Cab drivers and credit cards

April 8, 2008 9:01:49 PM PDT
There is growing concern about a practice that is going on in a surprising number of taxi cabs in Philadelphia. It is that credit cards are not being accepted as payment.

When we began investigating this issue, we learned the problem is much bigger than we first thought.

Taxi riders are being harassed for using a credit card at an alarming rate. Some have been flat out denied a ride, and one woman was allegedly assaulted.

We took our cameras undercover. An Action News producer and I acted like tourists with a credit card in one hand and handicam in the other. We began taking cabs around the city.

During only our second trip, we ran into resistance.

When we asked the driver if he took credit cards, he said no.

"I prefer cash if you have cash," he said.

The driver finally agreed to take a credit card since we told him that's all we had.

Another driver, however, wasn't as willing to comply. He told us the system was having a problem and he could only take cash. The credit card machine in the back seemed to be working just fine.

When we told the driver we didn't have cash, he took us to an ATM to get some.

And then there's Ronald Bloun, the head of the Taxi Workers Alliance in Philadelphia.

Shortly after we began our investigation, Blount was arrested for allegedly choking a woman. Why? She wanted to use a credit card to pay her fare. Blount's lawyer denied the charge as the two walked into court.

"Someone has tried to take an unfortunate incident and turning it into something it is not," said Blount's lawyer. "It's not acceptable."

Jim Ney is the Director of Taxis and Limousines for the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which overseas taxis in the city. He says in the past year and a half, the authority has issued 175 citations for credit card related issues.

Ney acknowledges too many drivers are not accepting the plastic and harassing riders.

"We've been enforcing, perhaps not as vigorously as we should, but we're getting ready to step that up," said Ney.

Some taxi drivers say the credit card machines are unreliable. They also complain about the five percent processing fee for each transaction, and claim they don't get reimbursed for up to a week.

"That's why a lot people are afraid to take credit cards. It takes too long to get paid, if they get paid at all," said John Hough of the Taxi Workers Alliance.

Muhammad Chughtai says that's simply not the case. He's President of the Unified Brotherhood of Taxi Drivers, a second taxi union in the city. He says the machines work well, and payments are almost always reimbursed within a day or two.

Chughtai said some drivers are making better tips and more money with these credit card systems.

Several sources close to the situation tell Action News that some drivers don't like the credit card machines for one simple reason: Taxes. They'll have to claim those wages.