Uber’s cleaning fees are meant to reflect the cost of cleaning. They are not meant to be punitive, nor are they meant to reflect the cost of downtime caused by the incident. They only exist to compensate you for the cost of cleaning.
My personal opinion is that if I do the cleaning myself, I should still be compensated the same amount. Sam the Uber driver is being given a cleaning fee so that he can pay Sam the car cleaner (himself) the cost of cleaning the car.
If I can just run my hand across the seat and sweep off a little dirt or even a few crumbs, I don’t say the sky is falling and ask for a cleaning fee. But if I have to open my boot and get out my cleaning supplies, then yes. I cleaned. The cleaning fee applies. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If it takes me off the road for any period of time, it’s justified.
That said, I allow people to eat in my car. But if you eat in my car and make a mess I have to clean up? You’re getting a cleaning fee. I don’t warn them. I assume they’re adults who know better than to trash someone else’s property. If they see they’ve made a mess and clean it up themselves, no problem. If not, I’m taking pics and sending them in.
I’ve had people get sick in my car a number of times, and occasionally, I’m lucky enough to have them realise it’s about to happen and they get their head out the window just in time (more on that later), or even better, we pull off for a few minutes so they can sort themselves out on the shoulder of the road. The bad news is that it doesn’t always go down (or come up) that way, but if you’re unlucky enough to have a passenger vomit, or make some other kind of mess in your car, fear not because there is some recourse for it. Just before I continue though, it’s important to highlight that I’ve only had vomit in my car three times in nearly 5000 trips, so it’s not a common problem to deal with.
When a passenger makes a mess in your car, and you report it, Uber will charge a “cleaning fee” to the passenger to help cover some or all of the cost involved with cleaning. Apart from vomit, I’ve also had a rider spill greasy food on upholstery, both needing steam cleaning and putting me out of commission until they were cleaned. I also know drivers have had cleaning fees applied for excessive sand from the beach, and other general mess left by passengers. The fees will vary based on the extent of the mess.
For a mess that requires a steam clean, my experience has been that Uber will charge the passenger $150 and deposit it into your account with your next pay. The good part is that this will likely cover the steam clean, the not so good part is that it has likely happened at midnight on a Saturday night in peak time, and you can’t continue driving until it’s been sorted. It’s potentially three to five hours of lost driving that night, and however long you’re off the next morning to do the cleaning. I’d say it likely cost a driver six to eight hours of lost drive time all up. At a conservative weekend average of $30 per hour, you’re losing up to $240 in income. It’s pretty upsetting really, but drivers have no recourse for lost drive time due to these types of incidents.
In contrast, if a passenger makes a sand mess in your backseat, requiring a quick stop at a car wash vacuum, I’ve heard of drivers getting $20, which seems like a pretty fair deal since you’re only off the road for maybe 20 minutes maximum. Others have got up to $40 for a bit of food with oily fingerprints. Again, for the small amount of time required to wipe the fingerprints off the door or seat, and maybe a quick vacuum, this seems fair.
I see cleaning fees as an attempt to remove the objection to driving late nights, which is a good start, but think Uber need to reconsider the amount they provide for serious mess which requires steam cleaning. It’s exceptionally rare that passengers get sick in the car, but for when it does happen, it feels unfair to leave the driver at a loss over the incident. Apart from the monetary loss, the driver is made to put up with the lingering smell that can’t be completely removed just from a steam clean, and may as well find bits over the next week that were missed during the clean. That brings me back to the passenger’s head out the window scenario – avoid where possible! On one occasion, a passenger had their head out, almost…letting vomit go directly down into the window well. The guy’s friends were car detailers so convinced me to just let them clean when we got to their house so I could keep driving and they could avoid paying a cleaning fee. I obliged, preferring to not miss out, but didn’t realise that this had happened. For the next week, I will have washed that window 50 times…rolling it down, and back up to try and bring up all the vomit without needing to pay someone to disassemble my door. I think I still made out better driving that night than if I’d been taken offline for a clean, but I was not a happy camper when I first realised it happened.
Every time someone has gotten sick in my car, I’ve gotten pissed off for a few minutes, but then I realise that we were all there one day, either head out the window, standing on the side of the road, or having not been quick enough for either and vomiting in a car (ok, that one’s not me). Don’t forget that we’re all human, and do your best to not make a huge deal of it. The passenger and their friends will already be apologising for the rest of the trip, so there’s no need to make the entire car even more uncomfortable. Take it on the chin, and think back to your youth like I do, and give em a break….then take photos the minute they get out and you have enough light so you can be paid for it!