I learned that awful truth firsthand, while at the mercilessness of the D.C. Taxicab Commission.
This sad tale began a couple months ago on a Friday night in downtown Washington. I hopped into a cab and asked to be taken to my home on 16th Street, a couple blocks across the D.C. line in Silver Spring.
That's when the driver told me no. Confused, I asked him what he meant. He replied that my destination was too far. I countered that it was 15 minutes away.
"I don't care," he said. "I'm tired. Get out."
I helpfully pointed out that D.C. cabs aren't allowed to refuse to take passengers to their destinations -- and that I would report him to the Taxicab Commission. But my cabbie friend responded by bellowing, "FINE! GET OUT!"
Flabbergasted, I said I would oblige if he would be so kind to give me his cab number so that I could file a formal complaint. After all, there wasn't any type of identification visible. That's when he told me it was on the outside of the cab and yelled at me to get out.
So I did. The driver was in such a hurry that he started to tear away while the passenger door was still open. He had to get out of the car, close the door, and then speed away again. That gave me just enough time to jot down the license plate number.
Then I wrote an e-mail to the commission that began like this:
I am writing to file a formal complaint with the District of Columbia Taxicab Commission about a driver who:
a) refused to take me to my destination (a violation of 819.4, District of Columbia Municipal Regulations)
b) did not have any visible identification posted within the cab (a violation of 814.1, 814.3 and 814.5)
c) did not identify himself when asked (a violation of 814.2), and
d) attempted to drive away before I had even closed the passenger door (a violation of 822.9).
The wheels of justice began turning a few weeks later, with a phone call from the D.C. Taxicab Commission. It was an investigator who had tracked down the cab driver and had my foe sitting right in front of him. Thus began a hearing into the matter -- all conducted via telephone. I told my story. Then it was the cab driver's turn.
He acknowledged picking me up, but then our accounts differed. The driver said I got in the cab, and he told me he was out of service. He said I got out, and that's all that happened. Everything else, he said, was a lie.
Riiiiight. Like I spent hours looking up cab regulations -- and writing a long letter to complain -- just to have a good time.
I must admit, I was pretty confident when the call ended. After all, how could I lose? The investigators had actually tracked the driver down! I was armed with documentation and reason. All he had in his favor was a denial.
Imagine my surprise when I received this e-mail a couple of weeks later:
"Thank you for contacting the DC Taxicab Commission. ... An investigation has been conducted and a decision has been reached by our office that the driver Tags H----- did not refuse to haul you. This complaint is considered closed. ... Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention."
So, dear readers, I have learned an important lesson.
You have rights as a D.C. taxicab customer. In fact, you have many rights you probably didn't know about. (Check it out here. It's good reading, particularly this part.) For instance, a cab driver can't refuse to give you a ride just because you're in a group.
However, be forewarned: Knowledge is power, but it's no match for the evil taxi forces at play.