New York’s cabbies have learned to give credit where credit’s due.
One year after taxis were outfitted with machines so passengers can pay with plastic, drivers admit they might not like the new system, but they can live with it.
When the high-tech GPS and credit card devices were first installed in the city’s 13,000 cabs, there was fierce opposition from many drivers.
They would openly grumble if a passenger did not have cash – or sometimes lie that the machine was broken.
Drivers also railed against the company that had installed the machines, saying they lost money because it got to pocket 5% of each credit card fare.
“When drivers say it’s not working, they just don’t want you to use it because of the price they have to pay. But what you gonna do?” said cab driver Jean Francois after taking a reporter on a $3.70 ride from Chelsea to the West Village, earning himself a $1.30 tip.
“It’s business. Sometimes you lose; sometimes you win.”
During more than a dozen cab rides across the city over the last week, the Daily News found drivers now seem resigned to the new system.
When asked if it was okay to use a credit card, some replied: “Sure, no problem,” while others greeted their passenger with a more subdued nod of the head and “Uh-huh.”
“Mostly, the people still pay cash,” said another driver who took a reporter across midtown Manhattan. The ride cost $7.30, and he received a $1 tip.
“But I guess it’s good for those that don’t have any.
“I try not to worry about it. It’s just the system.”
The Taxi and Limousine Commission says drivers should embrace the machines, as figures show the average tip is now 19%, compared with 12% to 15% before the machines were installed.
“We have moved beyond the point of some drivers expressing a fear of the unknown about these systems … with most drivers truly appreciating their benefits,” Commissioner Matthew Daus said.
The Taxi Worker’s Alliance, the drivers’ advocacy group that staged a two-day strike and then sued over the new technology, had a different take.
The machines break down, credit cards are often charged twice and New Yorkers turn the TV monitors off because they don’t want to be bombarded with the latest news, traffic and weather, TWA executive director Bhairavi Desai said.
“What was the value of [investing in] a technology that is underused and is only costing drivers money and time?” Desai said.
“It’s an insult to the hard work of taxi drivers.”