“Horrible cab incident from DCA, but props to the cops!”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jennifer

“Dear PoPville,

I just got home [Sunday night] from a business trip and after my boyfriend met me at the airport, we decided to cab home to NoMa instead of risk WMATA on a Sunday. We get to the cab line and are handed the normal piece of paper about fares and hop in the black cab marked INDEPENDENT that the guy pointed to. The immediately very rude driver suddenly adds $5.25 to the meter so I asked why and he gets angry and says “If you want to complain you can get another cab” as he pulls onto the parkway. Just before 395, I told him that he’s only supposed to charge an extra dollar for one additional passenger, not both of us, and he pulls off to the side of the road – where there is no shoulder – and says we can get out right there if we don’t like it and that “this isn’t a DC cab.” I guess he thinks he’s immune to the rules somehow.

I shut up so we can safely get home. When we pulled up to our building, we both realize we have no cash and ask him if he can take card – as all cabs are now mandated to be able to here – and of course he can’t. I told him at that point that he can call his dispatch and they can take my card information since he’s supposed to be able to take a card. He starts yelling at me calling me stupid and pulls out a square, so I hand him my card to pay, and as he’s still yelling at me, notice there’s a cop right in front of us, so I tell him if he doesn’t stop, I’ll get the officer.

He then throws his door open, and gets out of the car, comes right by my open door, yells at me that I’m a “stupid b*tch” at which point my boyfriend flips, and I yell to the cop asking him to come help. Officer Crittendon (1st District) jumped right in and calmed the driver down enough so we could pay and leave. As the driver was protesting demanding my information, the officer somehow managed to calm him down again and send him on his way, but made sure we got a picture of his plate and the taxi ID number on the back first. Officer Crittendon then came up and asked if we were ok again and told us to file a complaint with the Maryland Taxi Commission (that’ll be a fun one to figure out) and handed us his card saying we could get in touch if we had any trouble.

It was such a shitty experience, but I was so relieved that an officer was nearby AND helpful! Had to give props and warn others about shady taxis at DCA.”

97 Comment

  • Anonomnom

    This story is just a great testimonial for Uber.
    Sorry that you had that experience right when you are getting home from a trip, but it is a good thing the officer was there to de-escalate the situation!

    • I have to admit, I sometimes take regular cabs from DCA because they’re so damn convenient. This is a good reminder that it’s better to wait 5 minutes for an Uber.

    • For every bad cab story, there’s a bad Uber story. People can be jerks. Full stop.

      The weird obsession that people show toward Uber online is so confusing to me. It’s an app for a cab. Most of the cab drivers now are also Uber drivers. There have been multiple stories about attacks and rapes in Uber vehicles. Both services have great employees and not so great employees.

      • You’ve obviously never ben sexually assaulted by a cab driver and had them get away with it because you had no identifying information.

        • I second this, most of the time the cab driver isn’t who they say they are! I noticed outright a guy who looked completely different then the photo posted on his license hung in the window, once I noticed it he got very standoffish and dropped us off!

        • Or physically assaulted by one, WITH evidence, and had it not only ignored by the DC taxi Cab Commission but literally laughed at for trying to file a complaint.

      • I feel better knowing that I have the driver’s information (name, make, model, license, etc) automatically saved in my phone, email, and on Uber’s servers. Yes bad things can happen any where any time, but every single part of the rider experience on Uber is massively better than a cab. I’m confused how this is still a matter for debate.

        • Yep, there is a lot of accountability on both sides when something happens in an Uber. In a cab where there isn’t even a receipt (oh what do you know the machine is broken) to document the trip even happened you’re SOL more often than not. I’ve been there before, good luck.

      • If this was a story about Uber it would have made the news far beyond PoPville. There are terrible cab stories and terrible Uber stories but the media at large tends to only want to highlight Uber’s failings.

        What a terrible experience. So glad you are safe.

        • Well, Uber’s failings amount to actual news, whereas cabs are just sort of assumed to fail at this point. Local news do a series on the miserable state of DC cabs every once in a while, it it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

      • “for every bad cab story, there’s a bad Uber story.”
        This implies that it’s a 1:1 ratio, which I seriously doubt. Yes, there are some bad Uber stories, but at nowhere near the rate of bad cab stories. Plus, you have the Uber driver’s info if something does happen.

    • Unfortunately, catching an Uber out of (or into) DCA or IAD will now come with a $4.00 surcharge as of November 1st ($1 higher than the cab surcharge). Thanks MWAA! http://www.mwaa.com/sites/default/files/tab9-recommendation-for-approval-and-adoption-of-amendments-to-the-metropolitan-washington-airports-authority-commercial-ground-transportation-regulations.pdf

      • Still cheaper than a cab usually. I took an Uber to DCA from my home a few weeks ago, total came to $15. Took a cab home from DCA when I returned, total came to $24.

      • These new regs will totally screw up my trips to the airport. Each Uber driver will need a permit costing $5K annually to drop people at the airport. How many Uber drivers won’t do that, leaving me without a way to the airport? This is bad news.

        • HaileUnlikely

          “without a way to the airport?” Uber has only even existed for a few years. What did we all do before Uber?

          • Begged for rides from friends or took public transit. I had a really scary experience with a cab over a decade ago and haven’t taken them since.

          • HaileUnlikely

            In most of the rest of the country the way to get to the airport is the big blue van (SuperShuttle).

        • I think that there is a $5k per “transportation network company” not per car.

          Also what exactly do I, as a consumer, get for the $5 surcharge?

  • you were on a business trip and didn’t have any cash ??

    • Whaa? What does that have to do with anything? I have a personal card and a company card. Why would traveling on business necessitate cash?

    • You’re kidding, right? RUDE.

    • why would you take cash on a business trip?

      also, I don’t pay cabbies in cash on general principle – this type of behavior is totally unacceptable.

    • …why would being on a business trip require carrying cash? Are you viewing this website from 1987? And if so, how much for your TARDIS?

      More importantly, cabs are supposed to take cards. Period.

    • Um, what kind of business do YOU do??

    • I must be poor because when ever I get back from a business trip I’m usually cash poor and desperately waiting for my reimbursement (no business credit card).

      • Yup. And I hate using cash because the receipts they give you can be kind of weird… and I’m always scared my office isn’t going to reimburse me because of it.

    • If they’re on Government Travel like 50% of DC, using the travel card is required by law. You just try and get an FTR 301 exemption, it’s like combining a Monty Python sketch, the DMV, and a paper shredder.

      While traveling, you must use a government travel charge card for all official travel expenses unless, (1) a vendor does not accept the travel charge card; or (2) the Administrator of GSA has granted an exemption (see FTR Section 301-70.704); or (3) your agency head or his/her designee has granted an exemption.

    • I’m specifically not allowed to be reimbursed for cash purchases on business trips, all on the plastic.

    • I rarely carry cash on business trips – it’s a business trip, therefore I’m using my corporate card for everything – including the cab ride. Much easier to charge everything to my company then expense it out then to pay for things, collect receipts and have to piece it all together later.

  • As crappy as DC cabs can be, I always insist on getting a DC cab at DCA.

    • Yep. Work travel has slowed down for me now, but I’ve flown home into DCA maybe 50 times in the past 3 years. I learned the hard way that you have to specifically ask for a cab that takes credit cards (there’s a small sign way over most people’s eye level) unless you do what some of us prefer to do, which is hold out for a DC cab. They know the city better and give you a meter-printed receipt. There are some VA cabs that take credit cards but still use those old-fashioned imprint machines that are susceptible to fraud (and you can’t use cards without raised numbers like Citi’s new American Airlines cards).

  • I’ve probably taken late flights into DC 60-70 times in the past 6 years, the point of the night where you know that a metro ride could randomly take anywhere from 5-25 minutes longer and I take a cab.

    I’ve had a pretty consistent experience with all non-DC flagged cabs at the airport. I am no fan of DC cabs either but the non-DC cabs from DCA are unbelievably rude, blatent about “taking you the scenic route” and probably 30% of the time try to put some additional fee on the meter. I am a sizeable guy so they don’t try to debate the lie once they’ve been caught. Point is, wherever I take a cab from DCA, I hold out for an actual DC cab in line, frequently giving people behind me my cab so I don’t have to deal with it.

  • That’s scary! I’m glad you made it home safely and I hope your week is filled with much better interactions.

  • Never ever take a DC cab. Always use Lyft or Uber (whichever isn’t surging). There is simply no justification for using old cabs any more.

    • This sounds a little bit like blaming the victim.

      Not everyone has a smartphone. And whether an individual traveler chooses to take a regular cab or an Uber/Lyft… regular cabs should not be able to get away with the kind of bad behavior that has made D.C. residents turn so overwhelmingly to alternative services.

      • the victim is the cab driver, who picked up someone who doesn’t understand that MD and DC are not the same state and have different rules, who subsequently flipped out on them, threatened to call the police, had her boyfriend get aggressive with the him, etc. even hearing only one side of the story is enough to conclude this.

        and by the way traveling without cash is a really bad idea for precisely this type of situation.

        • I was addressing the comment “There is simply no justification for using old cabs any more.”
          Obviously we’re hearing only one side of the story, but I don’t see how a taxi driver who told passengers that they could get out on the side of 395 if they disagreed with the charge on the meter is a “victim.”

        • Re mail: oh yea, because threatening to drop them off on the side of the highway is all their fault for asking a question that is directly related to the service they are recieving and paying for. cab driver was totally being curteous in this situation………
          no one uses cash anymore. I travel for business to other populous cities at least once a month and it is much easier to use my company Amex so when i file my monthly report, even if I lose 1 receipt from even McDonald’s for breakfast, the company will still accept my report because there is a digital trail.
          although, I still am skeptical if your post is sarcastic because it is so absurd. or maybe you live under a rock

          • I was just in Hartford, CT last week and took a cab that didn’t accept credit cards. If you’re traveling without cash you’re asking for trouble.

        • That’s not how it works. The cab driver should offer to drive to an ATM and tack on a surcharge for the service.

        • Yeah, F8ck that. The cab knew what he was doing by refusing her credit card. If it was a MD cab, was it even licensed to drive into DC?

    • My justification is that a) I have never had a truly bad experience (a few brusque/ almost rude drivers, but they ALWAYS know how to get around better than UberX drivers, and b) the credit card in my Uber app is my personal card. If I’m taking a cab for business reasons, it’s easier to swipe my company card than to fiddle with the card settings on the app. (They should simplify that. Like let you set it up so it prompts you every time “personal or business?” and then charges the appropriate card.)

    • First, this *wasn’t* a DC cab–it was a Maryland cab. Second, there are plenty of reasons to want to take the more regulated vehicle.

    • At my workplace there are some clients who will only reimburse for traditional taxis, not for UberX. Irrational of the clients, but I’m going to pick the mode of transportation that I’ll get reimbursed for.

  • Ugh…I find myself using cabs less and less. Sorry about the crappy experience.

    Not excusing any of the cab driver’s actions, but there is a $3.00 airport fee and a .$25 fee for each passenger and $1.00 for the extra passenger, so you should have been charged $4.25 additional. Sounds like the driver may have tacked on the old $1 to use the trunk fee (did you use the trunk?). This is all for D.C. cabs, I don’t know about Maryland cabs. I always try to get a DC cab when leaving the airport. It’s a throwback to the zone days, but I do find they are normally easier to deal w/ when coming into the city.

    Oh, and if it was an MD cab, you report your complaint to the Public Services Commission. There is a form online. Good luck!


    • I was thinking that too re: fees. Is there currently a gas surcharge in effect? That might account for the additional $1. Of course, none of that excuses how rude he was, but it might explain the $5 charge.

      • If there is a gas surcharge in effect, that would be annoying, considering the price of gas is pretty low right now.

      • Well, remember you’re hearing one side of the story. What if the taxi driver actually only added $4.25 and the extra dollar was by the time she started arguing on the parkway. Also what if she was giving him attitude and/or abuse to start with. We don’t know, we weren’t there.

        • That is a perfectly fair point. I wasn’t there and don’t know what happened; I was just trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for the additional fees.

    • There hasn’t been a $1 trunk fee in DC in quite awhile.

  • Ditto to the comments on making sure to get a DC cab at DCA. I do it mainly because in my experience, MD and VA cab drivers aren’t as familiar with DC locations, and its annoying to have to give the driver directions throughout the ride.

    • houseintherear

      These comments make me feel less insane. I always insist on a DC cab at DCA, and the guys running the taxi line treat me like I’m a crazy person. Good to know many others do it, too!

      • alissaaa

        I’ve had the same thing happen to me the last couple of times at DCA. The guy tries to get me into a non-DC cab and I refuse, holding out for the DC cab and he treats me like I’m crazy/an idiot.

  • Speaking of Uber… how likely am I to find an Uber from the airport who will drive me out to to the Eastern Shore, about 50 miles? Is there a special way to go about that?

    • Never had an uber complain about a long-haul fare like that. Technically they will go wherever you want. Had one Uber driver describe picking someone up at the mall in Anne Arundell and drive them to South Carolina!

      Probably the polite thing to do would be call the driver once you have one coming and ask about the trip. Probably the safe thing to do too in case you get one coming on the end of a long shift.

      Note that every single part of this process is a massive enhancement to any “service” offered by a DC cab.

    • Just put in the destination when you request the Uber so it’s not a surprise. Most of them will take you anywhere. I once had a driver tell me someone took an Uber to Philly from DC after all the Amtrak trains had left. I don’t even want to know how much that cost.

      • I’ve heard similar stories. When I was in SF this past summer, an Uber driver said she’d driven a couple down the coast about an hour and a half to some kind of party, and then hung around there to drive them back later that evening! Super cool on the driver’s part.

      • Occassional Uber driver here. The destination is not shown to the driver until the driver swipes “begin trip” and that happens when the passenger is already in the car. It’s frustrating as I cannot do a mental map of the route as I’m waiting for the passenger.

    • Damn, that’s going to be an expensive ride!

      • Fare estimate was $60-80. Better than a one-way rental and trying to return it in the middle of nowhere!

        • Wow, not bad. I remember getting an UberX for some friends going home to Annandale once (not during surge) and it cost almost $60.

  • Here’s the MD Taxi Cab Commission, Transportation Complaint form:

    Please follow up with the MD Taxi Cab Commission. Often times, people do not follow up. The MD Taxi Cab Commission are really vocal about putting restrictions on Uber.

    I would totally take a MD/DC/VA cab and even pay a little extra if my rides weren’t exactly what you described happened to you. At the end of the day, you are a consumer. If they choose to not check crazies like this, then they deserve to be priced out of the market. Nevertheless, you have documented your complaint which I’m sure is not the first or lone complaint.

    How many do they need to accrue before they realize Uber isn’t the issue? It’s the poor service.

  • So, I also flew into DCA late last night and normally take taxis from the airport. It was about 1am and the line was so long with no cabs coming. I got an uber instead and was on my way in just a few minutes. BUT, my question is, there were tons of cab drivers over in the passenger pick up area, parking and getting out and calling to people in the taxi line. “You need taxi! Come over here!” It was a total cluster of cabbies screaming at these poor rule following citizens. Anyone know what the story behind that is?

    • Doesn’t Washington Flyer have a monopoly on the cabs in the “official” taxi-stand area, the way they do at IAD? I’m assuming the cabbies calling out to potential passengers were non-Washington Flyer cabs.

    • At that late hour, the cabbies like to rustle up multiple fares into one taxi. They will then have the meter run the entire time, with each person paying what the meter reads when they get out. Or, they just negotiate an off-meter, inflated flat rate with each customer.

    • Maybe what you were seeing were cabs who had dropped people off but could not legally make a pick up? It is not true that “any taxi” can pick up at DCA. They have to have an airport permit, which I hear are pretty pricey.

  • Wow this takes me back to the good old days of just a few year ago. I haven’t taken a taxi in DC since UberX launched here and I do not miss experiences like the one you had. Similar things would happen to me pretty regularly in cabs here.

    The worst bit is, nearly zero accountability with a cab. Good luck loding a complaint and getting a result with their cab company or with the governing body. If something bad happens in an Uber, all parties involved are well documented by default and their customer service has been outstanding. I had an incident in an UberX once and my support request email was returned almost immediately, faire refunded, etc.

  • I got charged a $5.25 surcharge last night as well on a MD cab at DCA. It’s the airport fee, plus one bag, plus fuel surcharge.

    • right, that’s the unsaid part of this – the driver was charging you appropriately, and you flipped out on him and then insisted he take a credit card, which he is not required to do. blaming the cab driver for being out of line here is literally victim-blaming – he was the victim. the fact that you don’t understand that DCA is in Virginia and is served by cabs from three jurisdictions with different rules is not the cab driver’s fault.

      • This attitude is why I take Uber now. Maybe they were wrong about the fare, but the driver could have calmly explained that to them. Instead he sounds like he was the one that flipped out.

        Until cabbies treat customers like customers and not nuisances, and until they take cards universally, we’ll keep voting with our feet over to uber.

        • yes, it “sounds like” the cabbie was behaving unreasonable, according to the same reporter who didn’t realize that MD taxi laws apply to MD cabs and that there is no requirement in in that jurisdiction to accept credit cards.

          • Right, Uber it is. There’s no reason to memorize the rules of the different jurisdictions when you can view the breakdown of charges (which are consistent no matter where you are) on the Uber app.

          • Again, this attitude is why it’s a lot easier for me to take Uber. The fact that you think it’s the consumer’s responsibility to memorize these rules just shows you don’t understand our point about serving the consumer, not making the consumer serve you. Complain all you want, we’ll keep voting with our wallets until folks like you realize that you don’t have a monopoly anymore.

          • Drivers should have realized by now that not transparently offering credit card payment is not good business. It will cost them in tips, time and may even end rides as soon as they start. It shouldn’t matter what is required by a jurisdiction. Cab fares are arbitrary and hard to predict and the DC region stopped being a cash economy a long time ago.

      • The rider asked what the $5.25 surcharge was for, and instead of stating what Anon did above the driver flipped out. Is everyone that gets in a cab supposed to be knowledgeable of all the rules of that particular jurisdiction? Do YOU know exactly what surcharges are going to be applied when you get off a plane and into a cab in Athens, Bangkok, or Prague? Or do you just not question it even though the driver could be ripping you off?

      • OP here. I calmly asked about the rate and he put us in danger stopping on the side of the highway where there was no shoulder and proceeded to verbally berate us. Did you miss the part where a cop literally had to step in and stop his insanity? I had no issue with the fee if he explained it like a normal human being rather than flipping. He also had no license displayed or anything. It was shady and scary. I also found out I can report to the airport authority and he was in violation of about half of their 10 rules for his permit to service DCA.

  • Cabs suck. They know people don’t know the add-on fees and the drivers can screw you. We put 5 in a cab downtown and driver added $5. He was supposed to add only $4 because it was 4 extra people. They know that they can get away with it, but I called him out on it. He wasn’t happy. Know the rules.

  • I refuse to take DC cabs. Uber only.

  • I had a similar, and scary incident several years ago with a DC-Cabby. I was only 22 years old and my friends and I were heading out for the evening when we jumped in a cab who’s meter wasn’t running. After noticing this about two or three blocks down the street he said just to pay him $20 to get there, I thought this was ridiculous considering it usually took maybe $8-$10 to get there usually with traffic.

    After we clearly weren’t complying he locked all of the doors, whipped the car around the block and started frantically screaming at us, calling us names, etc. He had a pen in his hand, which freaked me out because at the time I wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it. All things considered, I braced myself for a battle which may end up in one of us getting seriously hurt. I yelled back and told him to take us right to the police station, my sister was on the phone with the police as well awaiting our arrival, he eventually took us to a police station (thank god) and once we got out he sped off! I got his taxi cab # just in case, but the police seemed to be pretty familiar with this sort of thing when she was taking our report. Made me feel very uneasy, and frankly I haven’t been in a cab ever since! I’m just thankful he actually took us to the police station and not to some back alley to finish us off, whew.

  • While I’ve had bad experiences with both DC taxis and Uber, I agree that Uber has much greater mechanisms for accountability. It’s easier to file a formal complaint when the driver’s full info is stored in your phone (and emailed to you!) Not too long ago I had a taxi driver from DCA to my house on Capitol Hill, and he was playing on his phone the entire time – even on the interstate. He was barely looking at the road – just playing some kind of game and messing with his apps. It was terrifying. He was also incredibly rude and didn’t even make an attempt to help me with my huge bag, and then drove away so fast that I couldn’t get his tags or taxi number. I still regret not confronting him and asking for his information before I got out of the cab. He’s a danger to everyone.

  • The Dude:
    Jesus, man, could you change the channel?

    Cab Driver:
    Fuck you man. If you don’t like my f***in’ music get your own f***in’ cab!

    The Dude:
    I had a rough…

    Cab Driver:
    I pull over and kick your ass out!

    The Dude:
    Come on, man. I had a rough night and I hate the f***in’ Eagles, man!

  • All of us cab drivers are not bad people. How about the Uber driver in Houston Texas that raped a woman. None of you seem to do research about the corporation, it is very corrupt.

    • I’m sorry others in your line of work have caused a lot of us to never set foot in a cab again.

    • Emmaleigh504

      +1 I have never had a bad experience with a cab here. I don’t take them often, but when I do the system works. My favorite cab story is from New Orleans, but reminds me there are good drivers every where. It was Mardi Gras weekend. I lost my friends, 7am-ish get a cab from the Quarter to my house that is not a good place to get a return passenger. I gave him a nice tip b/c it was a pleasant trip, he was nice, and it was Mardi Gras. The day after next, lost my friends, looking for a cab home, but they are all going off duty. Then an off duty cab stops. It’s the guy from a couple of days ago! He remembered me as being nice and pleasant and it was Mardi Gras! So he gave me a ride home even thought he was on his way home (not in the same direction). And he wasn’t creepy, he didn’t remember where I lived or anything. Good cabbies exist!

  • rule # 1. Take a picture of the cabbies ID card and cab number as soon as you get into the cab.

  • I used a DC cab at National yesterday afternoon. The credit card reader was covered with a ski hat, which was a new one on me! I have given up using credit cards in DC cabs — I’m so tired of arguing with them about using the reader. I use DC cabs only at the airport and use Uber everywhere else.

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