This Uber upchuck’s going to cost you

Uber is a convenient, cost-effective means of transport in hundreds of cities around the world. Rahel Crowley’s son discovered it’s not so cost-effective when your friend throws up in an Uber driver’s car.

Crowley’s son, a Yale student, was valiantly escorting an inebriated female student back to Quinnipiac University. During the trip there, she threw up – mostly out the window and onto the exterior of the car, but also on the floor mat inside.

After dropping her off, Crowley’s son asked the driver to stop at Walgreens, where he purchased some cleaning supplies. He spent about 40 minutes scrubbing down and cleaning up the mess. In addition, he left the extra supplies with the driver, and told him that if it wasn’t acceptable to phone him the next day and that he would accompany him to the car wash.

Instead, the driver, Ozkan, reported to Uber that his car was undriveable and had been left a mess. Two days later, Uber increased Crowley’s son’s fare from $67 to $267.

Crowley believes that Uber is overcharging her son.

“The driver felt this student would have the money to spare,” and feels that full detailing of the car might only cost $50 to $60. “I’m outraged at the advantage both the driver and Uber are trying to take of my son, who did everything right that night.”

Is Uber overcharging this young man?

Although by Crowley’s account, his son did make every attempt to rectify the situation, it’s not surprising that Uber has a provision for this type of situation. According to the damage policy on Uber’s website,

A clean-up fee for cosmetic or physical damage to the interior or exterior of the vehicle incurred as a result of events such as vomiting or pet accidents will be assessed and charged when applicable.

In most cases, this fee will be between $50 and $200, but the exact amount depends on the extent of the damage. You will always receive an updated receipt with an explanation when this fee is being charged.

Accidents happen, and it is reasonable that the passenger is held responsible, rather than expecting the Uber driver to absorb the expense.

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One Uber driver addressed this issue with some valid points:

Having someone vomit in our cars costs Uber drivers in many ways, not just physical damage:

(1) lost fares due to ending our driving shift early to clean our vehicle (something I distinctly recall their training videos had mentioned as a reason for the high fee.)

(2) stains and smells that may linger even after cleaning that may affect future clients. (How do I share the smell with Uber Partner Support so I can be reimbursed for that?)

(3) recent cases of Ebola (here in Dallas), making the spread of bodily fluids (like vomit) to be a serious health concern.

Several cities, including New York, also have the same type of policy in effect for taxicabs, although the fee is lower than what Uber can charge:

Manhattan city commissioners have reportedly given cab drivers permission to charge a $75 fee to customers who vomit or otherwise soil their vehicles. The city regulates taxi charges and a cleaning fee previously was not an approved charge.

Car detailing can be expensive. Crowley stated that he guessed it to be $50 to $60, but that estimate is low. It can range anywhere from $175 to $500, depending on the size of the car and the nature of the work. “Odor elimination” can be considered a special service and there is usually an extra charge for this type of cleaning.

It is unfortunate that this occurred, but Crowley’s son has to deal with the consequences since he took responsibility for this young woman who drank too much. Perhaps Crowley’s son should ask the young woman to pay, or at least help pay for the charges incurred since she was the one who tossed her cookies?

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Does Crowley have a valid complaint? Or is the higher fare that Uber imposed fair?

And to Crowley’s son’s friend: kudos for not drinking and driving, but next time, if you’re drunk and riding with Uber, bring a barf bag.

Just remember, “uber” means “ultimate” or “best”. Throwing up in and on someone’s car? Not your uber moment.

Should we step in and advocate for Crowley or not?

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Christy Wood

Christy Wood is a writer specializing in transportation topics. She lives in Salem, Ore.

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