So, I had my day in court today that everyone is entitled to. I just realized that I had not blogged about my original grievance - so we'll go into that first.
It was a cold November night around Thanksgiving. I was out at Standings, a sports bar in the East Village. As I recall, it was raining or something, so I wanted to walk the minimal amount necessary to get home at a reasonable price (meaning I wasn't so intoxicated or the weather wasn't so bad that I was willing to pay a taxi to take me all the way to Jersey City - my apartment is a mere 2-3 minutes outside of the Holland Tunnel, but going through that tunnel jacks the price of a cab ride up from like $10 to $40). So I wanted the driver to take me to the World Trade Center PATH station. I noticed upon getting into the cab that it was equipped with the new passenger enhancements. If a taxicab is so equipped, they are required to allow you to use a credit/debit card in order to pay the fare. At the end of the trip, there's a little monitor in the back of the cab that asks if you want to pay by cash or credit. When I selected credit, swiped my card, and was in the process of the transaction, the monitor went dark. The driver then claimed that it was "too late" to process the card. I happened to have enough cash to pay the fare, and everything was fine.
I took a note of the medallion, and immediately after getting out of the cab I called 311 to report the incident. Within a few days, I received a confirmation that they had received my complaint and asked if I would be willing to attend a hearing on the matter. Responded (online) that I was able to attend a hearing, stated a time preference. etc. A month or so later, I received notice that the hearing had been scheduled for today. Took the day off work (kinda needed a day off anyways), and went down to the taxi court.
Got to the building, showed photo ID at the lobby, and went up to the eighth floor. Several people were waiting in the waiting area, explained to the lady behind the desk that I was there for a hearing. She asked if I had the letter (which I of course had forgotten), asked me name, noted that I was on time, and directed me to a waiting room where nobody else was - the complainants area. Then the bailiff came, asked if I had a cell phone, and asked me to set it to vibrate, and then escorted me to the "courtroom", which was nothing more than an office with a desk, some chairs for the parties, and a few chairs for whomever else might be interested (the hearings are open to the public). The driver (who was represented by counsel) came in a minute after I did. It started with a brief recount of the charges against the driver, and after I gave a brief statement, the judge asked if I would be amenable to withdrawing my complaint if the driver gave me the fare that was charged back, since there is the possibility that this was an honest mistake. I stated that would be acceptable, and the driver's attorney turned to him and told him that if he gave me $10, this whole thing would be over. He refused, a position that I think was baffling to everyone in the room - for the low price of $10, you escape any sort of hearing - don't ask me what was going through his mind.
After stipulating that there was no challenge to my identity, in other words, that I was in fact in the cab in question at the time that I was alleged to be there, I gave a full statement, with the judge asking several clarifying questions. the driver was allowed to present his case.
The attorney for the driver was actually quite effective, and he wound up convincing me to withdraw my complaint (which is probably in the interest of all parties). The reason for this was that I had no hard evidence to support my claim, and I conceded that this really could have been an honest mistake.
So in the end this never happened. However, I think that I won (and I'm sure the other side thinks the same). The reason that I won is that I taught this driver some tough and valuable lessons - passengers are not afraid to make complaints to the TLC and show up for the hearings, and put them out of work for however much time it takes them to prepare for and attend the hearings, as well as to hire an attorney to represent them. The driver promised to be more careful in the future.
The judge thanked me for my time, noting that I did the right thing to file a complaint, and show up for the hearing, pretty much affirming what I already knew - that this is a top priority of the commission, and that there are also undercover efforts going on to assist in enforcement of these regulations.
What did I learn from this? Next time that I wish to make a complaint against a driver, I will have hard supporting evidence to back it up - be it video from a cell phone, etc. And I should have attended some hearings prior to today to get a feeling for what it was like first.