So, in the meantime, and in an effort to get to that, I thought I'd tell you about a weird experience I had today. As some of you know, I've been in Chicago for a conference for the past few days and things went very well and I even learned some stuff! One night we had sushi, one night was home-cookin' type food with a big group, and last night we went out for homemade pizza. Life was good.
I'm going to preface by saying my cab driver from the airport to the hotel was great. He drove well, chatted kindly, and got me safely to my destination without incident. That being said, my cab driver from the hotel to the airport today ... not so much.
First, we'll start with on the way to the airport. I was sharing a ride with a co-worker and we were chatting about the conference, had a few laughs, and while tired, were all-in-all in good spirits. Until we saw our cab driver start talking to someone - in another car in the lane next to us - through his open window - on the highway - at about 50 miles / hour. Co-worker and I looked at each other with WTF look, but stayed quiet because cab driver wrapped up his conversation and kept driving quietly.
We got to the airport, and co-worker got dropped off first at his airline's door. Cab driver brought me up to my airline door and I went to pay. Sounds easy enough, right?
Cab driver saw I wanted to pay with my credit card, which by regulation of the cabs in Chicago all passengers have a right to do. This is what happened.
Cab driver: You're paying with a card?
Me: Yes, I was planning on it.
Cab driver (starts to get upset): I wish you had said something about that earlier.
Me (confused): Why? There's a credit card machine right here... (there's a machine in the back seat for passengers to use)
Cab driver (not convincingly): Well, that doesn't always work properly... it doesn't always connect right. ... I need you to pay cash.
Here I think - your credit card machine, which looks brand new, isn't reliable at one of your most regular drop-off locations. I'm calling B.S.
Me: I don't have that much cash, I was planning to use my card.
This is where it gets sketchy...
Cab driver (gets really mad): Your card doesn't help me! I have a cash flow problem and your card will not work for that.
Me: What? insert WTF face, again.
Cab Driver: Your card does not help me!
Me: Your "cash flow" issue is not my problem. We should at least try your card machine to see if it works.
Cab Driver: Will you pay $20?
Me: I really just prefer to use my card.
Cab Driver: That doesn't work. Here I can give you more receipts.
There is some back and forth here. Please note that having more blank reciepts does not help me - I cannot expense more than one trip to the airport, so I'm not sure how more blank receipts would sweeten the deal.
Me: Fine, whatever, I have $20, but I don't have the full fare.
Cab Driver: doesn't take my money. Will you give me $10?
Me: What? omg... Listen, you just said $20.
Cab Driver (angry, and seemingly on the verge of anger tears): This is a $40 fare!!! That's only half.
At this point, I sincerely feel that there is a mental health issue involved, and while I'm sympathetic to that, he's started to scare me a bit with the irrational back and forth.
Me: Listen, you have two options - take my card for the full fare or I'll give you $20 cash.
Guy: Fine, run the card.
Me: Puts card through the machine. Your machine says my fare is $2.65.
Side note: The reason it's only asking for that amount is because he was scamming for cash and didn't run the machine to track the fare.
Guy: I don't remember what he said - gibberish at this point, probably. Just angry. Then... Fine, give me your card. I'll do it manually. huff.
Me: Listen, it's my understanding that it's my right to use a card in any cab in Chicago.
Cab Driver: You understand wrong.
Side note: I don't understand wrong...
Me: No, I don't understand wrong.
At this point, the cab driver gets out, slams the door, pulls my bag out of the trunk, and slams the trunk door. He charge my card manually (since he didn't have his machine connected properly and I wasn't letting him scam me (or his company) for the cash. In the cab, I took a photo of his cab number with my phone; when I got out, I checked the name of the cab company.
I signed, grabbed my card back, gave him a look, and went into the airport. After I was through security, I called the cab company and told them I had a complaint - they said "ohh, was there damaged luggage?" - I said, "I wish."
I started to explain what happened, that he was trying to scam me (and them) for cash and the person asked me to hold so she could bring in a supervisor, which I was more than happy for. I finished explaining, told them it was unacceptable, and that I felt threatened and bullied by this guy (and gave his cab number). They, in an attempt to be helpful, told me that the city of Chicago requires all cabs to accept payment by credit card so this person was out of compliance - which I appreciated the validation, but this was not news to me. I found it interesting that they also encouraged me to call 311 (which is the city's commerce bureau, I think) to report this to them, as well, because he was out of compliance with the city's regulations. So, I did. I'll be getting a letter in the mail soon outlining the report, and return it to them with any other additional information, I guess.
So, although I was flustered, I was thankful that I have the travel experience I do and know that, for whatever reason, most cab drivers are great, but there are a few who try to pull this kind of crap. And I know that many cities require all cabs to accept cards, so I know to check that out for the city when I go. Without that experience, I think I would have felt a lot more pressured to comply or to make it work with cash, or that it was my fault.
I made it into the airport in one piece and made it home fine - and I'm not going to let Cab Driver ruin the rest of the Chicago experience for this most recent visit or for the next one. Chicago is an awesome city.
So, my advice: Know your rights. If you don't know, before you get in the car, ask the driver two things through the window:
- How much from x location to x location?
- Do you accept payment by credit card?
If you find either of those two things alarming - try a different cab. Most of the drivers I've had have been great, but watch out for the sketchy.
My other advice is to always be aware. When you get in a cab, look at the name of the cab company on the outside and locate the cab number so you can easily find it later if you need it - it should be visible on the inside and in most (if not all) cases, on the outside. If something happens that is not safe, or not ethical, have that information so you can report it. I believe that cab companies, in general, value customer service and expect their drivers to abide by not only their and the city's expectations -- and yours.
Have you had any bad cab experiences?
Do you have any travel advice to avoid a potentially bad situation?