Serendipity was not on the side of a Minneapolis taxicab driver Saturday night when he refused to accept a credit card and told his passenger to pay with cash.
Bad move on the part of the cabbie, who lost his fare and was slapped with a $200 fine when an undercover business license inspector on a bicycle happened upon the scene as the transaction was going down.
All cab drivers are required to have credit card machines and accept plastic as payment. If they don't have the machines, the cabs can be taken out of service, said Jose Velez, an inspector with the city's Licenses and Consumer Services division.
"The vast majority of drivers do a good job and follow the rules,' Velez said. "They are hardworking and trying to put food on the table. I respect the job they do."
But every so often, Velez will catch one skirting the regulations.
It all played out when Star Tribune photographer Aaron Lavinsky hailed a Viking Cab at Historic Halls Island in northeast Minneapolis around 8 p.m. His destination was the paper's downtown headquarters. Lavinsky was quoted a $15 fare, which he says should have been closer to $11. Lavinsky handed his credit card to the cabbie, who in return tells him "cash only, no credit," and instructed the photographer to hit a nearby ATM.
As Lavinsky returns to the cab, Velez pulled up and noticed the cab illegally blocking a crosswalk. Lavinsky told Velez "that would not have been a problem if he took credit cards like everyone else in 2015."
That caught Velez's attention. Upon investigation, Velez found the driver did have a credit card machine in the car and was not displaying his Minneapolis taxi license. Velez cited the driver with a $200 fine and a warning notice.
"The driver should have taken the credit card; the transaction would have gone smoother," Velez said. "We are here to make sure cabs are meeting code. We're here to make sure they are following regulations."
A man who answered the phone at Viking Cab said his drivers do accept credit cards as required and didn't know why the driver did not.
Karma was on Lavinsky's side, as Velez the cab driver to cancel the fare.
"It was totally insane," Lavinsky said. "This guy was ripping me off, in this perfect moment this bicyclist rolls up and starts giving the cab driver crap. Turns out he was a cop. I was flabbergasted. Now I know why people like Uber and Lyft."