SF cabbies saying ‘no’ to plastic


If you — like so many of us these days —  prefer to use money in plastic form, be warned: It’s not good enough for some San Francisco cabbies.

Though required by law to accept credit cards, some hacks are requiring riders pay in cash, in some cases kicking out passengers who try to pay with debit or credit cards.

The issue from the front seat is credit card fees. A new policy among San Francisco cab companies requires cab drivers to foot the bill for the five percent processing charge for credit and debit cards.

For years, the companies themselves would pick up the cost of processing the cards. Now that the The City allows companies to pass the fees along to drivers, some drivers are fixing the problem by not taking cards at all.

Taxi passengers are being forced by drivers to stop at an ATM en route to their destination to withdraw cash (and incur bank fees of their own). Or, even, worse, riders like Elizabeth Baski are getting the boot, sometimes in sketchy areas:

“I got kicked out of a cab just the other day on Market Street because I didn’t have cash. That was not fun.”

Passengers whose credit cards get shunned should take the cab’s number (printed on the outside of every cab, and inside the passenger compartment) and driver’s permit number (displayed inside the cab) and report the violation to San Francisco’s 311 help line.

While San Francisco cabs are among the nation’s most expensive, at $3.50 for pickup and $2.75/mile, cabbies also pay a relatively high average of $92/shift to lease their cabs, with another $7.50/shift for hybrid taxis.

With another $20 – $60 in gas, plus $10 – $20 in “optional” tips to dispatchers, cashiers and mechanics, drivers can easily find themselves in a $200 hole before taking a single fare.

A 2006 study found the average income for a San Francisco taxi driver on a ten-hour shift was less than $120.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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