Minneapolis Solves Anti-Alcohol Cabbie Problem

Over the last few-years, Minneapolis’ St. Paul International Airport has had a problem: the cabbies waiting to shuttle off passengers outside have invoked the Koran whenever they spotted a bottle of wine or Duty-Free booze, refusing to carry the passengers.

Sometimes, it has extended even to passengers without any visible booze: one stewardess was denied five taxis in a row because she had wine in her suitcase.

Minneapolis has come up with a solution to the stand-off, finally, and it’s fair. They have no interest in stamping down on a taxi driver’s religious beliefs, but their new policy is that any cabbie who refuses a passenger must go to the back of the queue. That’s a potential three-hour wait for a fare.

It’s a tricky situation, but you can’t really capitulate: as the linked article points out, cabbies have also refused to take blind people as fares if they are accompanied by seeing eye-dogs, since good old Rufus is Koranically “unclean.”

A two-tiered airport taxi system could lead to ‘Chapter Two’ [Star Tribine] (via Upgrade Travel)


Edit Your Comment

  1. BillEccles says:

    You have GOT to be kidding me.

    No “closed-minded” and “small-minded” and uses of words like “unfortunately,” “discrimination” and mentions of the Civil Rights Act? “The mind boggles.”

    Where’s the outrage? Why aren’t there a zillion posts already calling for the immediate boycotting of cabbies whose religious beliefs prevent their doing business with alcoholics? Or calls for a support group for wine-carrying stewardesses? Or calls for the immediate sacrifice of the cabbie who eschews Rufus the Friendly Guide Dog.

    Now, if the cabbies didn’t want to do business with homosexuals–that would cause a major outrage, wouldn’t it? I mean, just last week, someone decided that their religious beliefs prevented their doing business with homosexuals and that post was flooded with all of the above (except the support group thing–I made that up). (1)

    I am, therefore, confused. On behalf of what groups do we need to be outraged? Since it has been argued that alcohol consumption, flight-attendantness, and homosexuality are all some kind of involuntary, genetic choice, we certainly can’t base our reactions on that, now, can we? So let’s just use raw numbers; they’re always impartial. As a starting point for these guidelines, I suggest that we use the following table:

    Reaction, percentage of population involved
    Ignore, 5-7% (2)
    Outrage, 2-5% (3)
    Righteous indignation, 1-2%
    Go nuclear, one guy named “Fred” in North Dakota (or equivalent)

    Nope. No double standards here. Here we have a clear-cut table that we can WORK with.


    Glad I don’t have to think anymore. I can just look it up. “Hmm. Says here in ‘The Consumerist’ that some woman got yelled at by a Target store manager. That’s ‘go nuclear!’ Wooooo-weee! Get the browser fired up, Ma! We’s got some flamin’ to do!” (4)


    Not that my sources are all “right,” but I used them to get me in the general ballpark of things.
    (1) http://www.consumerist.com/consumer/crazy/garden-guy-refus
    (2) http://www.peele.net/lib/diseasing2.html
    (3) http://www.familyresearchinst.org/FRI_AIM_Talk.html
    (4) http://www.consumerist.com/consumer/target/target-targets-

  2. viriiman says:

    Personally, I think it’s fair. If you religious beliefs interfere with your job on that level, you shouldn’t be doing that job in the first place.

  3. Falconfire says:

    Maybe Im mistaken, but doesnt our constitution say that you have freedom of religion only if it doesnt interfere with others?

    Granted NONE of the religions actually get punished for missing that clause, christianity in particular… but wouldnt it be nice if our government actually upheld our constitution instead of changed it.

  4. This is like the pharmacists who won’t fill perscriptions if they feel it doesn’t mesh with their religious beliefs, only you can’t bump pharmacists to the back of a queue.

  5. etinterrapax says:

    I guess this explains why I recently had a cabbie there tell me it was my holy duty to return to my husband. When I explained that we weren’t separated, that I was only living away for school because he couldn’t leave his job, the cabbie said, in essence, that men are dogs, that my husband was really sleeping with his secretary, and to look to the example of Jackie Kennedy.

    At least taking a cab in the Twin Cities isn’t boring.

  6. You are all mistaken…islam is a PEACEFUL religion and muslims are peaceful people…that’s why they are denying the cab service, otherwise they’d be cutting these people’s heads off in the name of allah.

  7. zibby says:

    Even more fair would be a hefty fine for each refusal-of-service incident, along with a ban for repeat offenders. There’s no valid reason this nonsense should be accomodated. And by the way – a three hour wait for another fare? Really? Even with the “potential” in that sentence, I’d be surprised if it was true.

  8. Magister says:

    At least they got rid of that silly 2 light plan. You are a cabbie, your job is to transport people and thier luggage.

  9. madderhatter says:

    Maybe they should head on down to, oh I don’t know, Arkansas or Mississippi and try that crap. Good way to get your Korass kicked.

  10. Coronagold says:

    Cabbies don’t pay their bills by refusing service. That 3-hour-queue sounds like a good idea, but is it really enforceable? Who do we trust, the skycabs?

    Sounds like the responsibility comes down to Joe Q. to notify Security with each case.

  11. RumorsDaily says:

    The cabbies in Baltimore claim to have a three hour wait too. I can only assume it’s true. The airport clearly hires too many cabbies, they only do three or four trips each day, and they just pray that they’re long ones.

    Are the Minneapolis cabbies linked to the airport, or are they just regular city cab drivers?

  12. RumorsDaily says:

    Bill, I’m unclear on what your point is, here. You’re saying that people should be more mad about this, or less mad about the Garden Guy incident?

  13. kerry says:

    Bill – before I move on to other things, just one quick nitpick – homosexuals make up about 10% of the population, not 1-2%.

    But, yeah, I’m with those who said that if your religious beliefs interfere with your ability to do your job, maybe you should find another line of work.

  14. Celeste says:

    So when do they get to start refusing service to unveiled women?

  15. Principia says:

    I am very rarely one to trot out complaints about political correctness, but refusing to transport passengers because they have alcohol on their persons and getting away with it? Aren’t cabs considered a public accommodation?

    What if fundamentalist Christian cabbies refused to transport anyone who wouldn’t attest that they’ve accepted Christ as their personal savior? Or Baha’i cabbies refused to transport homosexuals? Or Jewish cabbies refused to transport passengers who have any non-Kosher food substances with them? Do you think these self-righteous Muslim folk would stand up for their rights to do so? Somehow I’m thinking no.

    Since fining/suspending/firing these clowns is apparently out of the question, if passengers at this airport really want to put this end-of-the-queue “solution” to the test then they should all inform the cabbie when they get in that they have booze – whether it’s true or not. If the cabbie refuses them passage, he’ll get kicked to the back of the line. Rinse and repeat, until he either gets the message that playing juvenile games at the expense of the flying public isn’t going to be accepted, or he takes another job where he will find himself sh*tcanned for refusing to serve the public.

  16. AaronM says:

    Bill’s got a fantastic point here, people. We go ballistic over people denying service to homosexuals, but Muslims denying service to heathens is different? They need to not take on a job where they will be placed in morally compromising positions to the point that they have to deny service. This is IDENTICAL to the case of the homosexuals being denied lawn service (at least, in the case of the seeing-eye dog), and no one says anything more than, “Hmm. Maybe they’re right, maybe not. Tough call.”

    Let’s stop the double standards, here.

  17. synergy says:

    I think Bill is saying that people should be just as outraged about this as the Garden Guy thing.

    I agree that if there’s so few fares that the wait for another one is so long, then there shouldn’t be so many cabs assigned to the airport in the first place.

    Plus, just like the Garden Guy people you lose or win customers when something like this comes to light and you have to decide if you’re willing to stand my your morals enough to not make more money.

  18. synergy says:

    I don’t think cabs are public accommodation unless they’re paid by the government, which they’re not. I don’t know about that city, but a car isn’t a right and people could just as well catch a bus and haul around their own luggage.

  19. BillEccles says:

    Ingen, I was surprised that there was as little outspeak (so to speak) about this issue considering it’s more than one business (each cabbie is a small business) choosing not to do business with more than one minority/population/group-of-other-people-with-a-defining-characteristic. So I figured I needed a guide to understand when I should be outraged or not based on past postings. At this point, I’m clear on when I need to ignore the debate or go nuclear, and you’re more than welcome to use the guide if you wish. (Thank goodness I don’t have to think for myself any more! Mooo!)

    Kerry, it all depends on where you get your data, but I certainly didn’t put homosexuals in the 1-2% range–they’re in the at least 3-5% range (check which footnote goes with which). Anyway, I was just using these numbers as ballpark numbers to establish a rough guideline for my table of appropriate reactions.

    Again, this is Bill Eccles, tongue-in-cheekily, signing off.

  20. tz says:

    What would happen if they actually allowed Smoking cabs – left the decision to be smoke-free or smoking to the cabbies or the companies.

    Our liberal-puritanical country would collapse.

    Instead, there are laws banning some things and laws forcing people to put up with others. No choice whatsover.

  21. ElizabethD says:

    I’m with Principia, who says above: “If the cabbie refuses them passage, he’ll get kicked to the back of the line.” BUT — who will actually do the “kicking”? – Skycaps? *That* will make for an uncomfortable working relationships at the taxi line! It’s easy to make rules; not so easy to enforce them. Hope someone will send in an update on this story in a few months.

  22. acambras says:

    I think this issue will become really contentious once the snow starts and people are standing outside freezing their asses off with nothing but their duty-free liquor to keep them warm.

  23. jacques says:

    As far as public accomodation is concerned, all taxis must be licensed by some sort of government authority. Therefore, the govt can make some rules.

  24. aka Cat says:

    There are several differences between this story and the Garden City story that may account for the difference in the reaction:

    – People who transport alcohol in their luggage are not a group that traditionally is discriminated against.

    – This story isn’t focused on a single perpetrator.

    – The perpetrator(s) do not have a web page to stalk.

  25. sodium11 says:

    I am a Muslim and a regular reader of this column, and while I am disappointed at the cheap shots taken by some of the earlier commenters, I am more disappointed at the misguided stance taken by these cabbies in Minnesota, thinking that they can impose their religion on others.

    There are laws governing the operation of cabs, and if the law contains no provisions regarding the legality of transporting booze in your luggage, then the cabbies should not be permitted to discriminate on that basis, regardless of their religion. That’s just out of line.

    Just like the fundamentalist pharmacists who refuse to fill EC prescriptions, or landscapers refusing service to gay people — if your particular religious convictions prevent you from doing something, then don’t sign up for a job that will put you in that situation.

    A final note to clarify the actual religious basis for why these cabbies’ stance is messed up: most Islamic scholars have traditionally held that drinking alcohol, or engaging in commerce involving alcohol (buying, selling, or profiting in some way from it) is prohibited.

    But a cabbie picking up a fare who is carrying liquor is not *profiting* from the liquor – the person is paying the same fare either way. It would be different if it were a trucking company that contracted with a brewery to distribute their beer — you’re making money off of it. This probably doesn’t matter to most of you readers, but I thought I should just point out that the cabbies’ thinking is just plain wrong on every level.

  26. This is IDENTICAL to the case of the homosexuals being denied lawn service (at least, in the case of the seeing-eye dog)

    Does anyone know the Koran well enough to say whether or not 1) dogs are unclean and 2) Muslims are forbidden from having anything unclean in or on any property they own?

    There is a difference between refusing to do something because you can’t have certain items on your property and refusing to do something because of how someone is born.

    I am not saying that the difference makes this ok, because it doesn’t. But no one has said that these cab drivers are accusing blind people of destroying marriage.

  27. etinterrapax says:

    The skycaps at this airport do have some control over which cab gets the next fare. The fares wait in a queue (in an enclosed waiting room) and are directed to the next cab by parking space number. No one waits outside. I thought when I first took it that this was to ensure equity among cab companies, but I don’t know whether the cabs are hired just for the airport. It’s a lucrative fare, because the airport is technically in Bloomington, and to go from there to the university is about a $17 ride. If you really want to freeze your ass off, public transit will do that for you. Minnesotans are nice until it’s ten below and there’s only so much space under the bus shelter heat lamp. And even then, what would be a brawl in Boston is more like a nasty look on Washington Avenue.

  28. Frank Grimes says:

    Apparently the cabbies have never heard of or flown Emirates, considered one of the best airlines in the world. They also happen to have MANY Muslim pilots, are owned by a Islamic country (yes, a rather liberal one on the Muslim world) who not only transport loads of booze but happen to gleefully sell it to you or give it to you on their airplane. BS line in the sand and they need to grow up.

  29. mechanismatic says:


    I’ve never heard of such a clause in the Constitution thaty allows freedom of religion only up to the point that it doesn’t interfere with others. My general understanding is that your right to freedom of religion is infinite as long as you do not break any laws. What the cabbies are doing is unjust and discriminatory, but unless there’s a law against it, I don’t see how their decisions constitute a violation of the Constitution. If your freedom of religion was restricted to not interfering with others, then I’d be a millionaire from suing all the Jehovah’s witnesses that have knocked on my door and interefered with my day.

  30. acambras says:

    How about noncompliance with ADA for turning away dog-assisted blind people? Isn’t that breaking the law?

  31. Principia says:

    How about noncompliance with ADA for turning away dog-assisted blind people? Isn’t that breaking the law?

    According to the Easter Seals’ Project ACTION

  32. Principia says:

    Sorry about that, it ate my comment.

    According to the Easter Seals’ Project ACTION, indeed it does.

    Interestingly, they produce the pocket card version of these guidelines not only in English and Spanish, but also in Farsi. Perhaps handing these things out en masse to the cab drivers at Minneapolis-St. Paul is in order. Or to the members of the airport authority, for that matter.