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Lyft surprised me with a $150 cleaning charge. Is that allowed?


Jared Hakimi finds a $150 charge on his credit card after a Lyft ride. Is that allowed -- and will the charge stick?

I took a Lyft recently in New York. I did not damage the vehicle, but after the ride, Lyft charged me a $150 damage fee.

Initially, my bank flagged the charge as fraud. However, when I contacted Lyft and asked for an explanation, the company claimed I caused damage to the car. Lyft also sent photos that the company said the driver had shared.

I did not cause any damage whatsoever. The photos did not depict any damage I caused.

I’d like my $150 fee to be refunded. But even that would be disappointing based on what I’ve had to go through, including the initial stress when being billed $150 but also the many hours I’ve spent trying to rectify this with Lyft to no avail. I'd also like $1,500 as compensation for the stress this has caused.

Ultimately, I’d like to be a loyal Lyft customer again, and these false allegations against me should not be the cause of a severed business relationship. Someone with some sense at the company needs to review this and should also consider investigating the driver making these accusations.

Jared Hakimi, Briarwood, N.Y.

Lyft should have notified you immediately of the damage and sent you evidence that you were responsible. It's not difficult. Lyft could have sent you time-stamped photos of the vehicle's interior showing the alleged damage. Instead, you say it just charged your credit card.

This looks like another case of the Lyft vomit scam. (It's called a vomit scam because drivers frequently claim their passengers have vomited in the back of the car.) Drivers charge their passengers anywhere from $80 to $150 for a "cleanup" even when there's little or no evidence of a passenger's guilt.

You can avoid the vomit scam by taking pictures of the back of your car before and after your ride. I know this sounds extreme, and it's probably unnecessary for most rides. Let's just say you'll probably know when it's necessary. The moment you say "hello" and open the door, you'll just know.

I've been on a few rides like that, where the car is not well maintained, the driver complains about how little money he makes with ridesharing, or he's tip-baiting you by griping about how much he relies on gratuities to earn a living.

You could have also appealed this to one of the executives at Lyft. I list their names, numbers, and email addresses on my consumer advocacy site,

The evidence Lyft sent you appears to be inconclusive, and the way it handled the claim was incorrect. According to you, it didn't even bother notifying you about the problem. It just charged your card. Your bank was suspicious; I would have been, too.

Regarding your request for additional compensation, I think adding a zero to your claim is a bit much. Requesting too much compensation can sometimes harm your chances of getting anything from a company.

You could sue Lyft in small claims court and possibly get a judge to side with you, but where my advocacy is concerned, a simple refund is all that's warranted..

You reached out to one of the executives at Lyft. Your email was polite and it noted that you had been a good customer for many years. A representative wrote back to you.

"We’ve completed another review of the cleaning fee request and the details you shared with us," a representative wrote. "After a second review, I have forgiven the $150 damage fee you had on your account. We completely understand your frustration, Jared, and your feelings are completely valid."

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. Email him at [email protected] or get help by contacting him on his site.


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