Checking In From Ballyseede Castle, Tralee, Ireland (Taxi Cab Confessions #1 – Dimitri)

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Hey Financial Binners,

I wanted to finally give you a quick rundown about the Financial Bin’s trip to Ireland.  As I said, we would attempt to reach out to the people of Ireland regarding their economy and general welfare of the European Union.  Thus far, not only has Internet connection been tough to come by during our stay, but many people rather talk about how many pints of Guinness they drink rather than economics.

That said, we did have some great conversations.  Surprisingly enough, they have been with rather opinionated cab drivers.  While driving to Newark, NJ airport, we spoke with our driver, Dimitri, who is a Russian immigrant.  He touched a variety of topics.  He began telling us why he left Russia in the first place.  At the ripe age of 28, Dimitri found it necessary to flee his homeland due to fear of the Communist government.  Despite having an established photography business, where he took pictures of weddings and tourists, he was constantly looking over his shoulder due to what Russian officials deemed an “illegal” activity.

He came to America with his wife and daughter and started a limousine business.  The business brought in millions of dollars; however, profit was hard to come by.  Dimitri had cars, a bus, vans, and plenty of staff and drivers — 17 to be exact.  But, overhead was killing his margins.

In 2001, he sold that business.  Now, he has one driver — aside from himself.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, though, he has NO overhead.  He simply answers calls from his cell phone while driving other passengers to their destination.  What was now a costly expense in staffing — was reduced to a monthly phone bill.

The most interesting part of the conversation was the story he told about buying a house in Florida.  He bought it during the height of the housing bubble and told the story of his neighbor buying a $150,000 house — while taking out a second mortgage for $500,000.  The neighbor never paid a DIME back and just walked away on the house.

Dimitri is now currently under water in the Florida home.  He cannot sell it.  And, thus, can’t travel to fantastic places like Ireland.  Not to mention the fact that he is still driving limos himself until midnight many nights.

He spoke briefly about his confusion as to why our leaders are visiting other countries and his gas prices have destroyed his margins.  His Florida house is under water as we’ve stated and HIS American dream is fleeting.

Check in tomorrow for more taxi cab confessions … this time with our driver, Peter, to our Dublin hotel.