My experience pedicab driving during the PGA Merchandise Show at the OCCC and the Monster Jam at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL from 1/24 – 1/26/2013.

2013 PGA Merchandise Show.
That weekend goes down in the record books as one of the best ones ever, I’ll tell you that much. Lots of money to be made in a very short amount of time and a lot of drivers took full advantage of the opportunity, mainly those of us that are dual-permitted for the OCCC and downtown Orlando. I’ve worked the PGA show twice before in the past: once while renting a pedicab when I first started out in this line of work, and last year when I was just over a month into being in business for myself. For the Monster Jam, anytime in the past that I’ve worked it, I was working for yours truly and not just in Orlando. I set a pretty high goal last weekend because I felt it was totally attainable. I almost reached it but something happened that’s only happened once before that stopped me from getting there.

The major differences between working this PGA show and past shows was that I was more fit (mentally and physically) for the job, had a better bike, and had more pedicab experience. All 3 of those things in combination, probably the 3 most important aspects of successful pedicabbing, made this year’s show a huge success for me. Nope, I haven’t landed any sponsors yet although I did solicit for this show which I haven’t done for any events or conventions in a while. I get some occasional flack from other drivers about why I don’t have sponsors yet but as I’ve explained in the past, none of them know my circumstances or plan of action. There’s method to everything I do and say because of one word: priorities. Some of these same drivers rent their pedicab while others don’t even have sponsors themselves so you have to wonder what makes them think they’re in a position to talk shit.

When I’m being ribbed for it, I know when and just let the barbecue sauce flow from their mouths (kind of a bad analogy, I know). When someone beneath me is trying to tell me how to do things, I take it with a grain of salt. If they knew what they were talking about, wouldn’t they be above me? Some of these people clearly don’t know how landing a sponsor works. They don’t and can’t see the bigger picture. When confronted with bullshit, sometimes it’s just best to let it fertilize the ground instead of scooping it up and eating it. Maybe I should’ve said stepping in it rather than going the scatological route but you know what I mean. I won’t divulge any future sponsorship acquisition plans here but they’ll be visible on my pedicab when the time comes for that to happen.

On the first day of the PGA, I arrived right when the show started and the weather for every day was almost perfect: cool air temperature, low humidity, not many clouds, and no rain. Just like in the past, it seemed like every OCCC permitted driver was working and there’s good reason for that: the business is there to support it. From the time I got there to the time I left, it was nonstop busy. The first day is always the busiest of the 3 and this one was one of the single best days I’ve ever had pedicabbing. Day two was very good but this year followed the same trend as past years where it’s not quite as busy day one. My average per hour dropped significantly in comparison but it came as no surprise and that average was still perfectly acceptable. No complaints of any kind here.

On the first day, when the convention itself dried up, that’s when I went home. In the past, I stuck around to work at night at some of the private parties at venues along I-Drive like Pointe Orlando and Señor Frogs but to conserve energy for the remaining days, I opted out of doing that this year. The evening drivers should be thanking me for leaving some money for them. I made plenty in the day and wasn’t being greedy. There was an incident that occurred at the Peabody that mildly pissed me off. It happened at night during the exit of the show when it’s very busy. And when it’s very busy, our price goes up. Some people and even some drivers don’t understand that demand dictates pricing and it’s not just a pedicab thing. It’s a business thing.

I dropped a person off at the Peabody and another guy was waiting there who wanted a ride. I quoted him, he agreed, and he was about to get on my pedicab when one of the valet attendants interjected himself unnecessarily and thought the quote was too high and suggested the customer use their free shuttle instead. I told him if the customer thought the price was fair that he should be allowed to decide for himself what’s too high and what’s not. But the attendant was overreacting and it seeped into the psyche of the customer who decided not to take the ride after all. One, if someone allows someone else to affect their reasoning, that’s not necessarily a good thing. But two, what I do has nothing to do with what the attendant does so he was far out of line for getting involved.

We can’t stage on property there but we can drop-off. If someone or some people catch us while we’re there and decide they wanna take a ride, only at that time can we pickup. Another thing is, if you’re staying at the Peabody, you’ve got dough and we expect good tips from their guests but allow me to break down the circumstances around this particular night. During the exit of a big convention and during any busy period, if someone wants a ride out of the area where the majority of rides are coming from, the price is gonna be higher because we need to factor in the amount of money we’d lose based on average tipping. That’s why knowing what you make per hour is important. There’s the time it takes to make a trip and then there’s the time it takes to return from it. That latter part is extremely important.

Effort is the other part. Uphill pricing is obviously gonna be higher than anything going downhill. The guy who wanted the ride was going uphill. Therefore, higher price. Destination is also important. Some places have a higher-end customer base but that doesn’t guarantee a big tip. The man was going to a high-end restaurant. Traffic is also something to factor in. When big conventions end, traffic nightmares begin in that corridor. If you take a cab or a bus, you’re gonna be waiting a long time just to go a half-mile. You’re better off walking or taking a pedicab ride. We’re not restricted by the road since we can take the sidewalk so we can get people where they gotta go quicker.

So let’s look at everything: it was the busy exit of a major convention, he was staying in a luxury hotel, wanted to go to a high-end restaurant that was an uphill ride away from the busy area, and other transportation options meant it’d take him a while to get where he wanted to go. My quote wasn’t at all unreasonable to any other experienced pedicab driver. I wasn’t just gonna accept any tip amount, either. I had to make it worth my while and the price was worth it to him until his mind got infected with drivel from an employee who clearly doesn’t understand all of the variables that go into pedicabbing and who probably doesn’t make or have much money either based on how he reacted. He thought he was doing the guest a favor but was actually providing a disservice by letting him take their shuttle which he’d have to wait just for it to start moving and then wait even more in the traffic. On top of that, I’m not even sure if it drops off directly at the restaurant which is something a pedicab would definitely do.

Time is money and money is time. The Peabody needs to retrain their employees so that they don’t interfere where they’re not supposed to because now they’ve cost me a ride. Not getting that one netted me another one equally as good later but now is better than later. I didn’t appreciate the block but I let it slide. Apparently word got out about it on the second day because I dropped off again at night at the hotel and got a comment (nothing scathing or personal) from another valet attendant. I let it slide because I ain’t got time for bullshit. It’s either professional jealousy (lots of that running around) or they’re just a bunch of idiots. Might even be a combination of both.

I had never worked the last day of a PGA show before because of the looming Monster Jam that happens on the same day. This time around, I worked it because I wanted to see what it was like and because there was another event going on at the North Concourse: The Showdown in O-town. It’s a cheerleading competition that got moved from some other venue to the OCCC. No one had ever heard of it and it’s impossible that anyone ever worked it before so we were all blind to any expectations. That meant on Saturday night, I had options. There was also a sold-out Luke Bryan concert at the Amway Center that night. What to do, what to do.

First of all, I had to get the PGA out of the way. I arrived an hour later on day two than I did on day one. I arrived at the same time on day three as I did on day two. Each day, the parking lot was less full so it was a good call on my part. The last day was a slow trickle at the South Concourse (that’s where PGA overflow parking was) but the cheerleader event almost filled up the entire North Concourse parking lot. That may sound like a good thing but there weren’t many rides to be had all around. There were still a lot of pedicabs out working but I had a goal in mind and kept busy to meet it. I didn’t get many rides but the ones I did get were well-tipped. For the time that I was out, my hourly average was the same as the day before so I was happy.

It was a mixture of both events where I got rides but it was mostly from PGA. My thought process was that if the cheerleader event resembled the AAU volleyball tournament finals, then I’d have stuck around to work it until the end but there was no comparison. There was also a Chill Blast volleyball event going on at the same time but it didn’t make any difference for rides. I did good on that last day and will work it again in the future now that I know what it’s like. This year’s PGA was a huge success for me and since the Showdown wasn’t gonna make me any money, the choice was clear what event I was gonna work that night.

I originally planned to work the last day of the PGA until the end but I left a little early when things started to slow down too much. I was gonna work it and then go straight to the Monster Jam but with some newly found downtime, I went home instead to get some grub and some rest. I overslept a little but still got downtown in time to catch the entrance for the concert. Didn’t take long before I got a ride but they wanted to go to the Citrus Bowl for the Jam. That was my destination anyway so I was all in. Drivers had options that night: Amway or Citrus Bowl? Monster Jam or Luke Bryan concert? Everyone should’ve made plenty of money that night.

The first Monster Jam I worked last year, I did good but felt it could’ve been better. I had arrived way too early and business wasn’t really slamming until about 2 hours before showtime. This year, I got out there about an hour before showtime and from the moment I picked those people up downtown to the end of the show, it was nonstop busy and the tips were magnificent. It was my highest average per hour that I’ve ever made at any event I’ve ever worked since I began pedicabbing and we’re not talking by a little bit. It probably isn’t gonna be matched anytime soon. It could’ve been even higher but two flat tires on my pedicab fucked up my momentum literally and figuratively.

The first one was in the middle of the show when I had passengers. The ride was getting harder and harder and it didn’t take long for me to figure out what happened. A flat with passengers onboard had only happened to me once before at an event in Ybor City last year. Because of that, I knew what the feeling of a flat with people on my pedicab felt like. Continuing the ride takes its toll because it’s really tough. I wanted to complete the ride but it just wasn’t gonna happen. Riding with the flat meant my tire was also getting damaged. Another driver I trust was coming towards me empty so I passed my people on to him. Later, he shared half of the tip with me like a good and fair driver should.

It doesn’t take me long to fix a flat because I have a spare ready to go. It’s just a matter of switching wheels but in that time, that’s money lost. When the event ended and most of the other drivers had left for downtown is when I got yet another flat on the same damn side of my pedicab. This time it was a slow leak and to keep working was just a matter of keeping air in the tube. That worked for a while and when the Jam dried up completely, I headed downtown close to 11pm. To my surprise, the concert was just ending around that time and I got a ride from some people who parked near the Citrus Bowl. That’s when the tube gave out completely and once again I was giving a ride with a flat tire. The energy drain was one thing. I was pissed because I was gonna miss that concert exit.

The weekend goal I had in mind was gonna be more attainable than ever before because the concert lasted so long and exits for big concerts like that are always good. Those people tend to hang out downtown and at that hour with that clientele and pleasant weather, I can imagine the drivers who were able to work it cleaned house. I just wasn’t gonna be a part of the housekeeping crew. Where I was pissed off at first, I sucked it up and took it as a learning experience. I only brought the one spare with me because it’s all I’ve ever needed up to this point. I didn’t have an extra tube and didn’t wanna bother anyone to buy one from them. I did ask another driver who I trust but he didn’t have any. At that point, I completely gave up trying to get back in the game for the night.

I tried to get back to my car with my pedicab but it just wasn’t gonna happen. I had to lock it up in the safest place I could find, go get my car, and return to pack it in for the night. Other drivers saw me coming into downtown with just my bike and wondered what happened; as if my shit got impounded. I was just short of my goal but I was very happy with my final tally over the three days. The lesson I learned was to be even more prepared than I already was. Now I carry spare 20-inch tubes with me and hopefully this doesn’t happen again. It only happened once before at a convention back in 2011, I don’t remember which one it was, where I kept getting a flat on my bike. Turns out in that case I had a small piece of wire in the tire that kept poking the tubes, causing them to keep going flat. This time, it was the tubes that were defective but riding while flat damaged the tires. I mention that because it’s an extra expense to replace them.

Since the first time, I always carry a spare bike tire. Since this time, not only do I now carry spare 20-inch tubes, along with tubes to fit my bike tires, but also another 20-inch spare tire just in case. I don’t want a repeat of this. Anything can happen but the positive thing that came out of it is that I’m better prepared. Aside from a cop with a chip on his shoulder at the Jam (there’s always at least one), an asshole/idiot non-permitted pedicab driver talking shit (there’s always at least one), and the incident with the Peabody valet attendant, the highlight of the weekend was seeing Robin Meade with my own eyes. Admittedly, there was a time a few years ago when her looks were fading but seeing her in person, she’s got it all goin’ on again. She’s bangin’. There was plenty of good tail at the PGA show and a lot of men seem to attend just for that reason. Strip club operators target shows like this one. Gotta love capitalism.

It’s a no-brainer that I’ll be working future PGA shows and Monster Jams. At the Jam, I even met a family who I had given a ride to at a past convention. They took a ride at the Jam and tipped me more because of it and even bypassed every other pedicab driver at the end of the event to ride with me. Now that’s loyalty. It truly doesn’t pay to be mean but it does pay to be a good pedicab driver. Not just professionally, but morally. As for the PGA and golf in general, I don’t care for the sport one bit but I’ll take their money at the merchandise show. As for the Monster Jam, I’ve attended one in the past and it really is a lot of fun. If I attended another, it’d likely be in a city where there is no pedicab scene, like Tampa or Miami. Hopefully someday, there WILL be a pedicab scene in those cities. I might just be the guy to make it happen.

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