From the July 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

It's a scene all business travelers can relate to: You're in an unfamiliar city and need a cab, but you can't locate a phone book. Or perhaps you're at a pay phone with the number for the cab company, but you can't find a quarter to make the call. A frustrating situation like this was the inspiration behind the business that partners Neal Andres, Robert Stone (above, l. to r.), Ari Emanuel and Ron Altbach founded last year.

"We thought `What if you could call one number and get a cab anywhere in the U.S.?' That's got to be a convenience for business travelers," says Andres. So the entrepreneurs established a toll-free number, (800) USA-TAXI, that forwards incoming calls to an affiliated cab company in the caller's city. To date, 350 cab companies in more than 2,000 cities nationwide are licensed with Tempe, Arizona-based 1-800-USA-TAXI Inc. Andres anticipates that within the next six months, the network will be linked with the top taxi services in all major U.S. cities, offering complete coverage nationwide. There's no initiation fee for the cab companies selected to participate. Their only expense is the cost of the rerouted toll-free phone call and a 16-cent referral charge.

Eventually, the company expects to include Canadian cities as well. But for now, the partners are focused on the more than 5 million Americans who use cabs daily, many of whom travel for business. "It's a convenience for business," says Andres of the primary benefit. "And hopefully, [consumers] Eventually, the company expects to include Canadian cities as well. But for now, the partners are focused on the more than
5 million Americans who use cabs daily, many of whom travel for business. "It's a convenience for business," says Andres of the primary benefit. "And hopefully, [consumers] know we're out there trying to find the best cab company in the market."

Now Hear This

Airplane takeoffs and landings can be quite an earful--literally. During ascent and descent, the rate of air pressure change is typically 500 feet per minute, and for ears with blocked or swollen eustachian tubes, this can cause severe discomfort, sometimes even resulting in burst eardrums and loss of hearing.

Some frequent fliers, however, have found a product that's music to their ears. EarPlanes, developed by Cirrus Air Technologies in Locust Valley, New York, slow the flow of air into and out of the ear canal, lessening the difference in air pressure on the exterior and in-terior of the middle ear. They're ideal for travelers suffering from allergies, colds and sinus conditions (although not recommended for severe cases of sinus congestion), or for people whose ears are simply sensitive to air-pressure changes. What's more, they work well as a noise-suppression tool for those loud seats in the rear of the plane. To order, call (800) EAR-6151.

Contact Sources

1-800-USA-TAXI , 5030 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ 85282, (602) 730-0176;

Air Travel Card , (202) 626-4224, www.air-travel-card.com

Delta Air Lines , (800) 323-2323, www.delta-air.com

The Four Seasons L.A. , 300 S. Doheny Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90048, (310)273-2222.