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Minneapolis taxi-driver dress code passes; credit-card issue put off

Life as we know it was not forever changed at Minneapolis City Hall on Monday. But that might happen in January.

That’s if life includes an occasional ride in a taxicab. What was proposed was a requirement that drivers accept credit and debit cards. Just like Starbucks. What the Regulatory, Energy & Environment Committee approved on Monday was a gentle overhaul of the taxicab ordinance.

We now have a new dress code for drivers. The credit- and debit-card language was pulled out for more study.

Council Member Gary Schiff, fresh from reading a story in Forbes Magazine about how taxi drivers are getting ripped off, wants to make sure the ripping off doesn’t happen in Minneapolis.

He cited Boston as the bad example. Drivers there pay a 6 percent fee to the cab owners when they accept credit cards for payment as required by the city. That 6 percent fee also comes out of their tip if the tip is on the credit card.

“Credit cards make it easier for the consumers,” said Schiff, but “we also want to make sure drivers are not getting taken advantage of behind the scenes.” He is quite sure the credit and debit card part of the taxicab ordinance will be approved in January.

The good news is we will not be riding with drivers wearing flip-flops. Or for that matter, we will not be riding with drivers wearing clothing items with holes, tears or prominent stains. And drivers must have $20 in change available for those who pay in cash.

Most of the credit- and debit-card discussion was favorable. Zach Williams of Rainbow Taxi said his company takes credit cards but cautioned about putting the scanner in the back seat because, he said, the drunks will ruin it in six months. Better to keep the scanner up front.

Williams said Visa and MasterCard fees are just under 2 percent, while American Express charges 3.5 percent.  

“I used to swallow (those fees) as a company, but found I couldn’t afford it,” said Williams, who now passes the fees along to his drivers.

St. Paul does not require taxicabs to accept credit or debit cards. But the Metropolitan Airports Commission does require drivers picking up passengers there to accept the cards.

Eric Hudak, assistant manager of MAC Commercial Vehicle Operations, said there are 36 companies supplying taxi service to the airport, which represents a fleet of 725 taxis and more than 900 licensed drivers. All of them are credit- and debit-card ready.

Del Jenkins had a different story about the need for taxi drivers who take cards. He works as a bouncer in downtown Minneapolis. It apparently can be quite a challenge to find a taxi at closing time that will accept a drunk person who doesn’t have cash for the ride home.

The committee plans to schedule the credit- and debit-card ordinance for reconsideration in January.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/29/2011 - 11:08 am.

    So…taxicab drivers in the Twin Cities can’t wear flipflops, but they can drive like morons. I have to say, riding with a cabbie in NYC is scary, but efficient. In Minnesota, be prepared to be lost, in the wrong lane, going the wrong direction (yep, saw one trying to enter a freeway on the off ramp), sitting at a green light, etc. I hate driving anywhere near one because I can almost be guaranteed to have to worry about whether they’re going to try to merge into you or take a right turn from the left lane. I would think we would require being able to safely navigate the Twin Cities, first, before we worried about flipflops.

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/29/2011 - 05:11 pm.

    So, when will see dress codes for everyone else with a government-issued license? For that matter, where do we get off requiring them to accept credit cards? Cabbies live on a pretty thin margin as it is.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/30/2011 - 09:30 am.

    Wow. Talk about intrusive government. First they want to make Aunt Sally join a union to watch her nieces and nephews, now they’re telling small businessmen what they have to wear on the job.

  4. Submitted by Fred Haeusler on 11/30/2011 - 01:18 pm.

    My experience with taxis has been when you are the passenger they drive the exact speed limit and slow down for green lights til the turn yellow. If there is no passenger, they’ll be going flow of traffic …

  5. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/30/2011 - 04:51 pm.

    No one’s forcing anyone to join a union. That’s outright wrong.

    I do agree that a dress code was not a good idea. Not that the dress code is all that severe, but dress codes should be for individual cab companies to decide, not government.

    Regarding credit cards, I’m of the mind that those that want to provide a service in a town must do so under the rules of the town within reasonable limitations. The dress code–probably going too far by ordinance. However, a cabbie is providing a service that might be considered essential. That is, a person who finds themselves on a curb at 2 am without a car might not have cash on hand (and probably wouldn’t WANT to), but still needs to get home. Should the person reasonably have to wait until a cabbie that does accept credit cards shows up, providing themselves as crime bait? Or carry cash and thus providing themselves as crime bait? I think not. At the same time, any tips should NOT be subject to grabbing by the cab company simply because the tip is provided by credit card. It’s good to debate that aspect of the potential requirement.

  6. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 12/01/2011 - 09:19 am.

    A few years ago I called for a cab and specifically stated that I was going to use a credit card because I did not have any cash. The cabbie who showed up would not take a credit card, so we had to stop at an ATM. You would think that under the circumstances the cabbie would stop the meter while I was getting cash, but no, that didn’t happen.

    My friends from out of state tell me the Minneapolis cab drivers are the worst in the country. Its not a problem for me when the driver lacks even basic knowledge of the street layout and I have to provide directions, but when someone who doesn’t know the cities has to do that, its just ridiculous. It really reflects poorly on the cities.

    I don’t know how the credit card thing is even subject to debate. Its 2011. If drivers want better tips, I would suggest that they start obeying traffic laws and learn the geography of the area.

  7. Submitted by Susan Williams on 04/20/2013 - 11:07 pm.

    Definitely this would be a biggest issues government and private organizations are providing taxi drivers a proper dress code but what about credit card sweep machine; basically a passenger used to shop or travel through using credit cards and most of the times we have noticed that passenger used to stop taxi near any ATM machine to get cash for travel. Use of credit card is quite easier for us and it allows a cash free shopping experience.

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