Alexandria’s cabbies pan proposed credit card mandate

By Derrick Perkins

A measure that would require Alexandria-based taxicabs to accept major credit cards drew the ire of drivers during Saturday’s city council meeting.

As written, the proposal lets cab companies pick the credit cards accepted and the necessary equipment for processing the transactions. If approved by city council, which regulates the local industry, the requirement would go into effect in July.

Though not opposed to taking plastic outright, drivers complained bitterly that credit card fees would cut into their profits. City staff initially considered allowing drivers to pass along a surcharge for accepting plastic but dropped the stipulation for fear of driving away customers, officials said.

The drivers, independent contractors who own their vehicles, asked city council for more autonomy before approving the change. Cabbies, not the company owners, should decide what equipment to use and the credit cards they want to accept, the drivers argued.

But City Attorney Jim Banks said regulating the parent companies, rather than individual drivers, would prove easier for officials to enforce. Alexandria Yellow Cab’s top management agreed with Banks’ assessment.

General Manager Kyle Summers — and Yellow Cab owner Spencer Kimball — worried that drivers who prefer dealing with cash will tell customers their credit card machine is malfunctioning. Yellow Cab, which already installed credit card machines in its fleet of taxis, struggles to ensure all of its affiliated drivers follow the company policy, Kimball said.

He and Summers backed the proposal. Worried about potential competitors cutting into the taxicab industry, the pair argued requiring drivers to accept credit cards merely met customer expectations.

“Drivers won’t always want to accept credit cards, but the customers want to pay by credit card and, because we’re in the customer service industry, we need to offer what the customers want,” Summers said.

The idea of requiring cabs to accept credit cards emerged earlier this year, when city council approved a slew of taxi rate changes during its regular review of the industry. Mayor Bill Euille, backed by his colleagues, told city staff Saturday to address several of the concerns raised before bringing the measure back before city council later this month.

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(4) Readers Comments

  1. Everything is done by cards these days. The cabbies can’t expect cash just as 7-11 can’t expect cash for a pack of gum in these era. The inflation to take a cab is already ridiculous enough ($20 to take a cab from the West End to Old Town) they really can’t get mad about their “profit”.

  2. It is hard to get a cab at the metro stations in Alexandria when using credit cards. They refuse you- make you jump to and from cab to cab until you finally find a cab that will except it. Everything is done through the process of credit cards. I read that the fedreal govenment has requested that all cab companies that process credit card be linked to them because of false income reporting. These cabbies are reporting an income of $11,000 per year when actually making $50/60k. They live in subsidized housing, recieveassistance from Social Sevices and save al their miney. Of course they are pushing to have the right to not accept credit cards. The government will make them pay the fair amount of taxes like everyone else.

  3. @ Silver Johnson – First, sir, I am a licensed Alexandria taxicab operator. I do NOT live in “subsidized housing”, I do NOT take a dime of Government money and I don’t care about whether or not the Infernal Revenuers know what I make.

    The problem with credit cards is that driving a taxi is a CASH BUSINESS, and unexpected expenses can pop up at any time. IF the Alexandria companies were required to have a cashier dispensing cash for credit card slips open and running 24/7, then resistance to credit cards would melt away to almost nothing.

    However as things stand, the company I am contracted with has a cashier open from 10 AM to 3 PM Monday through Thursday, until 2 PM on Friday and (usually) between 9 AM and 11 AM on Saturday. There have been multiple occasions in which I have faced a situation where if I took one more credit card I might not even have enough fuel to make it back home, and so had to curtail operations until I could visit the cashier, spend 30 minutes to half an hour in line, and receive a paper check which I had to cash before I could buy the fuel to resume operations.

    I have seen my dinner options dwindle from a pizza to a BIg Mac down to a 7-11 Big Bite Hot Dog as I took plastic payment after plastic payment.

    I would guess that you never tried to shingle your roof by driving a taxicab in your life, Silver. If you had, you would realize that we cabbies make our living picking up strangers off the street at great risk to our own persons. I know of no less than five cabbies who were murdered for the dollars in their pockets. In fact, I almost picked up a murderous thug myself back in 1996. My best friend picked up the blowhole and wound up with his brains blown all over his windshield at 5th and Piedmont in North Arlington.

    Personally if I am sitting on a Metro stand it is because I am in need of cash SO I CAN CONTINUE OPERATING. You are doing a lot of assuming here. And you know what they say about “assume” don’t you?

    • Thanks for your comments. However, you maybe the 2 % of America drivers for your comany that does not take advantage of the system. But the others are! Trust me THEY are taking advantage of the American system.

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