Chicago cabbies wage war on credit cards

Chicago cab drivers really, really, don’t want to take your credit card.  While the non-independent drivers are required to do so, they have no problem expressing their open disdain for the holy trinity of Visa/MasterCard/AmEx. 

As a passenger, there’s nothing I hate more than being made to feel like an asshole for simply paying what I owe. 

Last Thursday, after arriving back at O’Hare from a long four-day trip to Canada, I dragged my luggage to the cab stand.   I always ask cabbies before getting in their ride, “will you take my credit card?” Though the required answer is “yes,” if I see a flash of resistance,I’ll opt for another driver.  I simply don’t want the hassle or annoyance.

When I asked the cab driver at the front of the cab line whether he took credit cards, he nodded and smiled, so I jumped in the backseat.  Within seconds–we hadn’t even left the “Arrivals” area,he started complaining.  “It’s rush hour, and you’re paying with a credit card,” he mumbled.  “I don’t need this.”
“If you don’t want to take it,” I said, “let me out.  No harm.”
“No, no.  It’s okay.  I take your card.”
“That’s great. Thanks.”

The complaints started up again the second we hit the Kennedy.  “This traffic is very bad.  I’m losing money sitting here,” he said, making eye contact with me in his rearview mirror.
“Sorry?” I said, more as a question than empathetic statement.
“You’re wasting my time,” he said.
“Then you shouldn’t have pulled out of O’Hare with me in your backseat,” I said with a voice that was atypically loud.  I’m not a yeller.
He mumbled something in another language.  Actually, it may have been English.  All I could understand was that he was pissed off.

“Paying with a credit card,” he said, shaking his head histrionically.  We were approaching Cumberland, and I eyed the Renaissance Hotel on the south side of the expressway.  “Get off here,” I said, “take me to the Renaissance.  I’m done.”
“What?  You want to go to the Renaissance now?”
“Yes.  I’m getting the fuck out of your cab, just like you wanted.”
“No, no.  It’s okay.  I take you where you want.”
“Perfect.  I want to go to the Renaissance.”
“It’s no big deal.  I keep driving you.”
“It is a big deal.  Let me out at the hotel.”

We parted ways without any further conversation.  I gave him my credit card…he ran it…and I approached the first cab I saw in front of the hotel.

I asked my standard question of the new driver.  “Sure, I’ll take a credit card,” he said.  And with that, we were off.

My new driver didn’t complain like the previous one. Instead, he lectured me throughout the entire trip on the reasons why cab drivers hate taking credit cards.  The gist is that they have to pay a percentage for each credit card transaction; which, depending on the cost of the fare and tip, could find them losing money.

“That’s rough,” I said.  “But aren’t we moving towards becoming a cashless society? Isn’t it only going to get worse?”
“Yes,” he replied.  “And it’s fucking bullshit.”

By all accounts, cab drivers have it rough.  They have to deal with random strangers who can be rude, drunk, and/or dangerous.  They don’t have the luxury of being able to call in sick–if they’re not behind the wheel, they’re not making money. They also have to drive in traffic that’s rarely rational or moderate.  In short, driving a taxi is a suck job. 

I can’t speak to the costs of being a taxi operator, nor am I conversant on the rules and regulations that the city of Chicago imposes on them.  All I know is that when I’m paying for a service, I don’t want to be belittled or demeaned for doing so.

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