Some things do not change

Not long ago, in a city marketing itself as a „U.N. and congress city“, I arrived late and wanted to take a taxi for a 2km ride. Here in Gjøvik I have to go back some time to remember when I last paid without a credit card. It has become the natural way to pay for many services. I even observe students paying for a cup of coffee using their card. There are even plans to remove the need for cash for financial transactions in Norway. I remember travelling to Iceland and paying for everything there without ever getting in touch with cash.

Ten years ago I had tried to convince the taxi driver in said „U.N. and congress city“ to let me pay by credit card. He refused after I explained that I was not in need of going to the airport (which would have incurred a high fare). The next driver in line claimed that his card terminal was broken after he had heard where I was heading to. And the third one refused. So did the fourth. All had these nice credit card company logos on their windshield, indicating that they accept card payments. The fifth driver also said that he wanted to earn more, and refused to transport me. Fine, it’s a free country. Unless it comes to licences for operating a taxi. In that case, taxi operators are quick to argue that a low number of licences will still be sufficient to transport every customer and will ensure that all taxi drivers will earn enough for a living. After the fifth driver had refused to transport me, I gave up. I walked fifty meters away from the waiting area and called dispatch. I explained to them that I needed a taxi and that it needed to be capable of accepting credit cards. No problem for them. They know who is technically capable of accepting card payments, they will communicate mode of payment upfront, and drivers who accept an order from dispatch central have a hard time declining after they pick up the passenger. The driver was not happy, but I managed to get to my destination and to pay by credit card.

This year, I tried again. Remembering who has the higher social status (hint, it is not the customer), I asked the first driver in line: „Hello, will you allow me to pay by Visa card for the trip?“. He replied: „Where are you going?“. I said: „Does it depend on the destination whether you can process my card?“ He was clear: „If it is just a 5-6 EUR trip, then, no, I will not take your card.“ I declined. I did not try another taxi. I did not bother calling dispatch. I walked. The next day I travelled back to Gjøvik, took a taxi from the station to my home, and paid by card – of course.

Next time I take a taxi in the „U.N. and congress city“, I will remember that taxi drivers are not really keen of earning money that is visible to tax authorities because it is not cash.

According to a quick internet search, the marginal fees a taxi operator has to pay for credit card processing are around 3% of the total amount plus a flat amount of 0.25 EUR. In the case of a projected 7 EUR for the trip, the fees would have amounted to 0.46 EUR. You can wait ca. 3 minutes at minimum wage for a trip that pays you more. Otherwise, waiting for a cash-paying customer actually costs the taxi operator more money than accepting a credit card payment. But who said that we are dealing with rational service providers?

About Author: Hanno Langweg

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