Personal touch a driving force for Champaign’s most beloved cab driver: Randy

You know you’ve made it when you become a single-name celeb. Elvis, Beyonce, Oprah, Bono — just one name is enough.

Our campus has it’s own single-name celebrity: Randy.

When I first met Randy, Yellow Checker Cab employee and all-around nice guy, in winter of 2009, I was taken aback by his friendly demeanor and attention to customer service. I expected a routine cab ride and in all of five minutes, I had a new, unlikely friend.

It was apparent right from the get-go that there was something different about Randy. He introduced himself, asked our names and made a genuine effort to get to know us. I took down his cell number and since then, I’ve called him every time I need a ride.

There are countless other students who have had similar experiences, because Randy makes personal connections — a business tactic that must work well for him since he’s almost always busy. Clare Tierney, dispatcher for Yellow Checker Cab, said Randy is one of the company’s top bookers and best employees, because he’s really easy going and trustworthy.

The way Randy became Champaign’s most famous cab driver was purely accidental. After a career in radio advertising sales and car sales, a friend offered him an opportunity to drive trucks. For 10 years, he drove across the country and had a great time seeing the states.

One winter day between trips, Randy slipped on a patch of black ice and broke his leg, leaving him unable to drive. It would have been a long time until the doctor cleared him to drive trucks, but he gave him the okay to drive cars in a shorter amount of time. So when Randy saw there was an opening at Yellow Checker Cab, he applied with the intentions of going back to trucking once he recovered. Instead, the conversations with customers kept him there.

“Overall it’s a job I really enjoy — I’ve never looked back,” he said.

As a cab driver, Randy said his main goal is to be reliable and get people where they need to be on time and safe. He makes sure to thank people for their business and show his gratitude with kindness and respect.

Much of his business comes from members of the Greek system; about two-thirds of the calls he gets come from girls in sororities. Randy said this was a result of a few girls giving numbers out to their sisters.

Katie Collins, senior in LAS and member of Alpha Chi Omega, just started calling Randy this year and said she really appreciates the extra effort he puts into customer service.

“The best thing is when he shoots you a text the next day, telling you how much he appreciates your business,” she said.

A ride with Randy is never dull; it’s always full of conversation. Born and raised in Champaign, he is never short on stories for customers. He’s seen the campus evolve many times over and remembers the days when he used to go to the original Red Lion, still at the same location, and Chances Are, now Chester Street, to see bands perform. He saw big names like REO Speedwagon, James Brown and Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers, who all made their stops at small venues in Champaign before moving on to bigger things.

Randy is also able to easily relate to students, likely because his daughter and son attended the University. Having family who recently graduated, he has stayed in-the-know.

When Randy isn’t working, he watches a lot of sports and, more recently, he’s been reading up on Civil War history. While he enjoys reading and watching his favorite teams, especially the Cardinals, he looks forward to his weekend night shifts. The people he meets and the conversations he has make his job very gratifying, he said.

Randy plans on staying in the cab business, but has no plans to stay stagnant; he recognizes that there is always room to do better, and he’s always working toward improvement.

“There are some good cab drivers in this town,” he said. “I do everything I can to be a credit to the profession.”