MIAMI, Fla. — If you lose your lunch in an Uber, it’s only fair that you pay for the cleanup. But many users of the rideshare service say they were charged steep cleaning fees (ostensibly so drivers can have their cars professionally cleaned) even though they didn’t make a mess.
So-called “vomit fraud” can increase the cost of a ride by $80 to more than $150, according to the Miami Herald.
Uber’s default position is to side with its drivers, who supply photos of vehicle interiors spattered with vomit and other messes as evidence. Riders, meanwhile, report having a difficult time getting Uber to investigate complaints and issue refunds.
Uber tells the Herald‘s Spanish-language sister paper, el Nuevo Herald, that fraud does occur, but adds that more often than not, cleaning fees are “legitimately the result of someone making a mess in the car.”
Last summer, Uber hit Florida resident David Shoultz with a $165 cleaning fee. He tells WPYV that Uber responded to his allegations of fraud by forwarding “two photos that don’t look anything like the car I rode in, but there was vomit everywhere.”
Uber ultimately refunded the cleaning fee, but only after Shoultz broadcast his frustrations on social media. It’s not just a US problem: An Australian woman, who said she had a similar experience earlier this year, suggests that riders take photos of the car’s interior so they can prove it was clean when they left, news.com.au reports.
In a 2017 report, Business Insider profiled a San Diego Uber driver who is making a little extra cash from cleaning fees in a different way. Will Preston does the cleanup himself and pockets the fee. (This might help detect drunk riders in advance.)