It’s an all-too-common story. It’s dark, and after having a few drinks with friends at the end of a long work week, you’re ready to go home. Except the cab won’t take you.
Trying to get back to Capitol Hill? Unlikely. Arlington? Forget about it.
Perhaps the recently passed DC taxicab modernization bill will help. Or perhaps this idea floated by Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh is the answer. But if not, there is always the power of the Internet.
“Not only is this not acceptable,” says Daniel Hornal, an attorney at Talos Law, of the cabs’ practice, “it is not legal.”
Hornal, who specializes in consumer protection, created a bit of a stir last month when he outlined a plan online to take on taxis that don’t follow the rules. Now he’s not alone.
Through the power of social media, Hornal and the folks over at Brink Creative Digital, creators of the website DC Cabs Suck, got together to educate the public about their rights as cab passengers in a tongue-in-cheek way.
The connection came about through the social news site Reddit on the website’s local DC “subreddit.” Hornal had previously posted a plan to bring consumer protection litigation against taxis that break laws such as refusing to take passengers because of their destination or forcing them to share a cab.
The response was immediate. The post is currently the 32nd most popular of all time in the subreddit, and many of the responses were people unloading their own horror stories, he says.
“Once we do that enough times I think things are going to start changing,” he says, though he points out even if he wins every case, “I’m still not going to make any money.”
When Brink’s members posted their site weeks later, other Reddit users suggested they talk with Hornal, says Joshua Belhumeur, Brink’s director of marking and head of the company’s DC office.
“We were looking for a way to flex our creative muscles,” says Belhumeur, “and I said, ‘Hey, lets do DCcabssuck.com.’”
It was only a half-serious suggestion, and at first it was only a half-serious website. But as it started to take shape, they could see it had potential.
“It had a bit of life to it, and [we thought] it could maybe do some good. So that’s when we reached out to Daniel—so it could have focus and a purpose,” says Belhumeur.
Their best advice for when you’re in a sticky cab situation? Pull out your cell phone and record.
“They will be much less likely to violate your rights,” says Hornal. “And then [the recording] can be used as evidence.”
Even though the response to the site as been “overwhelming,” says Belhumeur, they don’t have any plans to expand it. However that doesn’t mean their days of satire are over.
“I think we definitely hit a nerve with our type of humor, so the obvious next targets may be Pepco and Metro,” he says.