The “Vomit Cleanup Fee”


If you throw up in a Chicago taxi, they will charge you $50 for the mess you make. Indeed, the driver might ask you to empty your entire wallet, given his loss of revenue during the time spent scooping your gastric juices, in addition to the need to have the upholstery steam cleaned.

The reason I know all this is that I’ve been in lots of cabs due to the awful winter we’ve had in Chicago (and much of the USA). With idle time sitting during one of those rides, I spied the list of charges that included the “vomit cleanup fee.”

Of course, taxi rides can be interesting for many other reasons. The drivers can be from almost anywhere. One such was a recent emigrant from Eritrea, a country in the Horn of Africa. A little research indicates that most of the six million or so inhabitants of that country speak Tigrinya, a language I never knew existed. Nice learning opportunity.

Not so nice is the fact that sometimes you are subjected to the aroma of recent passengers. I’m pretty sure that someone who preceded me lately left some pretty serious body odor behind. Fortunately, my journey didn’t last long or I would have gotten out quickly and taken another cab. No “deodorant failure fee” was on the aforementioned list, by the way.

Out of curiosity, I googled to find out how all this is handled in New York City. As some of you know, Chicago is sometimes called “The Second City” (after New York), and it does turn out that we are behind in the cost of messing-up-cabs, too. According to an Associated Press report of September 19, 2013:

Manhattan city commissioners have given cab drivers permission to charge a $75 fee to customers who vomit or otherwise soil their vehicles.

Clearly, they anticipated all the possible foul things that could happen in a taxi. They further indicate that St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the big winners (or losers) for the taxi business in this particular area of concern.

All of this got me to thinking about the things — inappropriate and offensive things — that people do in public or where someone else can observe them. If we are going to penalize people for vomiting in a cab, there are a few other penalties that might make the world a bit more civilized:

Here is a short list with a little commentary:

  • The failure to wash your hands after using the washroom/WC fee. Men are especially guilty of this. However small the amount of the penalty, I’m quite sure that a properly enforced charge would allow us to retire the National Debt in a matter of weeks.
  • The bumping into you without saying “sorry” fee. This problem is relatively new. It didn’t exist 15 years ago. I suspect the proliferation of people walking the street with backpacks the size of Cleveland — all the while preoccupied with smart phones — have made a contribution to this latest form of incivility. I’ve seen people almost decapitated by linebacker-sized civilians who show no awareness that they might actually have hurt someone.
  • The “way too much” perfume or cologne fee. This can be almost as bad as the body odor problem mentioned earlier.

As I said before, it has been a tough winter. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is unlikely to accept my invoice.

The top image is an Xi’an taxi in the People’s Republic of China photographed by Xianxing. It is sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

6 thoughts on “The “Vomit Cleanup Fee”

  1. I use the bus often and have been hit in my head on a number of occasions with backpacks. As you’ve noted, these offenders often “show no awareness that they might actually have hurt someone.”


    • drgeraldstein

      I suspect that it is also more likely in the downtown area of big cities, as well as in other densely populated spaces like buses, trains, etc. No research to base this on, but just a hunch. Thank Rosaliene.


  2. While reading the first paragraph and halfway through the second, I was afraid that you’d learned of the vomit fee from personal experience. Long cold winters mean people get ill, right? Glad to read that it was only through boredom!


  3. RE NYC cabbies: is there an exemption clause for damages incurred as a direct result of their driving? Like, say, if you wet yourself when he almost sideswipes a garbage truck or get motion sickness from repeatedly racing up to red lights?


    • Good thought. I have had enough NYC taxi rides to know that it is best to keep your eyes closed or to instruct the driver that his tip will depend on his safe driving.


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