Taxi Driver's Viral Videos Boost Business: 3 Tips
Dave Rivera received some funny calls on Monday. One person dialed him and said, "Just wanted to give you a shout-out," and hung up. Another person sang the lyrics to Wiz Khalifa's "Black and Yellow," and hung up. Someone else said, "You're stupid," and hung up.
That's what happens when 90,000 people watch your YouTube video, and your phone number is publicly listed.
Rivera is a cab driver in downtown Sacramento, and he's made a few YouTube videos over the years to market himself: "Taxi Dave and His Party Cab." In one, he sings "Don't Stop Believin' " for a full 60 seconds. In another, he bops to LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" for over two minutes. In the one that just went viral, he raps "Black and Yellow," with the lyrics slightly tweaked.
Thanks to his self-produced videos (with some camera help from his mom and stepdad), Rivera says that he's become "the most popular cab driver in downtown Sacramento."
But Rivera didn't set out to be a cabdriver at all. Four years ago, he had three jobs and a 60-hour workweek but was scraping by on minimum wage, because the IRS was yanking back-taxes from his paychecks. He needed to hire an attorney to file bankruptcy and divorce his wife. So he started driving a cab for cash.
"I was basically homeless," he said. "I would make just enough money that day to stay in a hotel for the night."
But he's turned a down-on-his-luck night job into a booming business, thanks to a handful of tricks:
1. Differentiate yourself from the competition.
"I'm a pretty unique cabdriver," Rivera tells passengers as they get in. "My cab is really clean, and I speak pretty good English." Most of Sacramento's cab drivers weren't born in this country, Rivera claims, and don't perfume their interiors like cherry Chapstick.
"The girls love it," he says. And he may be right; one of his passengers is now his long-term girlfriend.
2. Innovate with the latest technologies.
When Rivera first started, he struggled to hear his customers as they called from a crowded bar at the end of their nights. So he told them to just text him, and he would text back his ETA.
"They're like, 'You text? A cab driver texts?' "
That scored him some big points with the bar crowd.
3. Know your customers.
"I noticed that the people who call Taxi Dave for a ride are heavy drinkers. They're into having fun," Riviera explains, as one might expect when you're on duty between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.
So Rivera started rolling through downtown with his windows down, blaring '80s rock and hip-hop. And when his passengers get in his cab, he keeps the party going.
"You go from a bar, having a good time, and then get into a cab and it's all quiet," says Rivera. "I thought, 'To hell with that, let's have some fun.' "
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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