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Calgary family frustrated after Uber charges cleaning fee over alleged mess from wet boots
Published Thursday, November 9, 2017 4:17PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017 6:59PM MST
A Mount Royal University student’s recent Uber ride back to campus seemed uneventful but an unexpected cleaning fee has her questioning whether the rideshare is being fair in its approach to winter weather in Calgary.
On Wednesday afternoon, Lauren Munroe was a passenger in an UberX from an elelmentary school, the site of her practicum, back to the university. At the conclusion of the seven minute long, 2.7 kilometre ride, Lauren exited the driver’s car without incident. A short time later, she received an email stating the trip fee was just under $11.00.
Roughly four hours after the trip, a second email from Uber Receipts arrived in Lauren’s inbox stating the fare had been corrected and an additional $40 fee would be charged to the credit card on file.
"An incident during this trip resulted in a mess. Your driver’s vehicle required cleaning. Your payment method has been charged to cover this cost.”
The email included a link to Uber’s cleaning fee policy that states, in part:
"Riders are responsible for damage to the interior or exterior of a vehicle caused by incidents such as vomiting or food spills while in a driver's vehicle."
"Cleaning fees are assessed and charged according to the extent of the damage. If charged to a rider, these fees are paid in full to the driver".
Lauren’s Uber trips are charged to Lisa Munroe’s credit card and the Bachelor of Education student notified her mom immediately of the fee.
“She told me that there was an additional $40 charge put through the credit card for a cleaning fee,” said Lisa Munroe. “I confirmed with her that she didn’t spill anything in the vehicle. There was no reason for this cleaning fee to be charged.”
Lisa sent the company a message through its website asking for clarification on the charge. The company’s response shed little light. “They came back with a message saying we’re sorry that you feel there shouldn’t be a cleaning charge but that’s our policy.”
A second message to Uber garnered a reply that included photographic evidence of the supposed mess.
“What they came back with was a picture of a car mat, a winterized car mat, and it looked like white, almost road salt,” said Lisa. “You could clearly see one small wet area in the middle of the mat where my daughter’s feet would have been.”
“They also sent a picture of the parking lot of Mount Royal where she was dropped off. That was their proof to say that they had reason to charge me this $40 cleaning fee.”
Lisa shared the photographs with her daughter. “I was confused of why I would be charged a cleaning fee for having wet shoes because it’s winter time,” said Lauren.
“How was she supposed to walk from the school to the vehicle without walking on the snow?” asked Lisa. “There’s just no way around getting in a vehicle without wet boots during a Calgary winter.”
“They weren’t even a big winter boot that would track lots of dirt and snow, they were dress boots.”
Lisa questions whether the driver was trying to take advantage of her young daughter “This makes me mad because it feels unethical. It feels like a quick way to make $40.”
“How often are they doing this to other people?”
A subsequent message to Uber appeared to catch the attention of company officials. “It wasn’t until I threatened to go to the media that they tried to rectify the problem.”
Lisa says her threat elicited an email response from a specific Uber employee and not the generic email account of the Uber team. The Uber staff member told Lisa the fee would be refunded but the process would take a few business days.
Uber Canada issued the following statement to CTV Calgary regarding the concerns of the Munroes.
"It appears that it's a misunderstanding and an isolated case. The rider has since been fully refunded."
This is not the first time Uber’s cleaning fees have been challenged in Canada.
In August, an Ottawa woman accused Uber drivers of taking advantage of inebriated female passengers and charging a $150 seat cleaning fee over urination incidents that never happened. Crystal Grierson claimed drivers were making ‘disgusting accusations’ in an attempt to make a quick buck.
As for the Munroes, they’re divided on whether they’ll continue to use Uber.
“Now I’m concerned because I think every time I get in their vehicle and I have wet shoes on, am I going to be charged $40?” said Lisa.
Lauren says the convenience of Uber for travelling to and from her practicum would be difficult to give up but she’ll pay additional attention to the state of the floor mats when she enters and exits the vehicles.
With files from CTV's Camilla Di Giuseppe