In general, I'd suspect that being an Uber driver is much worse than being an Uber passenger, but this new story about the ride-share company illustrates that it's a potential horror show for everyone. The Miami Herald is reporting that there's a new scam associated with Uber. Prepare yourself to be grossed out.
It's called vomit fraud. The only good thing about that combination of words is that at least the vomit is fake.
According to the Miami Herald, Uber drivers can add a fee of $80 to $150 for cleanup. Like, if they had to clean up your puke, because you called an Uber after a night out on the town and didn't quite make it home before that fun night caught up with you. This is definitely a thing that really happens, and drivers should be compensated for the horror of dealing with it.
But what if it DIDN'T happen? DUN DUN DUN!
As a passenger, you can contest false charges, but it's a difficult process to prove you didn't ralph in someone's car. Let's face it, most people probably do barf in the car, like for real. However, if you do want to fight the Man, you'll go through Uber's help center, which will respond like this:
“I understand that it can be disconcerting to receive adjustments to the tariff after your trip ended … In this case, your driver notified us that during your trip there was an incident in the vehicle and therefore a cleanup fee of $150 was added.”
A few customers in the Miami area are saying they've been subjected to the fee even though they were innocent. Vomit-innocent! Like Miami resident Andrea Pérez, who says she was scammed last year.
“I requested an Uber from Wynwood to the Edgewater area. At one point, the driver told me a road was closed and that he could drop me off near my destination to avoid an extra charge. I agreed and got off,” Pérez told the Miami Herald.
The next morning she awoke to a $98 cleanup charge, with a photo of her supposed puke attached.
“I immediately contacted Uber through the app. I told them that I was alone, sober, that I was not carrying any drinks and that it was impossible for me to have caused that damage,” she said.
“But every new email from Uber came from a different representative and always favored the driver.”
Uber never gave her back her money, but her bank did, rejecting the charge. Then her account with Uber got canceled.
William Kennedy said he got hit with vomit fraud twice in one night!
“It was a total fraud by two different drivers. They have everything planned for the fraud,” Kennedy said.
A lot of these stories sound like one person's word against another. The idea that someone was scammed by two different drivers twice in one night is less believable than the idea that they're on a tear and puking all over town. But one journalist had actual proof that it never happened.
She told the Miami Herald that her driver never showed, so she canceled the ride and requested another. The next day she was charged for the ride that never happened, plus a cancellation fee, AND a cleanup fee.
She had documents for the ride she actually did take, and eventually won her dispute. The driver who scammed her was removed from the app.
There's also at least one Uber driver who was willing to anonymously confirm that she's heard of this scam.
“They’ve been doing it for a long time,” she said. “Many people don’t review their emails or credit card statements, so the drivers wind up pocketing the $80 or $150.”
The Herald story was posted to Reddit, and at least one commenter confirmed that they'd run this scam before, too.
None of the drivers seemed to have much sympathy actually—when people have been vomiting in your car for real, I guess you don't have much compassion left.
There are also a lot of people saying that passengers also commit fraud and register false complaints, and the consequences are much worse for drivers.
And one driver said that in their experience, riders who contest vomit charges just don't remember what happened:
Let's all just agree to puke in our bags when we're in an Uber, like decent folks.