A college student from the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois took a train into the city to meet some friends for dinner last December. When she arrived at Ogilvie Transportation Center, she realized she was running late. She hailed a cab on the street, which took her a little over a mile to her destination of the Sweetwater Tavern and Grille. She paid for the fare using a credit card, which the driver swiped through a Square payment device attached to his smart phone.
The student, 20-year-old Becky Siegel, was charged $787.33 for the ride.
According to Siegel, she wasn’t paying attention when she paid for the fare, which was supposed to cost somewhere around $5.
“I guess I didn’t pay attention or I didn’t look. I just signed my name with my finger and I left,” Siegel said.
Siegel and her family ultimately discovered the strange charge online, eventually filing a dispute with the credit card company. Chase, the bank that had issued the Visa card, responded to Siegel’s complaint, explaining that the charges were valid because Siegel had signed the receipt. Chase's statement also suggested that Siegel contact the merchant, Ali Ghanzanfari, if she still believed that the charge was mistaken.
Siegel was finally able to contact the cab driver after breaking her story to the Chicago Tribune's "What's Your Problem" section. The publication spoke with Ghanzanfari, who claimed that he remembered his interaction with Siegel.
“I remember exactly what happened. I made a mistake on the fare. I don’t know what happened. Everything happened so fast. Then I went home and checked my transactions; I realized I charged the person $787.33,” Ghanzanfari said.
The man also claimed that he attempted to refund Siegel’s money, but could not find a way to contact her. However, he is now in Iran on personal business until September and is unable to send the money until he returns.
Ghanzanfari claimed that he understands how the mistake is wrong, but he also thinks that the Siegels should not be so worried.
“If it’s $787, it’s not that much in her life. If they live in the suburbs, definitely they don’t need $787 right now because I’m not there and I’m not going to be there for five months. If they can wait, I’d be glad to give them the money. I understand that even if you rip off $1 from somebody, you’re not supposed to do that. Accidents happen. Who is going to charge someone $787 for not even two miles? It wouldn’t cost that much to go to Detroit, Mich.,” Ghanzanfari said.
Winnetka is widely regarded as one of the wealthiest suburbs in the Chicago area.
After remaining firm that she wanted a refund of her money, Siegel claims that a representative from Square agreed to send a check in full for $787.33.
According to Yahoo News, spokesperson for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Mika Stambaugh claimed that Ghanzanfari’s license would be temporarily suspended.
“Our department has suspended his public chauffeur license pending investigation... He cooperated with us but he’s not in the country so we still have a few unresolved issues pertaining to this case,” Stambaugh said.