Monday, October 13, 2008

Paper or plastic?

You could use that credit card in the cab, but the drivers may not like you for it

From the Chicago Tribune online:

By Azam Ahmed | Chicago Tribune reporter
October 13, 2008

You've been there before: The cabbie mutters something about a broken machine or simply shakes his head and drives off.

Chicago requires its roughly 5,500 cabbies to accept credit cards, but many don't. Anyone who's been stranded—say, someone who has been booted from three cabs in a row for trying to pay with plastic—has to wonder why. It turns out there's a serious disincentive for accepting credit, and it's only gotten worse as it's become more expensive for drivers to keep their cabs on the road.

For starters, cabdrivers pay up to a 5 percent fee for accepting credit cards, and they can't pass it on. Your $20 cab ride may only cost the driver a dollar, but 10 of those fees a day can add up to more than $200 a month in losses.

"You know the price of gas is going up and has been going up," said Ron Flores, a cabdriver in Chicago. "And as for those [riders] who don't give you a tip, you're losing money by transporting them."

Another sticky point: Often an approved transaction later will be declined or disputed.

"Even when they do get that money, a lot of times it takes a number of days to receive the cash," said Jonathan Bullington, managing editor of Chicago Dispatcher, a monthly newspaper geared toward taxi drivers, chauffeurs and the riding public. "These guys need cash to pay for stuff [like] gas and food."

Also, the companies for which drivers work may make them wait a week or more to cash in their receipts. Passengers who want to play hardball can threaten to report a driver to the city's Department of Consumer Services.

Cabbies make another suggestion: Offer a bigger tip to the driver before he can pretend his machine is broken.