Arriving in Miami, Carol and Eugene Barrington believed they were getting a deserved break from the back luck they had experienced back home. Shockingly, that break began with a $961 Miami taxi ride from the airport.
Hurricane Harvey had recently caused serious damage to their home in Houston and then Hurricane Irma swept through Florida only days out form their planned cruise.
They thought they had finally had a stroke of good luck when their cruise wasn’t cancelled and couldn’t have known what was next.
Arriving at Miami airport they queued up for a taxi in the official queue before being directed into one that would take them to their hotel. Unfortunately for them, they paid no attention to the licence number or name of their taxi driver.
A 45 minute ride to their hotel saw them charged a huge US$21 (A$26) per kilometre for the trip as opposed to the standard rate of US$1.5 per kilometre (A$1.9).
Mrs Barrington didn’t know it at the time and upon checking her credit card following the vacation she realised that they had been charged an enormous sum for the taxi ride. A ride that should have cost them approximately US$70 ended up costing them a huge US$777.44 (A$961).
Whilst the extent to which they were overcharged is extreme, it is becoming increasingly popular for Miami taxi drivers to overcharge their passengers. Between Jan 1 2017 and the start of this year there have been 114 passenger complaints about taxi drivers overcharging them.
Many of the complaints are over small amounts between US$5 and US$20 but some have claimed to have been charged US$100 more than the trip should have cost.
In the Miami-Dade County there are 2,121 licenced taxis and almost twice as many drivers. According to the county, there are approximately 38 companies that provide yellow taxis indistinguishable to those of the licenced drivers.
Arriving at their location, the meter said that the fee to be paid was US$70 which Mrs Barrington thought was a little expensive, but not far from what she had expected.
The suspicions rose when there was no card reader in the back of the cab. Miami taxi law states that any cab servicing the airport must have a functional credit card processing unit provided by either Verifone or Creative Mobile Technologies. These units should list all of the makeup of the far separately including tolls, tips and fees.
Additionally, the driver is not supposed to touch the passenger’s card, but the Barrington’s couldn’t have known that. They said that the driver took the card and swiped it through an attachment on the driver’s cell phone.
Before leaving, they asked the driver for a receipt, another legal right, before the driver responded with “Oh, I don’t know how to do that” and drove off.
The device used by the driver is produced by Square Inc. ‘The Square’ allows its users to swipe anyone’s credit card for products and services via their phone. The use of this is illegal in Miami and can result in a US$210 fine.