Friday, September 25, 2009

“You tell I no taxi” or how we got carjacked on the way to the airport

In spring of 2008, as chronicled by my sister, bearshapedsphere, here, some of us travelled to the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana) to stay at an all inclusive resort, to take a break, and to have some together time. Despite Eileen’s concerns, and our history of vacation fails (or at least misses…) everything went really well for those of us who made the trip. We found each other easily, our rooms were near each other, and all our luggage arrived. There was some minor sunburning, and not a little bit of overeating. The kids and grandma travelled well, the 8 year old had the run of the place, and the moppet (not quite 2) eschewed the pool in favor of puddles and pebbles.

A few hours ahead of our departure, I went to the hotel desk and asked them to arrange our taxi. They agreed to do so, and also sent a guy with a golf cart to collect our baggage. At the appointed time, our baggage was retrieved, and we were introduced to our taxi fetcher.

A short while later, our taxi fetcher tried to pile us into a taxi that was already bursting. The 8 year old would have had to sit on grandma’s lap, the not quite 2 year old on mine, and who knows where the carseat would have gone. I demurred, and explained we would wait for the next taxi, one with enough seats and seatbelts for all of us.

10 minutes later our new ride arrived. Luggage was loaded, carseat installed to the best of my ability, kids and grandma and me loaded up, and off we went.

About a mile or so down the road, both the driver and I saw some vehicles blocking traffic. I figured it was a routine stop, or a broken down taxi… I couldn’t quite make it out. Our driver turned to me and said frantically “You tell I no taxi!” (It is worthwhile for me to mention here that unlike my sister, I have only a HS level grasp of Spanish, and, well, let’s just say I graduated from HS during the Reagan presidency – the first one.) We rolled to a stop, and our car was surrounded by a bunch of guys wearing pink polo shirts., who started arguing loudly in Spanish with our driver. The pink shirted guy with the best command of English asked me “is this your taxi?” To which I responded “this man is driving us to the airport.” All h*ll broke loose at this point. Pink shirt dude started yelling “he no taxi! He no drive airport!” our driver countered with “I no taxi! You tell I no taxi!” Grandma started checking to make sure she had her purse, and the 8 year old started screaming “I’m not riding in this van if it’s not going to the airport!”

This debate went on for a while, peppered with me arguing with pink shirt dude that I really didn’t care what sort of disagreement he had with our driver, but I was staying in the van, and was more than happy to have him take us to the airport. Except it came out more like “You. Problem you and him. My problem? No. He airport, I happy.” Shortly thereafter, the rest of the pink shirt dudes started pulling our belongings out of the van, and piling them into another one. Our driver got out of the van, and just shrugged.

What could we do? By now I had figured out that the pink shirt dudes were from a competing taxi company, and were not a gang of highway robbers. So, we followed our luggage, poorly reinstalled the car seat, piled the not quite 2 year old and ourselves in, and took off with pink shirt dude, who regaled us in Spanish/English/Spanglish with an explanation that his taxi company is supposed to be called by the hotel, and the other taxi company is stealing “like mafia.” Ummm… you just hijacked 2 women and 2 young children, and the other taxi company is like the mafia???

We made it to the airport without further drama. On arriving home, I did some research and discovered that the pink shirted taxi hijackers are a well known phenomenon. They work for the taxi company Siutratural who have a virtual monopoly on tourist taxi travel, and are well known for this kind of marketing/outreach.

Here is an article about the "pink shirt" phenomenon in general, in weirdly translated English, as well as the original Spanish.

This thread on tripadvisor has several references to the competing taxi company issue.

This helpful piece about local transportation on a Punta Cana tourist information site provides an overview of the taxi war. I guess our incident was just a skirmish.


  1. Wow Michelle, your story is amazingly bearshaped! Great stuff! Do I see a sisterly blogging duo in the making?

  2. Whoa! I did not see the ending coming. But that is actually a good thing because I was expecting something worse!

  3. we want more posts! and you know I love this story!