Annapolis hotel to investigate cabbies' allegations against valets; Taxi drivers say $10 tips sought for high-fare rides


Managers at Loews Annapolis Hotel and the company that provides its valet service say they will investigate taxicab drivers' allegations that valets insist on a $10 tip when calling drivers to pick up guests for high-paying rides to the airport.

"It's the policy of the hotel that employees are not to engage in that sort of behavior," said Terri Ryan, general manager at Loews on West Street. "We take disciplinary action if anything like this happens. We are looking into it."

Lawrence Garland, regional vice president of operations at Towne Park Ltd., which operates Loews' valet service, said that demanding tips is against his company policy and that he would look into the allegations.

Annapolis cabbies railed against the unspoken practice in an article in The Sun Friday and said they sometimes have to charge customers more to make money after paying the required tip.

Drivers and taxicab companies said valets at the Loews, Hampton Inn and Annapolis Marriott Water-front hotels won't call drivers who don't hand over $10 for trips to the region's three airports. Hotel managers denied that the practice existed, but drivers asked city officials and hotel managers to intervene.

"It caught me unaware," said Ryan, who said she had never heard of the practice. "Obviously, we will do a thorough investigation."

Robert Eades, head of the Annapolis Taxicab Drivers Association, said he was glad the hotel is taking action. He said he hopes to meet with hotel managers to discuss the issue.

Danielle Matland, acting director of the Annapolis Department of Transportation, said she has been trying to work with taxicab drivers on the problem since she received complaints in October.

She said she sent a letter to taxicab companies asking drivers to document incidents of valets seeking money for longer trips. A department taxicab inspector also spread the word to drivers.

"When you're dealing with private businesses, you have to have something very specific so we can then approach the different hotels on behalf of the taxi industry," Matland said. "When you just have a general statement saying that there is a problem, it's very hard to pursue."

Matland said she has talked to some hotel managers informally and had been told valets did not solicit money. She said that when drivers bring their taxicabs to the department for their semiannual inspection in March, inspectors will ask them about such activity.

"We're going to ask them, 'Have you encountered these types of problems? Can you give us any dates? Who was involved?' " Matland said.

She said only Eades has turned in the requested information.

"A lot of the guys don't want to take the chance of getting black-balled," Eades said. "I want to let them know that in the beginning, they might be black-balled, but in the end, it's going to benefit us."

Pub Date: 1/17/99

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