Sunday, October 26, 2014

We have a Beef with Yelp!

My name is Christine Hartman and I have been Capital Cab & Car Service’s creativity consultant from the beginning.  I met Tim Bingham while we were both volunteering for Montpelier Alive.  I had often expressed the view that Montpelier needed a taxi and was excited for the opportunity to support his new business.

Generally speaking, Tim and the Cow Cab team are glass half full people!  Tim is known in the community for his volunteerism and helping hand, and has become known in his business for his pleasant and accommodating nature.  We are grateful for our success of the year past and our place in the Central Vermont community….and we are far too busy to jump on any negative bandwagons!

Tim is always looking for new ways to serve his clientele and to spread the word about Capital Cab and Car Service.  When customers mentioned looking for the business on Yelp, Tim made it a priority to get a business profile up on the website.  He watched with curiosity to see what his first review might reveal…and that first review revealed the inconsistencies of being a member of Yelp.

The first review was great….and it was filed under “Reviews Not Recommended” by Yelp.  Tim continued to watch, and to see two more excellent and unsolicited reviews follow the same path.  He began to share his frustrations with the people around him and even wrote a letter to Yelp.  Yelp’s response was predictably as automated as the software it uses to recommend reviews, but Tim began hearing stories from others about businesses that have run into issues with Yelp, and the creative ways they addressed them.

A small Italian restaurant, Botto Bistro, in CA launched a campaign to become the “worst rated Restaurant” on Yelp, even offering 25% off meals for a one star review!
Longman & Eagle Restaurant in Chicago made their “favorite” recommended Yelp Review into a promotional postcard
Yelp Complaints has a Blog offering sources for consumers and businesses to report their problems with Yelp and of course they have their own Facebook Page

I decided to do some research of my own and found numerous reports that a Freedom of Information act request filed with the Federal Trade Commission resulted in the release of over 700 complaints against Yelp over the past four years. While the FTC blocked identifying information, restaurants have filed complaints accusing Yelp of filtering out positive reviews, of harassing them to buy advertising, of refusing to pull libelous reviews, and more.  

Yelp is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. A visit to the BBB website revealed that on September 16, 2014 the FTC filed a stipulated order for permanent injunction & civil penalty against Yelp alleging that Yelp was collecting and using personal information from children under 13 in connection with operating their online service.  Yelp was ordered to pay a $450,000 civil fine along with other penalties. 

Always one to view both sides, I visited Yelp’s site.  I learned about the “Yelp Elite Squad” who appear to be rewarded with private parties and opportunities in exchange for providing businesses with excellent reviews and also found these helpful insights: 
  • We use automated software to recommend the reviews we think will be most helpful to the Yelp community based primarily on quality, reliability, and the reviewer’s activity on Yelp.
  • There are a number of reasons why a review might not be recommended. For example, the review may have been posted by a less established user, or it may seem like an unhelpful rant or rave. Some of these reviews are fakes and some suggest a bias, but many are real reviews from real customers who we just don't know much about and therefore can't recommend.
  • It's also important to note that because our recommendation software is automated, the Yelp Support team cannot manually override the software to recommend or not recommend a review.

Automated software that cannot be overridden seems like a problem if you are a business relying on Yelp to share information.  I have come to the conclusion that it is a waste of time to join Yelp when you’ve had a fabulous experience with a business and want to support that business, because you will be “unknown” and your review will not be seen.  An exception to this may be children under age 13.  The Huffington Post weighed in with their 9 reasons NOT to trust Yelp Reviews.

Want to see what all the fuss is about?  Here are Capital Cab & Car Service’s three reviews “not recommended” on Yelp:

Sam C., Montpelier:  Tim offers top notch service! On top of that, his 'herd' of Cow Cabs are pristine. He keeps the cars clean, offers professional help, and is timely. Not your typical cab experience for sure!

Barba M., Providence RI:  I spoke directly with Tim to pre-arrange a late evening pick-up at the Amtrak station in Montpelier. I was concerned about my daughter's arrival in the dark and need for transportation to a nearby Park and Ride. Typically cab services pass on such a short distance but Tim understood my concern and willingly reserved the booking. Tim promised to monitor his Amtrak App for the train's ETA and he communicated directly with my daughter via text. He even made sure her car started at the Park and Ride before driving away. This type of personal and sincere service was just what our situation needed - this was a professional and kind experience.

Pat L., Kerrville TX:  Capital Cab and Car Service provided fantastic service for me and my family of six with ample room for luggage and even accommodating a cello.  We were attending a family wedding and coming from Texas.  The driver was completely punctual picking us up from the Burlington airport and took us to our remote location one and a half hours away and picked us up three days later.  All for a reasonable price, engaging historical conversation as we passed Vermont landmarks on the drive, and a most helpful attitude.  I highly recommend this company and could not have been more pleased.  They really took the worry out of our long distance trip.
Tim took this photo of  Pat's family for a Facebook post, our first ever cello transport!

Thanks to our customers for these positive reviews!  
We will be a lot more selective moving forward on the websites that we list our services with…and we’d love to see your review on our Facebook page!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

More than just a Taxi

Running a Cab and Car Service in Central Vermont has its challenges, especially when you operate out of a community where everyone takes pride in walking!  From the beginning Tim has wanted to incorporate a variety of services into Cow Cab operations, making it unique from other area taxis.  With just a year’s operation under Cow Cab Liz’s tires, he has done just that.
Over the past summer, Tim started offering the services of Liz and Moo Two to weddings. The clean, comfortable vehicles, with room for up to seven guests, and the pride and courtesy with which Tim and his drivers work made this a great fit.

Bonnie Pollard-Allen & her Bridal Party
were transported by Capital Cab.
We offer several options for those planning a wedding to make sure they get their guests home safely.  A single Cow Cab can wait at the reception to chauffeur guests, two cabs can be available for transporting more guests at one time or we can provide two drivers with one cab, so that people attending the reception as well as their vehicle can be returned to their destination.  This third option was suggested by Tim’s younger sister, who has seen similar service provided in New Jersey, and it has been very well received.

Tim’s flexibility and good nature make him great to work with for those who want their wedding to go just right and he is happy to accommodate timing and services to help complete that special day without a hitch.  He has transported a bride and her bridal party to a ceremony in a rural location, as well as transporting guests to a celebration on one end of the Mad River Valley early in the day and returning them to their accommodations in the evening.  

Tim received these e-mails after driving at a wedding recently. The second one is from the bride & groom.

Dear Tim,
      I am not sure who the owner's last name is, but I know that our driver this past weekend shares the same first name.  We just wanted to let you know how impeccable your service, cab, & driver are!  Never had a couple of cab rides in our lives as nice & enjoyable!
      Keep up the great service & thank-you very much!
                                                                        Kevin & Julie (Wedding Guests)
                                                                        Binghamton, NY

Hi Tim,

Thank you so very much!  We had an incredible time and we hope our guests behaved themselves :)  We will definitely be recommending your services to friends and family as you guys did such a wonderful job.

Thanks again!

-Danielle & Geoff  (Bride & Groom)
Another aspect of Capital Cab & Car Service is the sightseeing tours that Tim enjoys providing for his customers. And as everyone knows, there is no place more beautiful than Vermont in foliage season!
Folks can reserve the Cow Cab for a tour and see backroads and byways, covered bridges, farms and sugaring operations.  Tim is open to requests, if a customer read about a location in a magazine or travel guide, he will do his best to get them there.  Leslie and Greg, pictured here, recently enjoyed a backcountry tour while visiting from the United Kingdom.  They enjoyed the beautiful countryside and visited working farms such as Templeton Farm in East Montpelier and Willow Moon Farm in Plainfield.
Leslie, Greg and Cow Cab Liz at Willow Moon Farm

Learning about Sugaring with Bruce
Chapel at Templeton Farm

Tim has been known to take passengers into the State House for a quick view of our lovely capitol building and to veer off his intended route to show a covered bridge or swimming hole to a customer who expressed interest.  He knows the best scenic overlook in Montpelier and will swing by to give his passengers the treat of a great view on the way to their next destination.  Tim and his drivers are friendly and familiar with the area, with knowledge of destinations off the beaten path. Tim goes the extra mile to make sure his customers are comfortable and enjoys chatting and sharing his knowledge and anecdotes from around the area.  Often people, who enter the cow cab for a simple ride, leave with a new friend, new knowledge and the desire to ride with Capital Cab and Car Service at a later date down the road.
Just one of the covered bridges at Northfield Falls
If you are interested in taking a sightseeing tour or booking the cow cab for your wedding or special celebration, e-mail Tim at  We can also be reached by phone or text at: (802) 505-0316.  Wishing you a wonderful harvest season and hoping we can help make it even more enjoyable!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Australian's Vermont Adventure

This Spring, I received a call to pick up a passenger in downtown Montpelier.
I arrived to find a woman in her mid-20s who was obviously not from our area as when she spoke I instantly recognized her Australian accent. 

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to travel and work in Australia.  My girlfriend and I went there primarily to experience & work on sheep and cattle stations, as the Australian's call farms.  Beyond this great opportunity for learning and seeing a completely different landscape, while traveling through Sydney I had the chance to reconnect with a distant cousin and her family.

My passenger’s name was Lauren.  Her speech was familiar and pleasing to my ear, bringing to mind my time in her country.  Lauren explained that her visit to our town was only for a few hours. She wanted to see covered bridges, Morse farm and the area in general

We headed off to Cox Brook Road in Northfield Falls, the only local destination for multiple covered bridges that I know about.  During our trip I learned that she was in the United States to give a talk at Harvard University in her field of study, international relations between Korea and Japan. She has a PhD in this discipline.

Lauren thoroughly enjoyed our visit to all four of the bridges.  She had a big camera and took many pictures through the windows of the cab!  I took some of her with her camera to share when she got home.  She repeatedly remarked at the beauty of our area, the lushness of the vegetation and the interesting terrain. 

She further explained that during her trip to United States she only had one day in which to go do some exploring. At home she had read about Montpelier in the New York Times. On this day she had boarded a Greyhound bus in Boston at 7:30 AM, arriving in front of our City Hall around 11AM. 

Back in Montpelier I showed her the State house and various buildings in downtown before making a detour up Cliff Street to the scenic overlook.  We went out to Morse farm where she learned about sugarin'.  We drove down some dirt roads and checked out old barns and the beautiful church in East Montpelier center.

Lauren loved our town and the area in general.  During this tour, it became her plan to return with her mother and spend a week or two in Vermont. She explained that in Australia Vermont is well known as a great destination when traveling in the United States.

I got her back downtown in time to explore the bookstores. At 2:30 PM Lauren was on the Greyhound bus headed back to Boston. Her total time in Montpelier was 3 1/2 hours!

It’s amazing how many interesting people I get to meet while driving the Cow Cab.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Random Acts of Kindness...Cow Cab Style

We reached the 6 month point of being in business on March 1, 2014. During this time we have transported a lot of people and a few pets.

Occasionally we are called on to deliver other items.
One night a local restaurant called in a panic, it seems that three times in a row they had not included French fries in a take out order to the same customer.  This time customer was irate. It was a cold night in January so I cranked the heater and carried the precious fries with heater fan blowing hottest air possible on the bag. Fries were delivered nice hot and fresh to a now slightly less than irate customer.
Several times we have been called to pick up a person and take them to a store and then return them back from whence they came. There are occasions when I see it would be less expensive & more efficient if we simple pick up the item and bring it to customer.  We have delivered YakTraxs, Birthday Cakes, party supplies, water, toilet paper, lost gloves, salt & traction sand, hardware supplies etc.

Last Sunday a guest at Comfort Inn called and needed an item from the hardware store to fix his snow machine.  He was stranded until repairs were completed and his snow travels could resume. I asked if I could pick up the part needed and bring it to him thus saving him a round trip fare and time, he agreed.  He only needed large Zip Ties to bandage together his machine for a temporary fix. He was grateful and we saved him money and time.

Also in January the parent of a NECI student called from Atlanta Georgia.  For his Son's birthday he had LaBrioche bakery make a beautiful chocolate cake. Only problem was how to get the cake to birthday boy as the bakery does not do deliveries.  You guessed it, I got to transport the delectable treat to a very surprised & happy 20 year old.  The father would have gladly paid for this service however as they were regular and generous customers I refused payment and did it as my little gift to the young Chef.

Several times customers have left gloves in the Cow Cab and we make sure to return them promptly.  One regular customer, a Physician who lives both in Philadelphia and East Montpelier, sent a text with a picture of lonely left glove. The  right glove was missing however I searched and it was not in our vehicle.  I knew she had visited several stores on both Main and State streets so I set out to locate the lost glove. In short order it was found perched atop the tree protection fence in front of Capitol Grounds coffee shop. On my next trip home to East Montpelier I dropped it off to her home. She was tickled at its return and asked what I wanted for my effort. I only asked for a cup of coffee to go and it was gladly provided.
More Cow Cab Tales to come.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

This Tale will be the first of many from Tim Bingham

During a recent residency at VCFA we had a regular customer from Southern California.  It was during one of our very cold weeks when we had dangerous icing conditions so she used our cabs daily in her trips from Capitol Plaza Hotel to and from College Hall. She was to graduate on a Tuesday 1/7/14 and on Sunday 1/5/14  we were to pick up her husband and parents at BTV for their ride to the hotel. Unfortunately thousands of flights were cancelled across the USA that week and theirs was among them. The family tried in vain to locate another flight yet none were available to get them here in time to be present at the students graduation ceremony.
A little voice told me to do something for this extraordinary woman who both John and I had come to respect and enjoy our conversations with.  For her final trip up to College hall prior to graduation we had a bouquet of white roses in the back seat.  When she got into Cow Cab and saw the roses she was beside herself with joy and appreciation.  I told her that these were from her husband and parents who could not get to Vermont for the ceremony. I was thanked profusely by her.  It was neat to do something small and to provide a little joy to her special day.
During our final trip together , Ann and I were talking about how we Vermonter's survive winter.  We talked about proper clothing, back up heating systems, staying socially active and then I told her that now I am using full spectrum light therapy daily. Who would have known what was to come next as she revealed that She and her husband were part owners of Nature Bright, a company which makes and markets full spectrum lights. I told her how I had considered bringing my desktop light with me in the Cow Cab and she said, oh no, I will send you the perfect unit for this situation.
Yesterday a small box was delivered by UPS and it is a battery operated full spectrum light unit called, Square One. It has so beautifully compact / portable. If while parked downtown you see me basking in a glow of healthy light you will now know how it all came about.
Ann and I will be discussing how we market this and other Nature Bright products right here in Montpelier.  It seems we do not have any downtown businesses that sell these type of lights.
Stay tuned for more Cow Cab Tales...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Capital Cab visits Templeton Farm

As you already know, Vermont is filled with scenic locations!  Looking for a place that embodied the feel of Central Vermont for some upcoming print ads, Tim felt drawn to neighboring Templeton Farm and was happy to be invited to have some photographs taken there. Photographers Gary Seaton and Donna Doucette did a great job capturing the Capital Cab team, Liz 1336, Moo Two and the local beauty of Templeton Farm and East Montpelier.

Templeton Farm is a small family maple and beef farm located 6 miles from Montpelier. Since 1810 and for 8 succeeding generations the same family has operated a variety of agricultural enterprises there; including maple, sheep, dairy and beef. Today the farm is owned by Bruce and Janet Chapell along with sons Ryan and Seth. They direct their efforts in the production of healthy, hormone free, grass fed natural beef as well as award winning maple syrup.  Visit them at: 
Tim & Liz on their home turf.
Creativity Consultant Christine Hartman joined Tim & John at Templeton Farm.



We chose to introduce Capital Cab's second driver, John C. Russell, to our Facebook following on Veterans Day.  John was awarded 2 Purple Hearts during his service in Vietnam.

Beef Cattle and Sugar House at Templeton Farm.

Whether you have relatives flying in from out of town, need someone to get the kids to the mountain or have errands to run while your car is in the Capital Cab and Car Service for your transportation needs!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Since starting Capital Cab and Car Service LLC this summer, Tim Bingham has take some long rides and met some interesting folks.  This photo was taken at Berlin's Edward F. Knapp Airport after Tim took two pilots to pick up dinner, then returned them to their Hawker jet!   Looks like Liz 1336 & Tim are mixing with the Jet Set these days!