Operations

N.Y. Cab Drivers Still Reluctant to Use New Credit Card Machines

LCT Staff
Posted on December 20, 2007

NEW YORK, NY -- Over half of New York’s cabs are now fitted with credit card swipers, over the protests of cab drivers. Many cabbies, it seems, will use the card swipers only sullenly, and only after a resistance that can be as ingenious as it is misleading. Excuses range from, “There is a minimum cab fare for credit card use” to “The device doesn’t have to be activated until the new year” to “It’s too short a ride.” (Not true, not true, and not true, say city officials.)

Henry Esaie, 41, a driver from from Queens Village, doesn’t have a credit card reader, in spite of the law, and has hired a lawyer to fight the city-ordered installation. In 2004, the taxi commission negotiated an agreement with the medallion owners, the ones who have city licenses to operate cabs.

In exchange for higher fares, the operators agreed to the installation of “technology enhancements.” In the back seat of every cab would be a television screen the size of a dictionary that provides video entertainment for passengers.

Linked to global positioning satellites in space, the screen would also provide an electronic map of the cab’s approximate location in the city and record the beginning and end of each trip. It eliminates the need for the cabby to do so with paper and clipboard.

But mostly city officials wanted a cashless option for paying the fare. More than half of all consumer payments in the nation are paid with credit or debit cards, officials said.

Cab drivers fear the anonymity of using a touch screen will shrink their tips, even as the 5% credit card fee — 50 cents subtracted directly from every $10 paid to the driver — cuts into profits.

Cesar Soto, 49, said that most passengers are sympathetic. “They usually pay cash when I explain,” Mr. Soto said.

SOURCE: New York Times

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