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.