Woman claims Uber driver charged her $76 cleaning fee after her husband coughed in car

By Michael Talbot

A Toronto woman had a disturbing look at coronavirus hysteria after she claims an Uber driver berated her husband for coughing in her vehicle and later charged her a $76 cleaning fee.

Catherine Tucci and her husband are both employed in the banking industry and had just finished work on Wednesday night when they ordered an Uber to take them to their Queen’s Quay home from the King and Bay streets area.

Tucci says she immediately felt uneasy upon entering the vehicle, which was plastered with info-graphics and hand-written notes about safe coughing and sneezing protocol. Hand sanitizer and surgical masks were also provided alongside a note that read: “DO NOT cough or sneeze inside the car without grabbing a mask first!!”

The driver had also modified the vehicle to create a makeshift partition, separating herself from passengers.

“When I got in the Uber I felt a little uncomfortable,” Tucci told CityNews in a phone interview. “There’s signage everywhere, the driver had enclosed herself in sort of a plastic case thing, that went across her back and divided the passenger (backseat) from the driver seat, so she was totally encased in plastic and then there were all these signs.”

Tucci says neither she nor her husband are sick, but believes the strong scent of air freshener in the car caused her husband to cough.

“We were heading down Yonge and my husband coughed, and that was it. He doesn’t even have a cough … but there was an overwhelming smell of air deodorizer.”

Tucci contends her husband covered his mouth when he coughed, but says that didn’t appease the driver, who lashed out angrily at the couple.

“She started screaming. She was saying stuff like ‘you didn’t cough right,’ something about a mask.”

“It was the most ridiculous thing,” she added. “Then she opened all the windows … it was freezing cold. I was really afraid. I wanted to get out of the car…”

“Eventually I asked her to please roll up the window and again she was screaming. It was just insane. Finally, we get to Queen’s Quay, we get out, and then I get a message I’ve been charged $76 for a cleaning fee.”

Tucci says she then endured an aggravating tug-of-war with Uber to try and have the fee waived.

“I’m talking texts at 1 a.m., 6 a.m., they were saying ‘No way.’ They gave me $5 for compensation.”

Uber sent her a photo (below) of the car door that appeared to be wiped down as evidence to justify the cleaning fee.

“They sent me a picture of … it looks like the car door with a wet wipe on it. Like she was disinfecting the car after a single cough.”

The driver, who didn’t want to be named, told CityNews on Friday that the man coughed numerous times, prompting her to open the windows. She also claims he splattered “snot and boogers all over my car.”

“You know the droplets from the cough? Right now there’s a coronavirus … and I’m trying to at least get a little bit of (fresh) air, then the lady gets mad.”

“I had to pull over and clean and wash the (door) handles because the guy was coughing like there’s no tomorrow, maybe he has the coronavirus I don’t know?”

Uber eventually agreed to waive the fee and admitted there was “conflicting information by the rider and driver.”

“For disputes, our team does look into them and resolves them based on the information they are provided. In looking into it, there was a report of a mess in the vehicle and the process was followed,” a company spokesperson told CityNews.

Tucci adamantly denies that they left any sort of mess behind that would prompt a cleaning charge.

“I can categorically state my husband and I, who are professionals and were returning home from work, were professionally attired in suits and at no time made any kind of mess in the car.”

“Neither one of us is sick, we are both at work today, there’s absolutely no way that we made any type of mess at all.”

“I’ve never experienced anything so bizarre in my life,” Tucci concluded.

“My concern, and the reason why I decided to escalate this (to the media) is I think Uber, in the service industry during the sensitivity of (coronavirus) — needs to be doing a better job of training their drivers, because this was really bad.”

In a statement, Uber said:

“We are always working to help ensure the safety of our employees and everyone on the Uber platform, and we continue to be concerned by the ongoing spread of coronavirus. We have a dedicated global team of Uber operations, security and safety executives, guided by the advice of a consulting public health expert, working to respond as needed in each market where we operate around the world. We remain in close contact with local public health organizations and will continue to follow their recommendations.”

The company adds that it has undertaken the following initiatives to educate its drivers/passengers and respond to coronavirus concerns.

  • On Friday, 2/28 we began sending information to drivers and delivery people across the globe with tips, based on CDC guidance, on how to help stay healthy. You can see a version of the in-app message HERE.
  • Uber’s global Law Enforcement Response Team (LERT) has been working with public health organizations across the world and they can reach us 24/7 via lert.uber.com
  • We encourage both drivers and riders to follow the guidance of local authorities to help prevent the spread of the virus and we will continue to provide additional market-specific guidance as needed
  • We have put restrictions on employee travel to China, northern Italy (Milan), Iran, and South Korea.
  • To the best of our knowledge there have been no cases of coronavirus spread between an Uber rider or driver.

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