THE CITY OF PORTLAND is under increasing pressure to take action against downtown bellhops for taking alleged kickbacks from town-car drivers in exchange for pushing cut-rate rides to the airport.
City regulations require town-car service providers to charge customers traveling between downtown and the airport a minimum of $50. The idea is to stop town cars from competing with licensed cab firms, who charge around $26 for a ride to the airport. But it seems hotel bellhops have been pimping out cheaper town-car fares to hotel customers, in return, presumably, for a cut of the profits.
A group of anonymous cab drivers contacted the Mercury last week, encouraging us to explore the situation for ourselves. On Sunday, July 6, four downtown bellhops offered us below-rate town-car rides to the airport when asked the question: "How much is a ride to the airport?"
The Marriott on SW Washington and Broadway offered a town car ride to the airport for $30; the Hotel Lucia on SW Stark and Broadway quoted a town car for $35; the Embassy Suites on SW 4th and Pine said a town car was $35, flat rate; and the Hotel Vintage Plaza on SW Broadway gave a price of $40.
Now, the group of anonymous cab drivers is stepping up its pressure on the city to take action on what it describes as a "racket" between town-car drivers and downtown hotel bellhops.
"We have been receiving anonymous emails about the situation and are trying to get to the bottom of it," says Mary Volm, spokesperson for the city's Office of Management and Finance—who cannot confirm nor deny that the city is planning a sting operation to reign in the activity.
"We have asked for the town-car drivers to provide their log books by July 15," Volm adds. "It's important that there's a level playing field."
"We support the cabs in Portland and I certainly understand the situation," says Steve Young, general manager at the Embassy Suites. "And we want to make sure that we conduct business fairly. If somebody reports a violation, we try to get to the bottom of it."
The Hotel Lucia, the Vintage Plaza, and Marriott did not respond to a call for comment.