For the week ending 21 June 2003 / 21 Sivan 5763

The Cabbie Has No Change

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I recently hailed a cab and upon reaching my destination took out a hundred dollar bill to pay my fare. To my dismay the driver said that he did not have enough change because he had just gone on duty. Whose responsibility is it to start scrambling to find someone who will break such a large bill?

Answer: When you enter a cab you are hiring the services of the driver and his car to get you to your destination. Since you have a legal and moral obligation to pay the cabbie upon completion of his service it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the kind of currency which can serve as payment, or something close enough to the amount of the anticipated fare for which any cabbie can be expected to have change available. Lacking this it seems that the proper thing to do upon telling the cabbie your destination is to inquire of him whether he has change for the large bill with which you intend to pay him for the ride.

A fine distinction can be made between this situation and that of paying for a purchase in a shop or supermarket. When someone is selling you something and making a profit on the sale, he is prepared to accept payment in any form, whether it be a check, credit card and sometimes in the case of small neighborhood food stores even keep a record of it in a ledger for a later payment. It is understandable therefore that the merchant involved sees it as his responsibility to either be ready with change or to accept any other arrangement. The cabbie, on the other hand, is providing a service for which only cash is acceptable since he may never meet his passenger again.

As a postscript to the above it has been suggested by a farsighted do-gooder that it is a good idea to always carry around small bills and change because you may be able to help someone break a large bill and do him a favor at no cost to yourself. Who knows you may even be in a position to settle the dispute between the cabbie and his passenger!

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