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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Paul has driven in Boston for seven years, and he wants the credit card requirement repealed.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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