"Over time, we have the ability to look into our system and say we seem to have some people in the mix, both passengers and drivers, who are not really jibing with what we are trying to do here or maybe there is some friction. We can do some coaching and training and interventions with social media, and sometimes you call people," Thompson said.
During my ride with Mohammad Khiyani, he said he joined Hailo as a way to generate extra business beyond picking up people randomly on the street or receiving assignments from Yellow, which like other cab companies charges drivers a fee on dispatched trips.
He apologized when I told him about the problem I encountered outside the planetarium.
"Today is a busy day for the cabdrivers," he said, "because the weather is very nice and there is some sort of convention in town."
That may have been true, but Hailo postponed its planned Chicago launch from Oct. 4 until this week, in part, because it wanted more time to recruit cabdrivers, Thompson said. He wouldn't say how many drivers Hailo has recruited so far.
When the taxicab pulled up to Tribune Tower and stopped, the Hailo app on my phone screen updated to show an itemized bill. The fare matched what the meter in the cab said, added a Hailo fee of $1.50 for nonpeak hour service and the 15 percent tip that I preselected in my profile when I registered. The screen provided options to change the tip amount, up or down, and it asked me to rate Mohammad.
Uber Technologies Inc., another new taxi dispatch company that allows people to hail cabs using their smartphones, was cited by the city of Chicago this month with multiple ordinance violations, including allegedly charging riders a mandatory 20 percent gratuity. Chicago-based taxi and livery companies and passengers have also filed lawsuits against Uber, alleging that the company engaged in false price advertising, among other violations.
I asked Mohammad, a native of Pakistan who said he has been driving taxis in Chicago for seven years, if he minded accepting credit cards, which many cabbies grumble about even though the city of Chicago requires all taxis to take credit cards as payment.
"Credit card is the American way. Hailo pays me quickly," Mohammad replied. Not all cab companies do.
Hailo also pays drivers a 50-cent bonus for each trip. The money comes out of the $1.50 or $2.75 Hailo fee, Thompson said.
As the customer, I never had to remove my wallet from my pocket, which was one less thing to worry about as I exited the cab.
And I liked the Hailo app, when it finally found a cab for me.
As I walked into Tribune Tower, I received an email from Hailo that contained a copy of my bill.
Taxi users interested in giving Hailo a try can download the free iPhone or Android app at hailocab.com. A $10 discount is offered when you register. The discount is automatically applied to your first trip using Hailo. So my first ride cost $1.56.
Hailo operates in London, Dublin and Toronto. In addition to Chicago, the company also plans future service in Boston and New York, said Chris McLellan, Hailo's marketing director.
Contact Getting Around at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and at facebook.com/jhilkevitch. Read recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround.