone say they will leave their bag while they popped inside to get cash blah blah blah. Eventually I looked in the bag. Was just full of dirty needles and crack wraps.”
Not all Bilkers are successful though. Here’s a look at some of the times people may have just wished they paid!
One driver said: “I don't know about worst, but this is the best. Four big nasty lads from Chorley to Avenham flats in Preston. All threatening behaviour, insulting and generally scary and stated that they are gonna do a runner. Reaches drop point, off they went, me just being grateful for not being mugged and beaten up. Then I spot the wallet that one of them left containing over £100 quid! Happy happy night!”
Taxi driver Alan Clark said: “Had a lad run off, vaulted a 2ft wall and disappeared, he didn't know it was about 20ft other side.”
Cabbie Jason Lake said: “Had a guy run on a £8 fare. Picked him up 16+ years later and told him. In all fairness he paid me £20 plus the fare on the day. I asked ‘what’s the £20 for?… he said interest!”
Tony Hatherall said: “Took two lads to an army apprentice camp at Chepstow one Saturday night, on the last couple of yards one guy throws up all over the door and both leg it as I stop.
“On inspecting the back seat find ID card so stop at main gate and report it to Sargent on duty.
“Ten minutes later the two guys turn up with buckets and cleaning materials and clean it better than any valeting service and had to pay me twice the fair.
“I wonder what the Sargent had said.”
Cabbie Graham Watson become quids in when an agile Bilker’s actions backfired. Graham said: “A guy jumped in and asked for Thorne (South Yorkshire). When we got to the M18 junction/roundabout he jumped out of back doors, James Bond roll across the tarmac, shimmered up the motorway embankment and then disappeared... leaving his wallet with £210 behind.
“I took my fare, CCTV proof, and handed rest of wallet to police. It wasn't claimed and I received £165 in said wallet. That money sits in a safe, and anytime anyone is short I take it out of this envelope.
“He’s become a generous guy!”
Alan Clark remembered the time he was bilked but was left with a weeks worth of shopping. Alan said: “Afternoon job from an Asda rank to a rough area, a couple worse for drink, fell asleep.
“Had to rouse them, asked which house, they said “this’ll do” and burst out of the taxi and ran off. They forgot about the £100 worth of groceries in the boot though!“
Adrian Roberts had a similar scenario. Adrian said: “I had a lad who paid me £20 upfront for £8 fare, but paid me as I started driving and said sort the change when we get there. We got to his house and he legged it shouting I’ve got no money!”
Ros Melia had an odd situation when a customer left their phone as insurance. Ros said: “I had someone say they'd leave their phone with me, while they went in to get money. Never came out and when I checked the car, thinking he was being clever, he took the sim card out of the phone to just put in another one, but sadly for him, he'd dropped the sim card on the back seat!”
What is the law around Bilking?
According to PC Patrick Quinton, who specialises in taxi and private hire vehicle enforcement in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, it depends on the circumstances whether the non-payer has committed a criminal offence. There are 3 pieces of law that cover this:
When someone runs off - Section 3 Theft Act 1978 “a person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any good supplied or a service received is required or expected from him, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount due shall be guilty of an offence”
If someone pretends they will pay “going to a cash machine” “my friend will pay when we get there” – Section 2 Fraud Act 2006 “if he dishonestly makes a false representation, and intends by making the false representation to... cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss” ~ note that a representation is false if a person knows it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.
When someone else is involved, orders a cab for someone else – Section 11 Fraud Act 2006 “if he obtains services for himself or another by a dishonest act... intends that payment will not be made, or will not be made in full”.
PC Quinton highlights that the common theme is that there has to be intent and dishonesty.
Genuine mistakes or misunderstandings are not dishonest, such as confusion over who is paying.
Dissatisfaction with the service offered or a disagreement about the price may mean it’s not a crime either. It only covers the fare, so any extras such as soiling charges aren’t covered. At Court it has to be proven that the person was dishonest beyond reasonable doubt and that they intended to avoid payment.
Crucially... no dishonesty means no crime.