Lyft charged me $80 for damage to a car. But it wasn’t me!

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By Christopher Elliott

Lyft surprises So Do with an $80 charge after a recent ride. The driver claims she damaged the car. But she says it wasn’t her. How does she prove her innocence?

Question

I have a problem with Lyft. After a recent ride, the company charged my card a $80 cleaning fee.

When I got into the car, I told the driver that there were some leaves from the previous passenger on the floor. It had nothing to do with me.

Lyft did not send me any evidence of the damage. When I asked about the claim, it finally sent photos. But the pictures didn’t make any sense. I sat directly behind the driver, but the leaves were on the passenger side.

The damage looks exaggerated. The driver had taken close-up shots of the leaves, making the entire car look dirty. It could have been easily vacuumed out in less than a minute. It is not $80 worth of damage. Can you help me? — So Do, Hercules, Calif.

Answer

If you messed up your Lyft, you should pay for the cleanup. But after reviewing your case and Lyft’s claim against you, I have serious doubts that you were the guilty party. 

I’ve seen dozens of cases like this. Lyft first tries to charge your card and then sends scant documentation. When you appeal, you get a form letter that says, “We re-opened your case and after extensive review of the information provided by both you and the Driver, no adjustments will be made to this claim.”

But Lyft didn’t share the driver’s written report with you. Also, the photos it sent had no metadata. So you don’t know if the driver took them after your ride or a year ago. Lyft also doesn’t require its drivers to prove they paid to have their cars cleaned (Uber does). 

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As I looked at the correspondence between you and the company, I concluded that Lyft had not proven its case. It needed to send time-stamped photos and the driver’s report to make a convincing case that you were responsible for the leaf incident. But it wouldn’t.

Never get into a rideshare car where there’s pre-existing damage. Instead, ask the driver to note the debris — and take lots of pictures. Otherwise, there’s an excellent chance the driver will ask you to pay for the cleanup. (Related: Lyft charged me $80 for spilling a drink. But there was no drink!)

In a situation like this, you could have appealed to one of Lyft’s executives. I list their names, numbers and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. Lyft’s system for resolving problems with damage is a cycle of claims, appeals and denial, from which there’s no escape. It allows the company’s drivers to perpetuate the Lyft vomit scam, charging riders for nonexistent damage.

I contacted Lyft on your behalf. A representative emailed you and said, “we always strive to be fair to both riders and drivers involved in a damage claim.” The company agreed to refund the $80 it had charged your card.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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