City Desk

From Accusations of Kidnapping to Name-Calling, D.C. Cab Customers Are Hard to Please

Last year wasn't the best for the public image of D.C.'s cab industry. Its competitor, app-based car service Uber, increased its footprint while some cabs struggled to install credit-card readers, blew deadlines, and resisted other modernization requirements.

But what do customers think? Through the Freedom of Information Act, City Desk obtained every complaint lodged against cab drivers to the D.C. Taxicab Commission between September 2013 and January 2014. The request yielded hundreds of complaints from unhappy customers, the bulk of whom were upset about malfunctioning credit card readers, which are installed by third-party operators.

Here's a sampling of the complaints, some of which are representative of hundreds of others and some of which are not (but are nevertheless entertaining). Keep in mind that these complaints represent just one side of the story; the drivers involved would almost certainly have different versions to tell.

How drunk were you, sir?

A cab driver allegedly drove a drunk passenger, who wanted to go from Dupont Circle to Georgia Avenue and Van Buren Street NW, for three hours, taking him all over D.C. and to various ATMs so that he could take out cash. “He told me it was necessary that I take out money from the ATM even though I already had cash, being slightly intoxicated I took his word and when he pulled over to multiple ATM machines, he went over while I was in the middle of processing to take money out and attempted to take out money that I knew wasn’t even available in those accounts,” the complaint reads. At one point, the cab driver even tried to get the customer to pay for gas, the complaint says. He took the customer to the police station to claim that he had no money for the fare, and the cop assessed the situation and told the customer that he had “technically been kidnapped” and told him to leave without paying the fare. The customer is still missing $68 and his iPhone.

My cab driver posed as Uber driver, but wasn't a very good Uber driver.

A cab driver claiming to be sent by Uber’s cab service picked up a customer. But it seems the driver didn’t fully understand how Uber worked. When they arrived at the destination and the customer tried to explain that he had already paid him through his credit card that was connected to his Uber app, the driver unbuckled his seatbelt and allegedly gestured in a “threatening manner” close to the passenger’s face. The driver continued to threaten and yell at the passenger, even as he was paying.

It appears this credit machine is actually working.

A rider paid his $15.82 fare by credit card, but the driver said the credit card machine wasn’t working. The rider, according to the complaint, then paid in cash and says the $15.82 was still charged to his credit card.

Cab driver to woman: “All rich liberals are the same.”

A woman who was trying to back her car into her driveway on New Hampshire Avenue NW called out in an “exasperated voice” to a cab driver who was trying to get by, so that she could finish parking. The cab driver then reportedly pulled up to the vehicle and told the other driver that he would beat the shit out of her, and even beat her to death. He then called her the n-word, “even though I'm white and he's black” and shouted that “all rich liberals are the same.” All the while, according to the driver’s complaint, the cab driver had a “seemingly large wad of money in his hands, flicking it as if he were a bank teller counting money.

"He is a psychopath."

A man alleges that his driver refused to take him to the west end of Dupont, and when he told the driver that he wouldn’t to be taken advantage of and tried to leave, things turned violent. The driver allegedly grabbed the customer’s face, hit him in the face, and snapped his glasses in half. “He is a psychopath,” the customer wrote in his complaint.

Raphaella Baek and Quinn Kelley contributed to this report.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • dani

    Uber is good but it is so expensive in this economy . all dc taxis now accept credit card this article talking about past history .i used uberx many times. now i switched to taxis and saved a lot of money and time. uberx driver don't have since of direction and driving experience.

  • dcjpad

    "he wouldn’t to be taken advantage of" -- what?

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  • Dani, what?

    @dani, check your numbers again. UberX is 18% cheaper than taxicabs.

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  • mar

    some one should check into the law they torture, kidnap, force drugs, commit assult, and should be punished like a normal citizen. they are taking others people life's, there money and time into there own hands and is it hurting before helping. good luck.