Despite our informal times, many people who rent a limousine still expect a certain elegance, a modicum of decorum, a touch of class--even if they are only going to the airport or the shopping mall.
Cameo Limousine of Anaheim has an extensive manual on chauffeur etiquette, as it were.
Among the many rules are a few absolutes. For example: "No limousines are allowed to go through drive-through restaurants at any time. "
The manual clearly spells out rules for the road: "There is no excuse for a professional chauffeur to scuff the tires on a limousine. . . . Repeat offenders will be removed from our staff."
Moreover, courtesy should extend beyond the client, the manual says. "If you make an error in your driving by accidentally cutting someone off or changing lanes in front of them, always be the first to give them a shrug of your shoulders to say, 'Gee, I'm really sorry.' "
Cameo is not content with prepping its drivers on how to open doors and negotiate hairpin turns. Its chauffeurs also are encouraged to double as tour guides and advisers. The manual gives examples of do's and don'ts:
As Angela Addison, manager of A Gold Key Limousine, another of the county's limo services, puts it:
"It's hard to be a good chauffeur. There's a lot more than just driving a car. It's very service oriented. There's definite etiquette. You open up their champagne for them. You drive like they are drinking champagne all the time. You don't want the customer to go 'Oops' or 'Oh no!' "
The base pay for chauffeurs ranges from $5 to $10 an hour at most limousine firms. But a 15% gratuity is fairly standard. Depending on the customer, it can be more.
"I've had guys flip me $100 just for an airport run if I get them there on time," Addison says.
Passengers are expected to observe rules of conduct suitable to the circumstances. Reputable limousine services do not allow minors to drink alcoholic beverages. Neither do they permit the use of drugs in their cars by customers.
And of course, Cameo Limousine's chauffeur manual makes it clear that: "Hanging out of the moon roof or windows is illegal. Do not ever allow it."
Repeat customers are sought after. Dennis Mahle, owner of Harbour Limousine Service of Garden Grove, recalls that during his days as a chauffeur, a former customer asked him to pick up some clients at the airport--in Las Vegas.
It seems that Mahle's customer had gotten a run-around trying to hire a Las Vegas limousine company for what was essentially a $25 job.
"I drove all the way to Las Vegas without customers and picked them up," Mahle recalls. "I took them from the airport to casinos. They paid top dollar. (They were) in the car a total of about 30 minutes for a thousand (dollars).
"They gave me a $200 tip. They were real happy."
Chauffeuring does have its flip side. Consider Terry Hawkins, former driver and now operations manager for Cameo Limousine.
While working for another firm in Lake Tahoe four years ago, Hawkins picked up three men and chauffeured them about town "condo shopping." After the better part of the day on the road, one of the well-dressed, articulate gentlemen pulled a .380-caliber Magnum pistol on Hawkins, took back their cash deposit for the ride along with his wallet, then handcuffed him and stuffed him into the limo's trunk.
For three hours, parked in front of a bar, Hawkins tried to attract the attention of a passer-by by whistling and hollering for help.
"But everybody coming out of the bar was ya-hooing, so they didn't hear me," he says.
Finally, about 3 a.m. someone noticed the whistling limousine trunk.
"A guy came over and asked me what I was doing in the trunk of a car."
Police freed Hawkins and within 20 minutes had captured his three one-time passengers, who turned out to be escaped convicts from an Oregon prison.