Warning: You can pay your Uber driver in cash, but…

Can you pay cash to Uber?

After Diana Somerville pays cash for her Uber ride in Seattle, the company charges her again. If she doesn’t pay, Uber threatens to ban her. What should she do?

Question

A friend and I called Uber for a ride from the art museum to her medical appointment in Seattle. When we got into the car, the driver was a bit puzzled because we only needed to go a few blocks. But the Uber system had posted some crazy route to another state and back.

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We wrote it off to some hiccup in our Wi-Fi connection. By the time we got to our destination, the directions hadn’t yet sorted themselves out and couldn’t give us the correct fare. We needed to dash to make the appointment, and paid the driver (generously) in cash. He promised to cancel the request for payment.

A few days later, I got an electronic notice from Uber saying my payment for the ride had failed to process. But they still wanted me to pay. Nothing on the electronic notice addresses my issue, and I can’t find any phone number to straighten this out. The amount is small, just $10, but they threaten to keep me from ever being able to use Uber again. Can you help me? — Diana Somerville, Port Angeles, Wash.

Answer

Uber should have only charged you once for your ride to your medical appointment. Uber allows riders to pay with cash for some of its trips. When that happens, your driver collects the fare and Uber’s system takes care of the rest. You can read the details on the Uber site.

So what went wrong? It’s hard to know. You say you paid your driver $25 for a $10 ride, an extraordinarily generous tip. You mentioned that your driver was from Afghanistan and had been a translator for US troops. That’s a thoughtful gesture. I think something might have gotten lost in translation, though. For whatever reason, your $25 payment didn’t register in Uber’s system.

I list a number for Uber, as well as the names and email addresses of Uber’s executives, on my nonprofit consumer advocacy site. I think a quick email to the company would have quickly fixed this double charge problem.

Most Uber transactions are problem-free, but occasionally I run into billing disputes like yours. You can resolve them by calmly putting them in writing and then patiently waiting for the company to respond. But meticulous record-keeping is also helpful. You might have asked your driver for a receipt, just in case you had to prove that you paid in cash. Even a hand-scribbled note might have helped you prevail in your payment dispute.

I contacted Uber on your behalf. It dropped its request for the $10 payment.

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