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NY Inspectors Monitor Credit Card Acceptance in Taxis

Since last month, up to 100 inspectors have taken rides to check whether the new Taxi Passenger's Bill of Rights is followed. Taxi and Limousine Commission has received a lot of complains that cabby drivers refuse to accept credit cards. So together with police officers they organized an undercover operation "Secret Rider", in which inspectors are looking for violations of the city's rules.

This is the first effort to monitor credit card acceptance. The operation will detect the drivers who pretend that the credit card system is broken and ask passengers to pay with cash only. The point is that taxi drivers will never know whether their passenger is a secret rider or not. So it will make them adhere to the city's rules all the time.

According to the commission, there are more than 13,000 taxis in New York. They take on average 240 million rides a year. For the last two years the commission has received about 40,000 complaints, on average 55 a day. The sponsors hope that the operation will lower the number of complaints.

Secret Rider works like secret shopper programs. It is aimed to test the provision of passengers' rights and the level of service in taxis. A driver who does not accept credit cards will receive up to $350 fine. If a driver commits numerous violations within a specified period of time, he or she could lose the license.

However, the program will not only punish negligent drivers, it implies a carrot too. The inspectors will consider drivers who work well for the Taxi and Limousine commission's recognition program. It awards exceptionally well performing taxi drivers with things like free hotel stays and meals.

Credit card equipment has been installed to most yellow cabs not so far. The rules require all taxis to have GPS, video screens and credit card readers that enable passengers to pay with a plastic. Credit card transactions take 5 - 10 seconds on the average. The Passenger Information Monitor located in the backseat informs you when a credit card is approved. If you are double charged, you can bring a complaint against the taxi driver.

All drivers are required to accept American Express, MasterCard, VISA and Discover (and some accept the JCB Card) for all fares. There are no minimums or fees to use your credit card. Not all taxi drivers like the new rules. Last year The New York Taxi Workers Alliance organized two strikes over the issue. Taxi drivers protest the city's new obligatory credit card payment machines and automatic mapping systems. They are afraid that the equipment is used to track all their movements. They also dislike paying fees to cover credit card transactions - it costs the drivers a 5% surcharge. So 50 cents are taken from every $10 paid to the driver.

However, most drivers do not protest accepting credit cards from their passengers. As long as they are paid for taking rides, they see no problems.


Pete Moeller
02:50 AM, April 09, 2008
Hi, I am from NY. Yesterday a taxi driver refused to accept my plastic. I am gonna complain to Taxi Comission. I guess such operations are needed all year round, not just for a couple of weeks!
Jilian A.
11:04 PM, July 06, 2008
I live in NY. If a driver refuses to accepts my plastics, I will just find another taxi!
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