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Boston Cabbies: Delays, Tech Problems Make Accepting Credit Cards Difficult

(Flickr/rkelland)

BOSTON — Boston cab drivers say delays and technical problems are making it hard for them to comply with the city’s two-year-old policy requiring cabbies to accept credit cards. They made their feelings known in a contentious closed-door meeting with the Boston Police Department’s Hackney Carriage Unit Wednesday.

Many Boston cabbies don’t want to accept credit cards at all because the processing companies take a hefty 5 to 6 cents on the dollar for each transaction fee.

“We used to make money, but no more. We the person losing. Who getting rich? Credit card company (sic),” said Ravinder Paul, who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

Paul has driven in Boston for seven years, and he wants the credit card requirement repealed. Short of that, he’d at least like to get his money a little sooner.

“The system breaks down while the passenger is in the cab, and the passenger blames the driver that it’s broken down, refuses to pay. Now the driver has less money to feed his family.”
– Steve Sullivan, Metro Cab general manager

“If we charge any card on Thursday we don’t see money until Monday or Tuesday. I worked 12 hours this morning since 4 in the morning till 4 p.m., 12 hours,” he said. “Other drivers coming 4 o’clock, taking the car. I have to have gas tank full before I give car to him. How I gonna put the gas? That money’s not gonna come to my account, three days (sic).”

Representatives from the two credit card processing companies that work with Boston cabs, CMT and Verifone, were present for the charged three-hour meeting, though no reporters were allowed inside, and neither company responded to requests for comment.

Outside, Metro Cab General Manager Steve Sullivan said complaints about technical problems with the card swipe machines are widespread.

“The system breaks down while the passenger is in the cab, and the passenger blames the driver that it’s broken down, refuses to pay. Now the driver has less money to feed his family,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said in the meeting, card processors sparred with cab dispatchers over which party should be responsible for reimbursing drivers who lose fares to technical failures.

Captain Paul O’Connor of the BPD’s Hanckney Unit, which regulates the industry, said his staff would explore options for reimbursing drivers.

The Hackney Unit regularly receives complaints from passengers who say cabbies refuse to accept credit cards, or pretend that the swipe machines aren’t functioning.

O’Connor encourages passengers to call 911 in the event of a conflict over a fare.

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  • Memoore15

    Let me get this straight – the cabbies didn’t want the system in the first place and now, mysteriously, when you get in a cab the machine doesn’t work? Then, the cabbies get abusive when a passenger doesn’t have cash (because there is a machine in the car). And if you think the cabbies aren’t getting abusive, then why does the last sentence of this article encourage passengers to call 911? BPD wants to get involved in peaceful fare disputes? My guess is that there are a lot of people out there with stories to tell of experiences with cabbies.

  • Chuck D.

    The last sentence struck me unfair. To assume taxi drivers are out to screw the public is slanderous.

    Anyone taking a taxi in any city in the USA should be prepared to pay cash if demanded. If a retailer can refuse to accept a credit card, why is it then an issue if a taxi does it?

  • http://southiecab.com Boston Cab

    @fad349e823f4c9bfd775cf229b9aad90:disqus we weren’t against the idea we were against it being forced down our throat in a rush with only a few providers to choose from. Think about it. Did the 5,000 of us get together and just decide to be jerks..or maybe is it that paying 6% processing fees and waiting days to get the $ is financially unsustainable for us? Also one companies machines have developed a reputation of being unreliable and they can’t seem to establish a solid method of after hours repair. If I can get a hand held swipe that works on my blackberry and only charges me 3% and pays me within 24 hours why can’t these mega companies match this? After all they have the added revenue stream of blasting advertisements at everyone who gets in my taxi.

  • http://jered.livejournal.com/ Jered

    Ridiculous; I’ve never seen an actually broken CC machine, though I’ve had nearly every cabbie pressure me to pay in cash.

    I feel ripped off the second I open the door of a Boston cab. They negotiated higher rates (already some of the highest in the country) in exchange for credit cards, new cars, and guaranteed quiet. Since then, at least 70% of the time the cabbie has the radio on and is talking constantly on his cell phone, and there’s a big advertising display on the back seat that cannot be turned off.

    The Boston Hackney system is fundamentally broken. Issue unlimited medallions and then the market will sort it out, and we’ll all get better service and fairer prices.

    • http://southiecab.com Boston Cab

      You are misinformed the industry does not negotiate anything.. the city puts in place the rules they want. Those new cars which are now not hybrids cost the drivers $20 extra per shift for the first 4 years they are on the road. Although a new Camry does get better gas mileage than a used Crown Victoria the $20 extra completely offsets all savings for the driver. Add in the 6% I am now paying on 50% + of my business and I now make less then I did before the new regulations.

      As far as the advertisements.. I feel you bro. Imagine listening to it for 12 hours? All of this was put in place by hackney. Not the drivers and not the Cab owners. As far as the bad service from some drivers with talking on the phone etc.. please report all instances of bad service to the B.P.D. hackney carriage unit. The less bad drivers there are the easier it would be for people like me.

  • maxdaddy

    There are at least two possible sources of declining revenue.  One is the credit card fees, of course,  The other, unstated, is, I suspect, declining tips, at least in cabs where one cannot choose a percentage of the fare as a tip.  I know I’ve reduced tips myself.  Whereas previously I might just round up and give $2 or $3 on a $7 fare, now I can give $1.40 if given the choice of a  20% tip.  Personally, I think 20% is just fine, and it’s a common restaurant rate for a lot more service than a cabbie gives.

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