#FirstWorldProblems – Chicago Cabs

I have been many places both inside and outside of the United States where people are much less fortunate. Fully aware of how good I have it, I am still going to complain about things that I feel entitled to have better. If you want to contribute any first world problems, please contact me and I will post them, either anonymously or with credit attributed. 

Last week, Red Eye, a free daily Chicago newspaper, published an article entitled “Clash Cab” that is near and dear to the hearts of everyone who lives in this city. Even though they are required to accept major credit cards, cab drivers in this city are obscenely incredulous and rude when we try to use credit cards to pay for our fares. They moan and groan, giving you a dirty look and grumbling as if wanting to pay by credit card is something wholly unreasonable like asking if the driver would mind if you urinate inside the cab. Oftentimes, they claim that the credit card machine is broken.

While some cabs have those quick processors in the passenger sections, most taxis have machines that take forever to process the payment. You have to sit awkwardly in the back of the cab for what is probably only two minutes but feels like an eternity for that stupid processor that is probably from like 1985 to authorize the payment and print the receipt. Some taxis don’t even have this; they have to manually imprint your card and call in the payment to their company. Call me overly cautious but given that these are the same people who whine excessively when compelled to accept credit cards, I don’t exactly feel safe giving dozens of them access to an imprint of my credit card. WE DESERVE BETTER.

(Side note: It is also annoying when restaurants and bars don’t accept credit cards or have minimums. That is its own post, though).

Last weekend, I was in a cab where the driver, in principled opposition to accepting credit cards, cost himself money. I was taking a cab from a bar in Lincoln Park back to my apartment in Old Town. As I got in the taxi, I asked the driver if he accepted credit cards. Shaking his head and looking at me as if he wished I were dead, he griped about the fees his company would charge him and how long the receipt would take to print. As if those problems are my fault and I should feel bad about his plight.

“Do you have any cash?” the fat, middle-aged driver from somewhere in the Middle East (description meant to enhance visual imagery, not as a racist injunction against all people or drivers from the Middle East. That being said, my favorite drivers are the ones from Africa who have heavy accents and have heard of the musicians that my cousin manages. They are friendly and don’t complain about credit cards.) demanded of me. “Um, I have about nine dollars,” I replied meekly, pulling out my wallet to count the 1s I had received as re-payment for beer from my roommate earlier in the night. My estimate was correct. “Nine dollars will do,” the driver replied in disgust, obviously still reeling from my outrageous request to pay by credit card a minute earlier.

The fare ended up at $8.15. I paid him the nine dollars and stumbled into my apartment. Analyzing the situation later, though, I realized that this cab driver’s decision was not in his economic best interest. “Most cabdrivers are independent contractors who lease their cabs from taxi companies for a monthly rate. Drivers also pay credit card processing fees to the cab company. At Yellow Cab, drivers pay 5 percent of the fare to swipe a credit card, which is standard across the industry,” Red Eye’s Austin Smith wrote.

If I had paid by credit, I probably would have made the fare equal out to $10.00. Taking 5% out, the driver would have netted $9.50. In acting like an entitled baby, he cost himself $.50 (although there admittedly would be a slight opportunity cost in time spent waiting for the stupid machine to take forever to print).

As a citizenry, we need to collectively take action against this outrageous behavior by our cab drivers. We need to demand that all cabs have the good credit processors and that their drivers don’t try to make us feel bad for using our credit cards, which at this point should be a natural right in line with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. At the very least, we should not tip when we are forced to pay in cash–HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS. We are allegedly in a bad economy and I would have to imagine that there are any number of people in the country and world who would be willing to replace them and happily accept credit cards. WE SHOULD NOT BE DENIED THIS.

Have you had similar experiences in Chicago or other cities? Please post comments or send along detailed descriptions.

Please follow me on Twitter – @RGSpiegel

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