Woman Fined $100 For Dropping Skittles In An Uber

By: Kish
August 30, 2019

Ridesharing has really revolutionized traveling— for better and for worse. With Uber and Lyft, riders are able to conveniently open up an app, click a button, and get a car delivered to wherever they may be. There’s a record of where you’re going, who your driver is, and if you lose anything contacting the driver is easier than ever.

While it’s become a great side hustle, in recent years the media has spotlighted the downside of this global phenomenon, from taxi drivers being edged out of the market, rideshare drivers making dismal amounts of money from these billion dollars companies, and riders being subjected to sexual harassment, assaults, and some even being murdered.

While ridesharing has lost its new car smell, we’ve collectively come to terms with the pitfalls of the unregulated industry. And it’s started to dominate headlines.

One woman who knows all about this is Lydia Williams. The 24-year-old Londoner experienced a bit of a shock when she hopped out of her Uber one night. The driver decided Lydia was a slob and deserved to pay her penance in the form of a huge fine, but when she brought the news to Twitter, the internet was divided.

Was Uber right to hold Lydia or accountable? Or was their process ridiculous, unfair, and overzealous? We break it down.

Lydia took to Twitter when she found a $100 fine on her account.

The UK woman was charged £80, which is about $100 US for making a mess in the back of her Uber. It was a steep fee, but what was the damage? About 20 spilled Skittles on the floor of the car. And if you do the math, that’s approximately $5 apiece. Lydia wasn’t having it and needed to know if the rest of the internet was on her side.

But not everyone agreed with her outrage.

While some commenters agreed that the cleaning fee was egregious, others accused her of not having poor manners, asking why she didn’t just pick the Skittles up. One driver chimed in, saying he would have picked up the skittles himself and given Lydia a 1-star rating. He also went on to explain that he doesn’t let anyone who rides in his car eat or drink during their trip.

Which brings up the issue of regulation.

If each driver has their own set of rules, how are riders expected to abide by them all? Lydia’s Uber driver didn’t have any hard or fast rules about food or drink in his car, and she even points out that she bought him a meal during the trip, which he ate. So can you get fined for leaving crumbs behind? Where does the buck stop?

Drivers need to keep their cars clean because it’s their moneymaker.

And this is why some have strict rules. Ask your next Uber driver what their worst passenger was like and you’ll get horror stories spanning aggressive drunk jerks, lots of vomit, and people that are so high that they no longer know where they are, who they are, or why they’re in the car. Reserving the right to charge these cleaning fees is one way for drivers to not lose out on money.

Without regulation, there is no transparency.

When Uber charges a rider for a cleaning fee, they don’t explain why they’ve added it on— because they don’t have to. No one governs what Uber does in this regard.

The official Uber policy says that “Riders are responsible for damage to the interior or exterior of a vehicle caused by incidents such as vomiting or food spills. Cleaning fees are assessed and charged according to the extent of damage.”

So Uber drivers are able to change the fee at their discretion.

RideGuru has 4 levels of severity, that start at $20 and go all the way up to $150.

The first level, which is defined as “damage that requires vacuuming or simple cleaning (e.g. small messes, food or drink spills) is charged $20,” and seems the most fitting for Lydia’s Skittles. While level 3, “vomit and larger food or beverage spills on fabric or other hard-to-clean surfaces inside a vehicle typically require detailing and are charged $80,” also seems relevant to Lydia. But what she was charged is more than both of these amounts.

So, what exactly happened in the backseat of the Uber that night?

Lydia was traveling home with her boyfriend one night and they caught an Uber together. She says the driver was polite, she bought him a “meal deal“, and everything seemed totally fine. In fact, she tipped the driver and even offered to pick up the Skittles. But how did they get on the floor in the first place?

Lydia’s boyfriend knocked the Skittles out of her hand.

Was he grabbing at the bag? Was Lydia not sharing? Was he trying to hurt her fiscally? We don’t have the answers, but someone needs to find out.

But they did leave the car full of candy.

Even though they offered to pick the Skittles up, they didn’t. So the car was left with candy all in the backseat. Maybe they should have picked the lollies up anyway because it cost them a lot more than it was worth. Was it inconsiderate or did they do enough?

Uber sent her a photo of the incident.

Lydia Williams/Twitter

And it just proves that the mess could have been cleaned up in 5 minutes. It’s Uber’s policy that when a mess is left, if the driver wants to charge a cleaning fee they do have to provide photographic evidence. It’s there to protect the driver and make sure the passenger can be held accountable, but when we look at this photo, it just supports Lydia’s outrage, right?

So how does a bunch of sweets cause $100 worth of damage?

Were they sitting there for days, melting into the fabric and causing a tie-dyed mess? Did someone step on the candy, spilling their insides all over the seats, turning the backseat into a memorial for all the Skittles perished in the great boyfriend disaster of 2019? We don’t know, but maybe only then would this be a Benjamin-worthy mess.

But the receipt submitted was for $100 worth of cleaning.

Not only do Uber drivers have to submit a photo of the mess they’re making a claim about, but they also have to hand in a receipt that reflects the cleaning costs. So somewhere, somehow, this driver got his car cleaned for $100 and stuck Lydia with the bill.

One person very smartly suggested asking for the cleaning bill.

And Lydia did exactly that. If the policy says a mess is “charged according to the extent of damage” then surely 20 skittles doesn’t equal a $100 fee.

But Uber refused to share the receipt.

The ridesharing conglomerate responded by saying, “Unfortunately we can’t provide a copy of the cleaning receipt as it may have sensitive data on it related to the partner-driver.” They also added that, “We appreciate you feel the cleaning fee charge was higher than you expected [but] we’ve reviewed the incident and can confirm that the fee has been charged correctly.”

Some Redditors are accusing drivers of vomit fraud

Where drivers charge riders a $150 cleaning fee with photos of vomit all over their cars, even when some passengers were riding in the front, making it virtually impossible for them to be the culprit.

And one driver expressed how this could make reporting messes even harder for drivers.

This problem would be solved with a little bit of regulation and transparency, but for now, both riders and drivers are suffering.

Regulation has a bunch of benefits, but Uber and Lyft are doing everything to fight against it.

While the user-feedback mechanism seemed to work in the beginning, moments like these make everyone wonder if it can go on this way. Regulating safety, minimum pay, and working conditions is the bare minimum in other jobs, so shouldn’t Uber drivers have the same benefits? But this would mean less revenue for companies like Uber and Lyft.

Both drivers and riders need more protection.

Whether it’s exorbitant surges, malicious drivers who put passengers’ safety at risk, or cleaning fees going to the wrong customer, there needs to be the same rules for everyone.

Even though drivers deal with a lot, not all of them are easy to be around either.

So when you’re charged with a fee that isn’t right, what are your options?

Lydia didn’t leave any stone unturned. She contacted the company, disputed the fee, and asked for receipts, but when it comes to Uber they’re the judge, jury, and executioner. If they want to charge you $100 for spilled Skittles, right now, they can.

Skittles jumped in with their own take on the situation.

Whoever is at the helm of Skittles Twitter page decided it was time to take a stand. The page responded to Lydia’s original tweet, writing “It’s always polite to leave your driver a few Skittles for their next trip!” We’re not sure if the driver would be too thrilled with their co-sign.

And then Uber responded to all the media requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Uber shared the following statement: “The Uber app is based on mutual respect for both riders and drivers. For licensed drivers who use the app, their vehicles are their place of work and any damage or mess can mean they are unable to continue working.” We understand a drunk customer throwing up is going to put a driver out of commission but is a stray sprinkling of Skittles keeping anyone from working?

When Uber wouldn’t budge, Lydia thought Skittles might.

So she asked for some free Skittles.

And on August 14, this story got a happy ending when Lydia posted her sweet haul.

However, it does look like she took this photo in a car. We hope she didn’t eat any until she got out.

We hope that’s $100 worth of Skittles

The 24-year-old needed something to soften the blow of the $100 fee, which she was forced to pay.

But we think Lydia has learned a valuable lesson from all of this.

So the next time you’re in an Uber, your best bet is to take some photos of your surroundings, point out any messes that aren’t yours, and pick up your Skittles. It’ll save you a lot of money and stress in the long run!