I arrived at O’Hare late Thursday night and needed a taxi home. So did lots of other people, but I imagine that’s usual. I called 303 Cabs and was told they were busy so it would be a 15-20 minute wait. After 10 minutes I went outside, but it was frigid so I went in. There’s a huge wind so it’s possible to easily see the cabs and their numbers. Mine was the easy to remember #1.
Now some cabs were waiting and waiting for their riders. A couple cabs had to wait at least 15 minutes. How I wanted to hop in one of these eluring cabs.
I waited and waited for mine. After *gasp* over an hour, I called 303 Cabs again. They offered a weak apology and said that I missed the cab. Poppycock. My eyes were peeled. Also, I reckoned by others behavior that no one got a cab in 15-20 minutes. 30 or 40 was more like it.
I also I need to tell visitors to Chicago that we have a rather confusing means of getting a taxi. There is no queue or booth with personnel assisting travelers as other countries have. Each time I’m at the airport in arrivals I see and help people who’re trying to wave a taxi down. They don’t understand why none stop. I don’t fault them as it isn’t obvious what the procedure is.
It’s because in Chicago you must go to one of the information phones and use the touch screen to call a cab. Follow the operator’s directions and with luck you’ll get a cab.
Now I’ve learned that the estimated times need some translation. Fifteen – twenty minutes in taxi-ese means over an hour. They won’t tell you “over an hour” because you’ll call another company. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to call a back up cab if you’re told to wait for 15 minutes.
Chicago is a town where being shrewd is the name of the game. Don’t feel bad. I’m surprised our motto isn’t “There’s a sucker born every minute.” So call two cabs and cancel the one that doesn’t make it there first. It’s just capitalism, which isn’t always pretty.
It took me two hours to get a cab and drive home, about the same amount of time it took to fly from Boston to Chicago. When I got in the second cab, I saw Cab #1 pull up.
Today I learned that my complaint against the black taxis, who refused to give my friends and I a ride using their meters, has resulted in some success. A Chinese friend helped me file official complaints a few weeks ago. I’ve just learned that one of the drivers was fired on May 3rd and another was fined.
So although as a foreigner who often feels that the system is beyond her and that some people are just bad, there’s no reason to despair. Sometimes justice is served. Perhaps in a small way I’ve helped taxi users in Beijing.
I urge anyone who’s having such problems to take a photo of the offending cab’s license plate and driver. Then report the matter to the police as Ling did or to the cab company.
There’s a lot to like about Beijing, but their taxi drivers aren’t among them. Now I grant you I’ve had a few nice taxi drivers in my trips to Beijing, but I’ve also had horrid ones. The new trick is that a taxi will stop when you flag it down, but will keep his door shut not letting you get in until he’s found out where you’re going and decided if you’ll allow him to not use his meter so that he can Shanghai you (“Beijing you” should be the new term.) After a long day waiting an hour in an unnecessarily disorganized ticket line and then walking through the magnificent Forbidden City, my companions who were over 65 (one of whom had the extra weight of a cast on her arm) needed a cab back to the hotel.
We didn’t want to go on a crowded bus so we walked to the corner past the Forbidden City and tried to get a cab. The few that stopped asked us where we were going. None, until the last one, would let us in the cab. We weren’t that far away so we weren’t desirable rides. If we’d gotten a cab at our starting point, it’d been about 25 yuan more or less.
After each rejection, I took a photo of the license plate of the offending cabbie. I’m ready to write my complaint letter. I just need to know where to send it.
On our last attempt we were able to get into the cab. I naively thought that would give us the edge we needed. Take us here with the meter. The jerk never gave in. We sat and sat. He had no cab identification whatsoever. I did take his photo for what that’s worth.
There were Chinese people who were trying to get cabs and after a conversation, outside the cab, were left on the curb. So it’s not just foreigners who’re seen as marks.
We wound up walking a while then stopping, flagging a cab and trying to convince the driver to use the meter as he’s supposed to. They all wanted over $12 for a ride that should cost $3. None of us were so tired that we were willing to be cheated on that scale. In the end we found ourselves at The Grand Hotel. We stopped for a drink and then the bell boy got us a cab. The fare was 14 yuan. A big difference. The moral of the story is use public transportation and get a hotel near the sights.