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Limo Driver-Did we Get Ripped Off?

We just returned from a nice trip on the Best of London package, no complaints at all about the tour, we;d do it again. Our departure left us with a bad taste, We arranged for a trip out to Heathrow the day before our flight We stayed at a hotel out there to catch an early flight and I felt this would be more convenient. I talked to the hotel concierge who told us he could set this up with a driver they use for around 65 Pounds or so. He also assured us the driver would take our Visa card, we were running low on money by then. I also asked the driver when we got in if he'd accept our card and he said sure.

Of course when we pulled up to the hotel he demanded cash. We went round and round and he was saying he'd have to 'call someone' After a few minutes he asked how much money we had, we had just 50 pounds he then asked if we had US dollars and demanded those, he wound up cleaning out 40 Dollars in addition to the Sterling currency. He even asked if we had any pocket change. When leaving he was grumbling about not getting a 'tip'. We feel we got robbed.

I will of course report this to the tour company. Has anyone else ever run into something like this?

Posted by
6587 posts

Yesterday we a used a driver in a Mercedes van from Sofitel hotel at Terminal 5 to go Terminal 3, 15-20 minutes, fare was 17.50£. The hotel arranged the ride for us as I was sick and not up to using the free lower level Heathrow Express train that circles the terminals before heading to London. You need to buy a ticket to go into the city. Yes, you were ripped off terribly. So sorry.

Posted by
4364 posts

Yesterday we a used a driver in a Mercedes van from Sofitel hotel at Terminal 5 to go Terminal 3, 15-20 minutes, fare was 17.50£. The hotel arranged the ride for us as I was sick and not up to using the free lower level Heathrow Express train that circles the terminals before heading to London. You need to buy a ticket to go into the city. Yes, you were ripped off terribly. So sorry.

That's the going rate for taxi's arranged by the Sofitel. A standard taxi arranged by yourself would be the same or slightly cheaper. An Uber at the time I was leaving quoted £13 but there was a wait of around 10 minutes (of course the fare fluctuates with Uber). The driver of the taxi tried to charge me £21.50 because the hotel had booked a larger vehicle, I told him that wasn't my problem, he called his boss, I spoke to his boss and I paid £17.50.

Taxi fares around the airports are a rip off but it's like a cartel so you there is no choice if you're set on taking a taxi. For me, it was what I was comfortable paying as opposed to faffing about with trains or buses.

Posted by
18869 posts

I think the OP was traveling from London to an airport hotel, not from an airport hotel to Heathrow.

Yes, £50 + $40 is quite a bit more than £65. It's not uncommon for someone to give you a really bad exchange rate when you are not using local currency. You paid about £81 for that cab ride. But to me, the issue is not the (expected) bad conversion rate; it's the fact that you were told you could use a credit card, then the driver reneged. It was indeed a rip-off.

I think you should complain in writing to the hotel manager.

Posted by
707 posts

Yes, you overpaid, but don’t let this experience ruin your trip. Something like this has probably happened to all of us. It has to me, most recently in New York. Next time we’ll arrange our own transportation to the airport, instead of relying on the bellman’s promise of “no surprises” (needless to say, there were surprises). You’ll be more on your toes next trip.

Posted by
128 posts

I'm not quite sure of your pick-up point. Did the driver pick you up in London to go to a Heathrow hotel ?
The responses so far are from Heathrow hotels to Heathrow terminals.
If your ride was from London you may not have been ripped off.
I would also report this to the hotel that set it up for you. They may be able to get a refund from the company.

Edit: was posting at same time as Acraven regarding destination.

Posted by
8235 posts

I agree with acraven about notifying the hotel about the service NOT taking your CC. I'd mention that you had ended a Rick Steves tour and had assistance from the concierge for this service.

I'm surprised your Best of London guide didn't help organizing onward transport.

Posted by
4364 posts

I'd mention that you had ended a Rick Steves tour and had assistance from the concierge for this service.

I don't see the relevance of mentioning being on a Rick Steve's tour. The way I read the OP's initial post was that the hotel was booked by themselves separate from anything arranged for the tour and therefore the hotel no doubt couldn't care less about Rick Steves. I would however complain about the taxi and that it was arranged via the concierge. If a hotel concierge can't arrange for a reputable taxi service then that leaves a bad impression on the hotel and one which is easily rectified.

Posted by
8235 posts

I read it that they left from the RS tour hotel and traveled to the Heathrow hotel so the concierge at the tour hotel helped them with arrangements. For this reason I thought it pertinent for the OP to mention they were staying at the London hotel on a RS tour. I feel a tour group sometimes carries more weight than an individual especially as the tours tend to book the same hotel for a number of times during a season.

If I misread and the London hotel wasn't the tour hotel, then yes, I agree, no relevance at all.

Posted by
23 posts

The Lonon hotel was indeed the tour hotel, that is why I communicated to the tour company what happened. If a tour patron is being abused by a party they were referred to by a hotel employee, that is something the company needs to know IMO. I am going to wait for this to percolate between the company and the hotel to see what reply we get before contacting the hotel ourselves.

Posted by
8235 posts

"The Lonon hotel was indeed the tour hotel, that is why I communicated to the tour company what happened."

From your wording it's not clear whether this was a Rick Steves tour or not?

Did the "tour company" say they were going to contact the hotel? Otherwise, I'd go ahead and email the manager, not really to ask for anything but to notify them that they are using a limo company with an unscrupulous driver.

Posted by
3465 posts

He got his tip -- the overpayment you gave him when you handed over your USD.

Report this to the hotel. Suggest they use a different limo company. The tour company (whoever that was) had nothing to do with this.

Posted by
23 posts

Pam, I wasn't trying to be disingenuous. It WAS a Rick Steves Tour, one that just ended this past Friday. The hotel was the Washington Mayfair. I was simply trying to be discreet in being specific until I hear back from the 'Tour Company', i.e. Rick Steves Tours.

I am not in any shape or from saying the Rick Steves organization has any culpability on this,

Posted by
656 posts

I also asked the driver when we got in if he'd accept our card and he said sure. Of course when we pulled up to the hotel he demanded cash. We went round and round and he was saying he'd have to 'call someone'

You were there the nite before your flight so you had all the time in the world. I would have let him call anyone he wanted. In fact invited him to call the cops if that's what he felt. The guy told you he would take your card, I would insist that is what he do.

Since that ship has sailed, I think you ought to write the hotel manager and let them know the unscrupulous limo service they are using. Letting RS know isn't a bad idea either although I don't expect they will do anything to help you. But they bring significant business to their hotel partners and if the hotel isn't treating the guests right and enough let them know they can use someone else.

Posted by
8235 posts

Thanks for clarifying that. I suddenly thought I was reading more in to your post than perhaps you intended! My sense at first was that it was an RS tour.

They do book that hotel a lot for their Best of London tours and yes, that concierge should be made aware that their preferred drivers are not honest and reliable. I suspect there will be some major talking between the concierge staff and that limo company on their unacceptable business practices. It just makes the hotel look bad too.

My feeling from having taken a lot of RS tours is that the hotels like the RS tour groups and would not want to lose their steady business.

Posted by
23 posts

One brief additional clarification. someone wondered why we didn't wait and let this guy call whomever. We had all that time available. Yeah sure.
I have to ask the poster have you ever been in a situation like this? Your're with someone menacing and vaguely threatening, wouldn't your main concern be to get your wife and/or family out of possible harm's way? all I can say,we were there. You weren't. I chose to not confront him like that.
We got a reply from Rick Steve's people today thanking us for reporting this. I posted on here simply to put it out there as a reminder to exercise caution. I'm through here. Thanks for the comments.

Posted by
2624 posts

Just for interest I looked up some fares for a limo from London to Heathrow.....they ranges from £55 to £80.00.

Posted by
4527 posts

Minicab would be between £35-£45, roughly for this journey. A regular London taxi would be £65-ish if hailed in the street. Can't be precise as the actual destination has not been given.

Posted by
23 posts

Dropping back in- apologies if I seemed terse to the other poster.

There may have been a misunderstanding as to what was wanted when we set the ride up. I used the 'Limo' word and he arrived dressed to the nines in a Mercedes. I wonder if he thought we were American high rollers. He may not have understood when I asked about using a card to pay. He and the concierge both appeared to be Russians. In any event if this serves as caution to others. Taking a Taxi would have been safer.

Posted by
256 posts

Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents about RS checking up on places they recommended. When we were on the Best of Europe Tour in Venice, our tour manager went off to check up on a restaurant that they recommended. He was very disappointed on the treatment and service and let us know it would be re-evaluated when he got home.

Posted by
4364 posts

There may have been a misunderstanding as to what was wanted when we set the ride up. I used the 'Limo' word and he arrived dressed to the nines in a Mercedes.

Ah, there's your problem. You did indeed request a limo and a limo is what you received. A limo in the UK is a step up from an average taxi both in terms of the vehicle and price. You're paying extra for a more prestigious vehicle, someone dressed a bit better and a certain amount of ego stoking. For future reference you need to request a taxi.

In summary you weren't robbed, you weren't ripped off but you unwittingly used a service that costs more than your average fare, they don't typically accept credit cards unlike taxis and I suspect his response was a result of feeling like he was being ripped off.

Posted by
4364 posts

From Wikipedia.....

A limousine is a luxury vehicle driven by a chauffeur with a partition between the driver's compartment and the passenger compartment. A car with a partition and a lengthened wheelbase is called a "stretch limousine".
In some countries, a "limousine service" is a pre-booked hire car with driver, regardless of the type of vehicle.

In the UK a limousine (limo) falls into the first category.

Posted by
2287 posts

I don't think the type or cost of the car is the gravamen of the rip-off issue. The hotel concierge assured the OP that the driver he engaged for him would accept his Visa card; the driver made the same representation - and then demanded cash.

I'm glad you contacted the "tour company". I would also reach out directly to the hotel. It sounds to me like the concierge set you up. The hotel should be made aware of this.

I once had a cab driver do the same thing to me at my home town airport. He assured me that he would accept a credit card, and then demanded cash when we were in my driveway. Luckily, my husband was home and emptied out the change tray.

Posted by
7919 posts

Good points traylaparks.

But I don’t understand why the op asked for a limo if he didn’t want a limo.
Same meaning here as in the UK.
Big difference between a limo and a taxi.

Posted by
5966 posts

Around here, the term "limo" was often used for any car service that was ordered ahead of time to take people to and from the airport. Maybe an age/regional thing. I recall writing limo on travel vouchers many years ago, even "hotel limo" to describe a shuttle service.

Posted by
18869 posts

I'm 67 and from the southeastern US. I, too, remember hearing the term "hotel limo" bandied about.

Posted by
7919 posts

Oh... now I understand the confusion, I never knew there was more than one meaning for limo. I’ve never known anyone that said limo that didn’t mean a chauffeur-driven high end car.

Lesson in this is to be very clear what you mean when you request a limo.

Posted by
196 posts

I was confused for years b/c my dad, and later my husband, always got a "limo" to the airport on government (i.e., taxpayer) funded trips. Huh? Seemed excessively extravagant. I was never awake when they left early in the morning, but I eventually realized it was just a regular old car, picking up multiple people on the way to the airport. But it was called a limo ... !

I totally agree with Emma; using the local lingo is a must, and it is not pedantry for locals to point this out! Saves a ton of confusion.

Posted by
8293 posts

"Did we get ripped off?"

Answer: No, you did not.

Posted by
7580 posts

Since the mystery unravels, revealing the linguistic misunderstanding over halfway through the thread, why don’t you edit the title so others don’t add limos to their list of thingss to fear when abroad. This has been a very interesting and informative thread. Thanks. Language, gotta love it.

Posted by
623 posts

Good discussion of the several shades of meaning of "limo" in various parts of the world (and regions of the USA).

I'll throw in my two cents' worth. An experience in London 8 years ago, taught me a healthy skepticism toward any service arranged by a hotel employee.

I stayed at a small family-run hotel in Bloomsbury for ten days. I have no complaints about the facility or the staff. Everyone was pleasant and on some occasions very helpful. The owner's son even got me a cheap SIM card and put it in my phone and got it up and running for me; saving me time and hassle.

On that trip, I had some kind of deal on HEX tix, can't remember just what. I took HEX from LHR to Paddington and a black cab from the ranks to my hotel.

The morning I checked out, the helpful guy offered to call me a taxi to the station to catch the HEX. Sure, I said. So, when it appears, it's not a black cab or any kind of marked car. It was a regular little sedan, driven by a gruff middle aged guy who seemed to think he was doing me a big favor and really needed to be elsewhere. No offer to help with my bags. He was borderline rude. And when we got to Paddington he quoted me a fare that was a LOT more than I'd paid the black cab driver for the trip between Paddington and the hotel.

It was my bad for not asking the price from the helpful hotel guy, and it wasn't a ruinous amount of money. I consider it a lesson, bought and paid for, to ask questions and get details when any oh-so-helpful hotel staffer is going to arrange a ride, or anything else, for you. Just to be clear, I think the OP got jobbed by the driver's demanding cash after agreed to take plastic, which shouldn't happen to anyone, and he had few options in the circumstances except to find the cash.

Posted by
18869 posts

When a taxi/limo/whatever driver has your luggage in the trunk of his vehicle, you are not in a strong negotiating position.

Posted by
2287 posts

In California, I once asked the concierge of my hotel to arrange for a "car service" and was picked up by a big white stretch limo. I felt slightly ridiculous going to the Oakland airport in a vehicle more suited for a bachelorette party. I was charged the quoted price for a "car".

Posted by
257 posts

Yes, having someone refuse to keep their word to you IS ripping you off.
I had a taxi ride from Heathrow to Southwark London, and when we arrived the driver insisted on cash. I insisted that without any sign SAYING THAT, he was either going to run my card or he was not getting paid. I told him if his real problem was the fees for the credit card transaction, I would accept the idea of a slightly higher price to cover the fees, but there was no way he was taking all of our cash (in my NY accent, he understood there was no way I was giving in to his demands). So he calculated the fees, and he of course received no tip.
Every time Rick Steves says that London cabs are honest and can't rip you off, I do stop breathing a little. It's not my only story of crap treatment in London cabs. I would really love to have a good experience in one some day.
Dare to dream,
:)
-Alison

Posted by
623 posts

Suz, what you are describing is a normal London mini cab. These are
private hire cars that can only be booked in advance, not flagged
down. They are regulated by the local council and with all service
some times you get a good one, occasionally you get a bad one. As with
all services you should always check what you will be expected to pay
before you start. All the mini cab firms I use give the price at time
of booking, unless they use a meter. It looks like you got unlucky
with a grumpy driver who might have taken advantage of your position
as a tourist.

Emma, after I got home from that trip I did a little online research into London minicabs. I don't recall all the details now of what I found, but I was left with a strong suspicion that I wasn't driven in a licensed minicab. I agree, the guy was taking advantage of me as a distracted tourist on her way out of town, one of the easiest marks for this kind of thing. As I said, I learned a lesson from that little ride, and now I inquire about fares up front.

I did a quick search for minicabs in London just now, and it seems that TfL regulates them along with other "private hire vehicles." (Although TfL licenses PHV drivers/operators, it doesn't regulate the rates they charge, beyond requiring accurate upfront fare estimates. Rates charged by black cabs are regulated.) I have the idea that this is an evolving regulatory system to deal with Uber and similar type operations. The main TfL page about taxis and private hire vehicles links, among other things, to a Guide to taxis and private hire.

And this all leads me to wonder how much impact Uber has had on the minicab business.

Posted by
3091 posts

As this has gone round and round , the last post by Suz , above , touches the kernel of truth , as clearly explained by tfl - the differences between London black cabs and everything else . In addition to the links she has provided , this film from 1979 , by the British writer , Jack Rosenthal , will educate and greatly entertain anyone who watches it - " The Knowledge " https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oSAAB1ZmudY