So I Was Held Hostage By Yellow Cab

This isn’t a work of fiction.  This isn’t a lie.  This isn’t a stretch of the truth.  This is, in fact, a 100% completely true story of how the Pittsburgh Yellow Cab Company essentially held me hostage for roughly 30 minutes.

Let’s start with the definition of “hostage,” just to make sure we are all on the same page.  Webster defines a hostage as:

  • a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge pending the fulfillment of an agreement
  • person taken by force to secure the taker’s demands

My trip into Pittsburgh was going amazingly well.  The flight from Chicago took off on time, arrives 15 minutes early, there was a cab waiting, no line for the cab and we made it into Pittsburgh quickly.  I was just praising the gods for all this great fortune, when things took an abrupt turn toward crazy town.

The cab driver stopped at the MARC USA Pittsburgh office and read me the fare; $34.00 and change.  I pulled out my Discover Card (it’s my card of choice and I’ve used it for every cab ride I’ve ever taken from and to the Pittsburgh airport) and handed it to the driver.  The driver snapped his head back at me, pursed his lips and in a clearly irritated tone said to me, “I don’t take Discover, only Visa or Mastercard.”  I mumbled under my breath, that this was ridiculous and the said to him, “well, that’s the only card I have.”  This was technically a lie.  I had my Visa CheckCard that’s tied to my banking account; however I never use that card for cab rides.  In the past I’ve witnessed and heard of stories where a vendor/service will run up charges once they have your CheckCard info.  I should also mention that the Yellow Cab website clearly indicates that they do in fact take Discover Card.  But, I digress…back to the story.

The driver snapped back to me and said, “Bullshit, I want my money now.  You’re not going to rip me off.”  Woah, this totally caught me off guard.  I was completely confused.  At this point, I said, “Well, there’s an ATM over there (roughly 15 feet away), I’ll go there and get you your money.”  That seems fair, right?  Well, not to this guy.  No sooner had I put my hand on the door handle to exit the cab, the cab driver locked the doors and yelled to me, “no, no, no, I’m not going to fall for this trick.”  Huh?  So I was literally locked inside the cab and couldn’t get out.  Perplexed, I tweeted, “I’m locked in a cab. My cab driver wont let me out because I gave him Discover Card.”  While tweeting, the driver told me that he’d be calling the cops.  I was getting more confused by the moment.  I once again reiterated my request that he let me out so that I could get his money from the ATM.  But, he ignored my commentary and proceeded with dialing 911.

Well, I guess not to be outdone, I tried calling the Yellow Cab customer service line from my cell phone 3 times.  However, each time, my call automatically was sent to voice mail.  There was no one, not one single person, actually manning the customer complaint/service line.  Well, so much for customer service.  15 minutes went by and I realized he had not turned the meeter off.  I pointed this out and was then cursed at and told that it was not my place to tell him how to use his cab.  WTF, right?  Ok, it gets better.  I then said to him, “look, just let me get out so I can get your money and we can then both put this behind us.”  At this point, the driver of Yellow Cab 159 went further into crazy town.  He, said that he was going to sue me for lost wages, because I was the one causing this situation.  Huh?  No, seriously, huh?

I continued to ask to be let out of the car and finally he agreed.  Great, I thought, I grabbed my bag and attempted to leave the cab.  I should point out, the cab was a mini-van with sliding doors on each side.  I attempted to exit from behind the driver’s side.  The driver then demanded I leave my bag with him.  Ummm, no.  The bag had an iPad, Mcbook Pro, a few expense checks and some other personal items.  I declined and that’s when he grabbed me and tried to pull the bag off of my shoulder.  I then slid back into the car and exited out of the door behind the passenger’s seat.  I made my way to the ATM, grabbed $40.00 in cash, brought it back over and asked for a receipt.  He refused to provide a receipt unless I gave him the money.  Again, strange, but at this point, nothing was phasing me.

This is when it got even stranger…the cops showed up.  Yes, I said cops.  See, he had apparently called 911 twice.  The first officer on the scene was alone.  He was quite helpful and very cordial. I wish I had taken down his info, because he deserves a medal.  He asked me what happened, I explained the situation and he apologized.  He then went over the cab driver, got his story, came back and agreed to procure the receipt from the cab driver in exchange for the money.  Not a problem.  I gave the officer $1.25 (I’d already given the cab driver the $40.00 from the ATM).  The officer provided the cab driver the $1.25, got me my receipt and again apologized.  This is when a police van showed up with 2 or 3 (I can’t recall) additional officers.  They were a bit late to the party :)

The officer advised me to call the cab company, talk to a supervisor and explain the situation.  I called again and again was dropped right into voicemail.  I’m sending a link to this post to the cab company and will let you know what happens.  Talk about a crazy Friday; and it wasn’t even Friday the 13th.

  • jkgala99

    Wow. Your cab tweet was WAY better than mine the other day. You should have called me. I would have gotten Carson and Ross and we could have roughed that guy up . . . or you could have used my Mastercard . . . either way.

  • Bfinkelstein

    Dude, you shoulda filed charges against the cabbie for assault and false imprisonment.

  • Anonymous

    You can still probably still file criminal charges against the cab driver. You should also explore suing both the driver and the cab company for false imprisonment and assault (from when he grabbed you). The driver is liable for actually doing it, and the cab company is potentially liable under the theory of respondiat superior-the notion that employers are liable for actions employees do under the course of employment.

    Note-I can’t give you legal advice, I’m not licensed in Pennsylvania, every state’s laws are different and I have no idea what the laws are in PA, my only suggestion is to speak to a PA lawyer about your options if you wish to pursue this.

  • Anonymous

    You can still probably still file criminal charges against the cab driver. You should also explore suing both the driver and the cab company for false imprisonment and assault (from when he grabbed you). The driver is liable for actually doing it, and the cab company is potentially liable under the theory of respondiat superior-the notion that employers are liable for actions employees do under the course of employment.

    Note-I can’t give you legal advice, I’m not licensed in Pennsylvania, every state’s laws are different and I have no idea what the laws are in PA, my only suggestion is to speak to a PA lawyer about your options if you wish to pursue this.

  • Tom

    “So I was literally locked inside the cab and couldn’t get out. Perplexed, I tweeted”

    Sigh.

  • B316943

    definitely file criminal charges against the cab company and cabbie. They need to learn a hard lesson with this.

  • Pzm108

    File a complaint with the State’s public utility commission. Also contact your the local state congressman. Any contact from the PUC will get a fire started towards action,

  • BM

    You can file a formal or informal complaint here:

    http://www.puc.state.pa.us/general/filecomplaints.aspx

    The PA PUC takes complaints seriously in my experience. They even followed up when I called them at 2:00 AM drunk because a cabbie kicked me out because my destination was too far for him.

  • Alex

    sounds like you were looking for trouble on purpose. just use your goddamn check card and stop fighting with people that make little more than minimum wage. was it really worth your time?

  • gary

    i agree with Alex, except that you should get a visa or mastercard credit card. i don’t demand stores accept my AMEX even when they post that they do accept it. wake up. live in the real world. realize things don’t always work exactly as you’d wish they did. prepare accordingly.

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com adamkmiec

    Thanks! I did earlier. Already got a response back. Appreciate the tip.

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com adamkmiec

    Alex (assuming that’s your real name…since you’re using a fake email address) – thanks for your troll-like comment.

  • Anon

    Wow… Simply wow.. I just found your blog via consumerist and just wanted to add I live in the Pittsburgh Area and have had nothing but problems with the Yellow Cab company. I have a drive that works for Classy Cab that I call for by name when I get to my office in the morning I will update his info.

  • Ev

    If it means I protect my bank account from being potentially raided then yes, it is.

  • Nicole

    I totally agree with what you did here, there would be no way in hell I would 1) give a cabbie my debit card, and 2) no way I’d leave thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the cab with that lunatic. I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with the Pittsburgh Cab Co. On the flip side however, we went to Boston this spring to catch a Sox game, and had the best cabbie EVER on the way to the airport to fly home. At 5:30 AM to boot! So I’m not sure what it is about Pittsburgh, but get your heads out of your you-know-wheres, cabbies!

  • http://deannaferrari.com Deanna

    Next time, take a jitney. ;)

    No, really, Yellow Cab makes me want to stab myself sometimes. They are soooo unaccommodating and I once got stranded at the Waterfront because of them and was forced to pay for a HOTEL because we were stuck without a ride. WTF. They had nothing for me as I called them at 3 a.m. complaining.

    Classy, on the other hand, is awesome. They’re even green.

    However, there are many instances when you call for a cab in Pgh and have to wait an hour, no matter who you call. Really? Even in Baltimore, which is fairly comparable to Pittsburgh in terms of size, you can hail a cab just fine – no need to call for one. Pittsburgh has the worst transportation on a day-to-day basis. I love this city but something’s gotta give.

    P.S. I am writing down this cab #.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LNN7F75JGEGDZZYRX5KYKWXQ7Y FirstName

    You should also contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about this cab company, and specifically about the cab driver. Even though they have no legal powers they can be effective. My girlfriend had a problem with a local pharmacy. I complained to the BBB about the pharmacy. They must have gotten their asses chewed out, because they kiss her ass like you wouldn’t believe now.

  • Fu

    Why didnt you just pay the guy in a method he accepts, you fuck?

  • Pat

    “Why didnt you just pay the guy in a method he accepts, you fuck?”

    Because… wait for it… he does accept Discoverer Card!

    Why can’t you troll this nice man without cussing twice? ;)

  • Laughable

    No one accepts Discover. Seriously, get a real credit card.

  • Stmighty427

    wow…..what a story. lesson here is never take a cab alone. good luck.

  • Barney108

    Really? Their fucking website said they take Discover, so that cunt-rag cab driver should have just taken the card and stopped fighting with people just because he makes minimum wage. Is it really worth the bad press and the potential for lost sales that comes with it, or the possible criminal charges?

    You’re a fucking mouth-breathing troll. Get a fucking life.

  • Barney108

    Are you mentally retarded? I ask, because Adam says that cab services’ own website says that they take Discover. I just figure that you’ve gotta have a mental deficiency in order to have read that and then still say what you said.

    See, it’s not about what method of payment that particular cabby accepts, it’s about what the company he works for accepts. They do in fact accept Discover, so whether he likes it or not, he’s required to accept that payment. If he doesn’t want to comply, then he’s free to fuck off and get another job. Maybe you can get him one working with you at McDonald’s. I’d keep him off the register though, and I wouldn’t let him work the drive-thru window either. The dude seems like a loose cannon.

  • MH

    If you fly into Pittsburgh and need to go to downtown or Oakland, take the bus. It is the 28x. Follow the signs for surface transportation and then you’ll see the place to wait. It is cheap ($3 or so) and often faster than a cab. It does make stops, but part of the trip is on a dedicated busway, so no traffic.

  • Rich

    Like a lot of other people, I was linked here through The Consumerist. I’m amazed that you were so calm and collected when dealing with a lunatic who was holding you against your will. Now, I don’t know the particulars of how often you ride in cabs, but I am wondering why your first inclination was to ‘Tweet’ that you were being held against your will? Also, I’m wondering why you paid him more than the original $34. And lastly, I’m wondering about something else: if you knew that he was using his cell phone to call 911, why would you continue to call the cab company customer service line and not 911 yourself? If you were going to call the cab company, why weren’t you trying to call their 24 hour dispatch number instead of their ‘customer service’ number?

  • Froenx

    soo… punching the cabbie in the face after he obviously instigated an assault against your property was out of the question?

    what about kicking the glass out of the window to escape after being obviously held against your will?

    I’m sorry but the officers really should have arrested him for this.

  • Brad

    Next time, just don’t be a douche playing on your cell phone while lying about not having a way to pay the guy who’s services you already used. If you did not have money, you really should have asked before he drove you somewhere if he would accept your form of alternate payment. When he explained that he did not, in fact, have the ability to take your card, you should have given him the one he would take. Instead you started ‘tweeting’ — generally it is considered rude to use a telephone when talking with someone. I don’t blame him for reacting the way he did. You already received his service, lied about not having a card he would accept, and started playing with your telephone when the situation started to escalate. Next time you fond yourself in such a situation try not lying, out away your toys, and work out something with the man who you owe the money to.

  • http://twitter.com/ericfranchi ericfranchi

    Dude, how the heck did I miss this tweet/story???

  • Lani

    Really? Baltimore has the worst cab companies EVER

  • Historymaven

    I worked for Yellow Cab for about 4 months as a call taker. Not many people know that their cab drivers are independent contractors and are not actually employees of the company. So your liability case would not apply to them.

  • joe

    I could waste my time explaining the following comment but let’s just say that in this case we are dealing with TWO MORONS ! THE DRIVER AND THE PASSENGER

  • SKR

    I faced lot of bad experiences with this cab providers…I booked a cab from a restaurant to my home at 10PM..I waited till 12.30AM next day morning (btw i am keep calling the yellow cab customer care) and no one turned up..Till 12.30AM they keep telling me the CAB is on its way and will be there any minute…But to my surprise at 12.30AM they told me that they don’t have any cabs near by and can’t send one at that time..The Restaurant owner lives near my house and we know each other..He dropped me on the way to his home otherwise i might have end up on the streets as my mobile battery is down and i can’t make any more calls…. 

  • Yrmorrison

    I was in Pittsburgh for business on October 11-12, 2011.  I requested a cab to take me from my hotel in Homestead to Allegheny General Hospital.  It took 1 and 1/2 hours for the driver to arrive… I called numerous times and was told he was in the area.  Then, at 4:10pm a representative of Allegheny General Hospital called Yellow Cab to pick me up to take me back to my hotel.  We called every 15 minutes for 3 hours.  After waiting for 3 hours for a taxi, I called and was told that they realized that my “ticket” was assigned to a taxi driver that was not working that day.  Really!  I waited 3 hours 15 minutes for a Yellow Taxi….  I finally made it back to my hotel around 8pm.  I left a message to the Yellow Cab company manager, who returned my call a few days later…. he told me he couldn’t believe my story because they have a 97% success rate for picking up passengers on time.  HA!  Next time in Pittsburgh- I suggest arranging a rental car.  

  • Guest

     happened to me too

  • Guest

    A similar story happened to me as well. I was at my house and handed the cardinal cab driver a discover card. He then said its declined. He would not let me get off the car in my house so I can give him an alternate payment. He would not let me out with my purse. He demanded I leave my purse with him. I did not get into a big argument with him as I just had a car accident and was hurting from it already hence the cab. So, against my wish I had to give him my bank card, which he took 30 min to process while I sat in the car. hopefully i wont get screwed on this one with false charges.

    So, did you leave your bag with him while you went to the ATM?

  • Dave

    I hate people like you !

  • Chenquantai

    I am a can driver and I have met your type before.you thought you were going to cheat the cab driver. don’t get me wrong I hate foreigners and most cab drivers. but you thought you were going to get a free ride discover sucks and no 1 uses it. you probably got over once before with another driver. don’t try to cheat cab drivers. you could wind up in a ditch. cheat the big corporations. not the little guy. I hate all foreigners in think they should leave this country. so don’t think that I’m sticking up for them

  • Abaldbrotha

    This just happened to me last night in NYC. I am not going to allow some crumb snatcher from Bangladesh to lock me in his cab and get away with it. I am going after both NYPD for not doing thier job and the cabbie for “false imprisonment.” See, the cops only came because they thought I was robbing him. I am a black man and the NYPD always looking to arrest a black male. When I showed them $4000 cash in my pocket I just took out the bank from my graduate student loan, they backed off. When I asked them to take a report for me to file charges they refused too. Again, that’s good old NYPD if your black. It’s ok, I am going after the cabbie all the way. And these lazy ass NYPD officers that refused to  help me wil answer to Internal Affairs, The Chief of the Department and CCRB.

  • WestcoastBanker

    Exact same thing happened to my friend and me this past weekend in NYC. Although we were not black, NYPD did nothing. We’re both upstanding citizens working in finance and the cab driver took us the wrong end of town. We were not about to pay when this guy took us to the wrong place. Especially since we would need to grab yet another cab to go to the original place (at 2x the fare). He locked us in and drove to an NYPD car. Perfect, I thought. I get to explain my side of the story to the nice police men of New York. Not exactly. The police sided with the cab driver saying we should have known he was going to the wrong address (we were visiting new york for the first time) and yelled at us to pay. They actually yelled at US and kept saying they have better things to do than deal with us. We’re completely shocked…. It’s amazing how incredibly useless NYPD can be, it’s really a crap shoot. We refused and called the 911 and demanded to speak with the chief of police. He actually came out to us and explained that we still need to pay. Left without a choice we paid and hailed another cab. I still cannot believe this happened to me in Midtown Manhattan of all places. 

  • Antispam412

    See, what you people don’t understand (and clearly don’t care to, as evidenced by your “well the website says they take credit cards so take them or find another job at McDonalds” comment) is that cab drivers lose HALF THE MONEY of whatever you charge on a card. SURE, the cab COMPANY, who loses no money, and in fact makes an EXTRA 4% SURCHARGE in addition, wants to advertise they take credit cards. Its not like THEY’RE the ones losing half the money. The DRIVER is.

    How would YOU like HALF of your paycheck this Friday????

    If you pay me $50 in cash, I get to earn $50. If you pay me $50 on your credit card, I get paid $48. Then, at the end of the year, all my credit card transactions are reported to the IRS. Being an independent contractor, with no benefits or minimum wage by the way, I have to file as a self-employee. I am then taxed on all my credit card transactions, at the standard self-employment rate of 46.5%. That means, I make just over $25 on your $50 ride. Essentially, I paid for half of your ride. Oh and your gas, too. SO I make $20. Or $50. All based on whether or not you want to be a dick and value your convenience over a working stiff making a living.

    You should really get a clue what its like to be working poor before you start bitching. And pay cab drivers in CASH. CASH CASH CASH HellllllOOOOOOOOOOOOO 

  • Jamegilly

    Very nice Cabs Jersey

  • Mark

    Maybe they should work in their own counties instead of stealing jobs from Americans who have a right to be here

  • Magic Water

    I’ve had a cab driver do THIS EXACT THING to me. Except I had a taxi voucher from my school to get to the dorms I lived at 4 miles away. The meter usually is around 10$ and the voucher covers up to 13.50$. The cab driver held me hostage and said that he didn’t take vouchers when Yellow cab is supposed to because of the contract my college holds with the Yellow cab company. He demanded I pay out of pocket. I had 1 additional passenger too. He let us in the cab, argued for 5 minutes running the meter up to 5$, then drove us to our destination when we didn’t want to ride with him and he wouldn’t let us call another cab unless we contacted his manager which went strait to voice mail. Then held us hostage demanding that the meter 18.98$ be paid in DOUBLE and pay 5$ for the additional 1 passenger when the voucher says “Add +1$ Per additional passenger only. No additional charges except passenger can be added”. Yellow cab works like this (You pay the meter plus 1 dollar per additional passenger) Even if I paid with my visa card which is all I had he wouldn’t accept this. He wanted 5$ plus the meter for the passenger and the meter for myself + 1 dollar for ME.

  • heff heff

    You sound like a pussy. I thought this was written by a female until I looked at the author’s name.

    The cab driver was an aggressive asshole, but if he doesn’t want to pay the higher merchant fees associated with AmEx and Discover, that’s his business. You should have just paid with your Visa; You didn’t have to be such a pain-in-the-ass-woman about it.

    Nut up next time, son.

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Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

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