By Ryan Knighton | February 17, 2004

Dear Beck Taxi Company,

You may well be aware by now that I’m in the process of having over $565.00 in fraudulent charges to my Visa, made by your company, reversed. I’m actually surprised how easily this correction was made. I phoned my local cooperative trust, informed them of the bogus charges and, poof, numbers were eliminated with, as they say, extreme prejudice. Somewhere someone at my VanCity branch is taking care of the paper work, a job I don’t envy in the slightest. But I rest easy knowing the matter is in hand under the glare of official corporate fluorescent lighting. One company is best left to wrestle the details with another company, I think, if it can happen that way. Still, somewhere, at some point, some individual in your employment attempted to screw me over, and I have a few things to say about it, as a personal matter.

The background to the story is this. Twice in January I was charged by Beck Taxi of Toronto for two cab fares I apparently authorized and enjoyed. The first charge was for $475. Ahem. That amount may speak for itself, but not for me.

Now, to begin with, I was in Vancouver and teaching my brains out for all of January, although I’d much rather have been sight-seeing in a Toronto taxi that month. In fact, $475 probably could have purchased me a month’s worth of cruising Toronto’s finer vistas in a Beck Taxi. But I wasn’t there, nor was I in North Bay visiting my pal Wally Hourback, which is another ride I could have taken from Toronto in a $475 spin. I was, however, in Toronto in early December, and I’m told that manual charges like those made in taxis are sometimes not processed until later. You should be aware, then, that one of your drivers isn’t keeping up on his paperwork, since my charges were rung through over one month later. I guess you guys are doing fine enough to sit on a fare that long, eh? Maybe a lesson could be learned from the hop-to-it vim of my VanCity fraud investigator. Or maybe fraud just takes some extra time to figure out.

The second charge I received was for a less greedy $95 and it was also made in late January. I was still teaching here in Vancouver, but it’s nice to know someone in Toronto occasionally thinks of me out here and likes to let me know. Seeing as the longest ride I took in a cab last December during my pleasant Toronto visit was a mere $37 to and from the airport, both with Diamond Delivery, I’m not sure what to make of this $95 charge. If you really wanted my business that badly, there are easier ways to let me know. All you had to do was say so when I took that one short, less than ten dollar ride with you to King Street. You didn’t have to go multiplying charges and inflating them to ask me back. There’s no need to shout. I’m blind, not deaf.

So, all’s being settled financially at this end, but I’m left wondering how these peculiarities came about. When I asked my fraud investigator what she thought, she noted that my signed receipt for the $475 was clearly tampered with. No doubt. I knew that bad VanCity lighting was good for something – she could see that a zero and possibly another number, maybe the four, had been added. No doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was added while I was patiently sitting in the back of the cab a couple months ago. Hell, I’d bet $565 I signed off on the full, tampered-happy amount.

Being blind, one of the pleasures I gain in life over sighted folks is an incentive to be trusting and think the best of people until proven otherwise. It’s risky, but I’m forced to it and acclimatized, even happier for it. For instance, I can’t work cash debit machines very well, so I often ask cashiers to punch my numbers in for me. They are often reluctant, too, even though I insist and thank them for their reluctance. Blindness doesn’t go away when my PIN number is needed, and shyness about access to my personal information doesn’t cure my blank stare, either. I’ve never had a problem in the past, and I like to think it’s for a simple reason. Because I ask people to do things that require my trust, trust is happily reciprocated. That is the economy of trust, that’s how it works, and that’s how it is encouraged.

Being a blind guy I also often ask cab drivers, who spare both me and the public from my driving, not to mention the angst of poor Vancouver public transit, to fill in the final fare amount on my Visa receipts for me. I even tell cabbies how much of a tip to fill in, or trust them to add 15% if I ask them to calculate it roughly for themselves. In thirteen years of doing this I’ve never had a problem. Until now.

So I’m pissed off. Not only did someone in your employment try to boost me for extra cash, that individual also dithered with my perfect record of public trust. Let me repair that – OUR perfect record. But this is of less importance and urgency than the broader worries. More pressing, Beck Taxi, is for you to determine how many blind patrons you have screwed over to date. I doubt if I’m the virginal first, but I’m hell-bent on being the last temptation. The blind frequent cabs more often than sighted folks because we use them as our primary and secondary modes of transportation, not our secondary and third modes. The math is simple. Our numbers in your back seats are high. Someone in your employment tried to gouge me twice with bad charges, so if I multiply that number of blind folks in your back seats by two, the total costs jumps substantially on the metre. We are, I realize, a tidy niche market for this kind of siphoning, but it is our job to not detect things, not yours.

What’s more worrisome, though, is the blunt stupidity it exhibits about blindness. Somebody assumed, I can only guess, that I may not notice these extra charges, the bizarre amounts or even the source of the charges because, well, I can’t read my Visa statement. It assumes, in other words, I’m not plugged into my own finances and have little access, and little understanding, of where I’ve been and what I’ve done in my recent life. Sensitivity training isn’t going to make a dent in that kind of delusion.

Speaking of dents, let’s speed to the finish and look for some solutions, or at least some sense of restorative justice for my personal, blind-related matters. The damages I seek are as follows, or in some combination of the below:

1) I think I should be allowed to drive one of your cabs around town until the metre registers $475. I promise I won’t speed, because I don’t want to get hurt, but I can’t promise I’ll know to turn when necessary.
2) For the second charge of $95, I should be allowed to take the fraudulent driver along for the ride.
3) I wouldn’t want your driver to be fired, because people need to work, and all this stuff doesn’t indicate any good reason he shouldn’t be on the road, getting folks from one place to another. But to keep that job, your driver should have to volunteer at the CNIB on a weekly basis until he has earned the defrauded money back at an hourly minimum wage. Welcome to non-profit work, welcome to how communities keep count.

This, I think, adds up to restorative justice. The goal is to make peace between us. I can see my way clear to it, I hope you can, too.


Ryan Knighton


  • Ryan Knighton

    Ryan Knighton lives in Vancouver, teaches at a college in North Vancouver, and peers at the world with a strange but distinctive focus. He just signed a whopping book contract based on a series of pieces that appeared on this site, and his publisher made us erase them.

Posted in:

More from Ryan Knighton: