Taxi Driver Lets Passengers Pick Their Own Prices

A Vermont man struck upon a bright idea by offering a "pay what you want" taxi service. Since launching the service, he's always been rewarded with a good fare.

Essex, Vermont is home to only around 18,000 people—but thanks to newly-minted cabbie Eric Hagen, they now have an inspiring and affordable way to get around the town.

Hagen works for the American Red Cross, but recently, it dawned on him that he could both have fun and do good by starting a side business that relied on his community’s generosity.

“I was watching CNBC — the financial station — and it suddenly hit me: Everybody’s always hearing, ‘This is what your mortgage is going to be; this is what your car payment’s going to be,’” he told the Burlington Free Press. “People want to get away from that.”

As an antidote to rigid financial conditions, Hagan got his cab driver’s license and insurance, and officially opened for business last month with the Recession Ride Taxi. In his SUV, Hagen will take passengers anywhere they want to go in and around Essex—for whatever they want to pay.

There are no set prices for transportation, and Hagen also offers a cooler full of pay-what-you-want beverages to thirsty guests. He even offers special perks to frequent riders: he provides his passengers with hole punch cards, giving them a free ride after every six trips.

Of course, Hagen’s customers could easily get a free ride anyway—after all, he’s not forcing them to open their wallets. Since his payment policy is so flexible, he’s taken some strange trades: one customer gave him a $10 grocery card, and a local musician gave him his group’s CD. But in the weeks since the business has launched, Hagen hasn’t been short-changed once.

“I believed from the start that this would work,” he said. “I believed that people are going to be generous enough to make it worth my while, and I’m going to be generous enough to let them decide.”

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