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Wishing Away the Competition

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"Shelburne Village," the bulky, red-faced man spoke to me through my open window. "How much?"

"Fourteen bucks," I replied. "Will that work for ya?

"Aw right," he replied, not attempting to mask his reluctance.

Off we rode.

"So, how much are the fleets charging you for this run?" I was trying to assess if my Shelburne quote was out of line.

"Quick was getting twelve, but I think they're out of business."

"You're kidding," I said. "I hadn't heard about that, but now that you mention it, I haven't seen their cabs around for a week."

The Quick Taxi Company had grown, well, quickly, over the last few years, from birth to about a dozen vehicles. I wasn't stunned, however, to hear they'd gone defunct. When a cab fleet grows with such speed over a short period of time, its cash flow might be vulnerable to collapse. Over the years, I'd seen a couple of other cab companies zoom and crash in just this pattern.

Later that night, I pulled up next to a buddy cabdriver outside of Kountry Kart. "Hey Ray," I spoke through our lowered windows, "Didja hear Quick went kaput?"

"Nawh," he replied. "That can't be. I just saw . . . hey, there's one right now."

I turned to watch a Quik Cab go around me. "No, Ray, that's Quik Cab, you know,without the 'C.' That's two separate companies."

"Well, you got me, Jernigan. I have no idea now."

As the night wore on, I experienced the dubious veracity of rumors. Both Quik and Quick cabs were plying the streets. Now it was Ray's turn to pull up to me. "Jernigan, I'm not sure about what you were talking about before, 'cause -- "

"Yeah," I interrupted. "I was all wet. It's what you call wishful thinking."

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