As a cab driver in Southern California (an occupation not by choice but as a means of surviving and weathering our ongoing economic recession), it has been quite revealing to see what my fellow drivers have been doing around the world in regards to asserting our rights and voices.

This goes especially with the events surrounding the recent strikes in Greece and San Francisco. Ladies and gentlemen, this really is no ordinary job. For the most part, cab drivers are very solitary and highly competitive individuals, which means it is almost impossible to get two drivers to agree to one act in an entire fleet – let alone a legion of drivers from various fleets and companies. A joke among drivers down here is: “You are better off organizing a float parade with cats than getting cabbies to do anything together.” And yet, the impossible has happened.

What Ails Today’s Cabbie

There are many things that ails today’s cabbie. Road safety is number one, but the startlingly high rates of murder and assault is also a deep concern. However, these are not the concerns prompting the strikes today.

Neither have they come to complain about fining would-be “ghost passengers,” people who order a taxi, forcing drivers to exit their normal route where other pedestrians could very well need a ride but never show up. Nor have they been complaining about the insane gas prices that wipe out $100 dollars from the driver’s daily earning as a result of an average 180-250 mile commute.

But this is not what the drivers have come together for in San Francisco. Instead they are mad about something as trivial as a 5% surcharge on credit card usage. So what’s the big deal?

Why Drivers Are Upset About The Credit Card Surcharge

The deal is that it is not simply a 5% charge that makes drivers anxious. It is the fact that most credit card transactions are usually somewhere between $35-130 per swipe, a pretty decent chunk of money that could be doing more good in the hands of the driver.

When a passenger uses the taxi’s credit card machine, they are essentially getting a driver ready for extra paper work and a 5-9 business day wait time for the money to become available but only available to the “company account.”

With the additional hoops and hurdles drivers need to take to extract that money back from their company, the realistic effect is to make a $30 credit card fare worth less than a $20 cash.

In fact, most of the time the drivers may never see this money at all because it goes straight to paying the driver’s lease and other expenses, but even the surplus won’t be worth pulling out. Multiply that by a minimum of 3 fares a day, seven days a week, and the strike and picketing may become clear to you. It’s a pain considering how simple and easy the solution to this mis-endeavour really is:

Smartphones & Squaring up!

Square Credit Card Device on a is a San Francisco-based company that has revolutionized the way private business and exchange is handled amongst individuals and private contractors. Setting up a Square account is literally as simple as opening up an email or social network account. After downloading the free app to your Smartphone, you request the auxiliary device to be sent to you (usually in less than 7 business days), and connect your account to the bank of your choosing.

The surcharge for this device is 2.75%  (3.25% if you just punch in the card number instead of swiping it), which is almost half the price of the surcharge with the cab company’s credit service. The money is sent directly to your account in less than 4 business days. It also has the neat benefit of having a “Back To The Future effect” where passengers are delighted and surprised at the coolness of getting business done on phones, using their fingers to sign their names and the option of having paperless receipts texted or emailed to them.

When a person gets signed up to be a taxi driver, they usually fill out paper work that legally classifies the individual a “private business contractor.” This is normally done so the cab companies do not have to pay drivers any health benefits or bother with any assistance in case of injuries or other legal troubles. Therefore, the cab company’s credit service is just that, a “service,” a middleman of sorts set up to keep money from the driver who worked for it and keep more money for the company. With the Square app, there is no middleman, and the exchange between the driver and the passenger is completely legal and virtually impossible for cab companies to enforce as drivers have a certain degree of freedom on how they do business as a private contractor. They just have to make sure that they have the right info for their business so the credit receipt indicates the money transaction was for a taxi fare.

So I say to my fellow drivers in the U.S, Europe, and anywhere this service is acceptable, Square Up! And have a safe ride!