Ride-sharing behemoth Uber turned a profit for the first time in August, after 14 years of operating at a loss. The main income generator was a double-digit increase in rider trips.
The San Francisco-based taxi competitor reported an annual 16% growth in gross bookings—a total dollar value that Uber says includes rider trips, fees, and taxes associated with any service on the platform.
So, it’s safe to assume that while it’s likely a small percentage of overall earnings, the dreaded Uber cleaning fees may have helped boost the company’s bottom line.
But how does Uber determine its cleaning fees?
The company maintains a tiered system for cleaning fees, each corresponding to the level of mess. The most the company will charge you for losing your lunch in someone else’s Lexus is around $150.
Here’s how it breaks down: For small issues inside the car like liquid spills (not including water), food grease, or dirty floors, Uber will reimburse drivers and charge passengers $20.
A “significant mess” on the car’s exterior—think bodily fluids, paint, gum, or other materials that would require a car wash—cost $40.
Uber will give the driver $80 back for “significant liquid messes” inside the car that would require steam cleaning or special products to remove.
And here’s when that drunk night on Hollywood Boulevard could come with consequences—any “extensive liquid and smelly messes” in the car including bodily fluids like vomit that would warrant a detail, steam clean, or extended drying of the car will cost you $150.
Since the customer pays for the cleaning fees, the charges can appear as an adjustment to their final fare days later. Uber will proactively transfer the money to the driver’s account, but if the passenger makes a mess, they’re paying to clean it and will receive a new or updated charge after the ride is over.
Uber drivers can make cleaning reimbursement claims by sending at least three photos of the damage or messes to the app.
Drivers also have to submit the claim within three days of the incident, and Uber encourages drivers to get a receipt for the professional cleaning, which guarantees a full reimbursement. Once Uber determines the driver will be compensated it then charges the riders the appropriate fee based on the driver’s claim.
Is there a way to fight Uber cleaning fees?
But, customers can appeal if they feel that a cleaning fee was inaccurate or unfair—Uber asks them to open a support ticket to get the charge reversed.
However, fighting cleaning fees, like arguing with any large company, can be an uphill battle.
There is one trick, however, to avoiding some fees.
Uber passengers with a service animal, get a pass.
Uber notes that it will refund riders for any charges that are incurred by their animals shedding in the car.
They’re also exempt for paying the first two times if the service animal makes a mess in the car, and can contest any of these claims with Uber support, the company said.