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Money – Extra charge for backpack in cab in Israel

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Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt

Shevat 27, 5775
Question
I took a cab in Israel. I said "moneh" and the guy turned on the moneh. Towards the end of the trip I see a surprise charge for my backpack - 4.40 shekalim. I have never been charged for my backpack. When the guy let me off I paid him the base price (20 shekel for 19.80 ride) but not the rest because he did not inform me he was charging me for the bag. What should I have done?
Answer
Payment to a cab driver is determined by local custom (Minhag HaMmedinah). (By engaging laborers everything depends on local custom. Mishnah Bava Metzia 83a. Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 331). The Ministry of Transport determines that the price of a cab ride includes transporting the passenger's hand luggage; For each bag or other baggage passenger will pay 4.40 NIS (Ministry of Transport - File of Regulations 7259, 10 of Tammuz 5773, 06/18/2013 - Page 1321 – Addendum (clause 2) price of cab ride Part A: special ride by meter). This definition of the Ministry of Transport suffers from ambiguity. The Transport Minister responded to a query of "Bar-Or Cohen law firm" (dated 07/24/2012) who complained of the lack of clarity in this definition. The extra fee can only be charged when the baggage caused the cab driver additional effort and time. Despite this response of the Ministry of Transport, the lack of clarity in defining the size of the baggage, and what is considered "additional effort and time" remains. According to all of the above, it is clear that if it is a small bag or backpack which all agree that is considered hand luggage, you were right for not paying the driver for the backpack. If it is a large backpack which required the driver to additional effort and time, you were obligated to pay him for the baggage, and you should make every effort to locate the driver and pay him in order to avoid the prohibition of theft. Nevertheless in the event that it is impossible, give the amount of money to charity in merit of the driver, because there is a well grounded assumption that the driver would rather receive the merit of charity in this case where he certainly cannot receive the money (I heard this solution from my father Shlita in the name of his Rebbe, HaGaon Rabbi C.P. Scheinberg ZT"L). In a case where it is not clear whether the bag requires payment in terms of size or in terms of the driver's additional effort and time, apparently you are not obligated to pay him because of "The burden of proof rests on the one who seeks to extract money from the possession of his fellow". Nevertheless, it is preferable to make sure that you do not owe any money to the driver by giving that amount of money to charity and stipulating that if it's coming to the driver then it should be in his merit and if not, then it should be in your merit. In any case, for the future it is recommended to come to an agreement in advance regarding payment for luggage, in order to avoid the unpleasantness caused as a result of the lack of clarity on this issue.
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