Credit card machines have now been installed in about half the city’s nearly 13,100 yellow cabs; all taxis are scheduled to have them by Jan. 31. From time to time, we have heard complaints about drivers refusing to take credit cards, or claiming that the machines were broken (some readers have posted complaints here on City Room). So the Metro Section decided to investigate. We sent out five reporters with instructions to try 20 trips each. They fanned out in Manhattan, boarded cabs and asked cabbies the question, “I’ve only got a credit card, is that O.K.?”
We expected some resistance. Taxi drivers walked off the job twice in two months this year, largely because of new machines that allow yellow cabs to accept credit cards. (Drivers were not happy, in particular, with the credit-card processing fees and the possibility that riders with cards might tip less than those paying cash.)
We’ll have the complete findings in Saturday editions, but here’s a sneak peek for our blog readers: Of the 92 tries (winter weather interfered with some tries), 47 of the trips — slightly more than half — were successfully paid for with a credit or debit card. About 35 cabs — nearly 40 percent — did not yet have the credit-card readers installed.
In the remaining 10 cabs, the drivers strongly resisted accepting credit cards, even though the readers were clearly working.
Most drivers equipped with the machines complied indifferently, but some winced and a few argued before allowing credit card payment (city regulations require them to accept the cards.)
A sample of claims that drivers made:
“There is a minimum cab fare for credit card use.” (There isn’t, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.)
There is a 35-cent transaction fee for credit cards.” (Not so.)
“It’s too short a ride.” (No such thing.)
“It better be a good credit card.” (Passengers can always pay with cash if the card is declined.)
The device doesn’t have to be activated until the new year. (If it is installed, passengers can use it.)