The young professional woman, her beau, and a friend left the restaurant after enjoying a late dinner. An Uber driver picked them up and began dropping the passengers off at their respective addresses. The time said almost 1:30 a.m. when Meredith Mandel stepped out of the car. The trip was a reasonable $19.
Make that $219.
During the night, Uber hit Mandel's Paypal account with an extra $200 — without explanation.
As first reported to Gothamist, a ping pong of calls led customer service reps to say the driver reported that a drunk member of Mandel's party had barfed inside the car. The "mess" required a serious cleaning, which was the reason behind the new charge. And 100 percent happens to go to the driver.
It's known as the fake puke scam, being pulled by Uber drivers from New York to Los Angeles.
The time zones can change, but the racket's narrative holds tight. Patrons exit Uber thinking they'll only be charged for the ride. Then the driver stages evidence — be it plastic puke or creatively manufacturing something to resemble upchuck — and takes a photo. It's sent to Uber and a steep cleaning toll is tacked on to the transaction.
Uber refunded Mandel the cleaning fee after she proved the details didn't add up. For instance, pictures showed vomit where the front passenger would've sat. Mandel's party was confined to the back.
The company has countered the messy PR with assurances it will investigate every contested charge.
As best we can tell, the scam has yet to hit the Twin Cities. In the meantime, some wisdom for those who Uber: Double check the receipt at the end of the ride so you know exactly what it cost, just in case you unknowingly crossed paths with a driver desperate for some quick cash.