Did I make the cable car operators go out on strike? Of course not.
At Thanksgiving the whole family went on the California Street cable car. My partner chewed me out after the ride because I accused the fare-taker of pocketing the ticket money. My partner said I embarrassed the whole family. I probably did. The cable car driver and the fare-taker joked with each other about the accusation of stealing. They joked like it was an inside-joke.
On Tuesday, this week, all 52 cable car drivers and fare-takers went on a three-hour wildcat strike. The reason: two fare-takers were going to be fired for stealing money.
My reason for accusing the fare-taker of pocketing cash is because the entire system is cash ($3.00 per person, over $3 million a year) and there is no way to check the number of fares collected. The last time I rode the cable cars, a few years ago, the fare-takers had a counter that made a ding for each fare collected. It was easy for customers and hidden observers to detect fraud. There is no counter and no ding these days.
Phillips’ rule of business, and everyone else’s rule if they have any money sense: Leave the door open to fraud and you publicly invite fraud into your business. The cable car system is open to theft and theft is inevitable.
The fact that all 52 cable car employees went on strike together means that the stolen fare money was being shared with everyone.
My observation won’t sound so extreme if you know that back in the 1970s I worked at Glide Church. I had close contact with the street underworld.
The cable car operators, back then, had a great system. People who lived near the line (“players”) would order stolen goods to specifications, such as a 17” Sony model 233J for $200 and pay the cable car operator. The operator would order the set from the local burglars and the set would be delivered, by cable car, to the buyer the next morning.
A major management change is now required because fraud among the 52 cable car operators is endemic and can’t be stopped with a slap on the wrist or a new ding-ding system.