There’s a reason some cab drivers in Boston tell customers that their credit card machines are broken. And while unlawful if untrue, it happens more often than it should.
In a post called “Credit Crunch,” on SouthBostonTaxiCab.com, a driver wrote about his experience accepting plastic as a form of payment, and why it is that cab drivers sometimes try to skirt the process.
“Under the raw deal we have been given, we HATE the credit card system,” the driver wrote in the post, detailing a story about picking up a young woman in Boston who had first asked the driver if he would accept a credit card.
While the driver said he didn’t deny the woman’s request, adding it’s “important we treat all customers with respect,” he outlined several reasons for his hatred towards credit cards in cabs. Specifically, he mentioned the 5 to 6 percent credit card processing fees drivers pay for each transaction, which he dubbed “insane.”
Besides the high fees, this particular driver said sometimes collecting payments for card transactions can take as much as four days, leaving the cabbies cashless after a long, 12-hour shift.
In an era where not many people carry around cash, this can complicate any shift for a driver.
“This would not be a big deal, but the owner [of the cab] still wants his money…and I often spend a few days penniless until Verifone pays me,” the author wrote about the process of collecting his tips.
Typically, cab drivers rent cabs for their daily jobs and have to pay up for the car loan at the end of each work day.
By law, taxi drivers have to accept credit cards from customers when they get into the vehicle, unless a machine is truly broken.
In that case, according to the rules, if a licensed Boston cab “does not have a functioning credit card reader, it shall be deemed unfit for service as a taxi.”
Boston required the use of credit cards in all “Hackney-licensed” cabs starting in 2009, at the same time that they implemented a 16 percent increase in fares to deal with the rising cost of gas.
Boston’s taxis, called Hackney Carriages, are licensed by the Police Commissioner.
A Police Superior Officer, called an Inspector of Carriages, regulates the taxi industry under the Commissioner.
According to Boston.com, at the same time fares were increased for cab drivers, so were rental costs of cabs, however, adding additional baggage to the backs of those behind the wheel.
While the rule changes have proved to beneficial for cab company owners and the police, according to a 2011 WBUR report, it’s the mixtures of these things that may lead to a taxi operator to decline a passengers plastic payment, even if the driver is not supposed to.
As the law states, if a machine is broken, the city-licensed cab should not be in service.
This system, it seems, has created a breach between driver and passenger, when, in reality, the frustration drivers seem to have is with the processing company in charge of doling out their earnings.
This issue is something new technologies in the Boston area are hoping to repair.
With new smartphone-integrated systems offered by UberTAXI, Hailo, and Ping Up, allowing customers to use two clicks of a device to call for a cab, and avoid the credit card process altogether, some drivers have reported an easier, more efficient day on the job.
But not every cabbie has adapted to the new gadgets as of yet, so in the mean time, those drivers not using apps will still run into situations like the one reported by SouthBostonTaxiCab.com.