Florida Keys News
Friday, August 16, 2013
Leave mess in taxi, pay fee

Leaving a very personal mess inside a Key West cab can cost travelers more than a painful hangover or humiliating memory.

Mike Ruffo, who drives for the Five Sixes taxi company, charges an extra $50 cleaning fee if passengers throw up en route.

Called a "cleanup" fee, it's posted on the passenger window of his pink cab, giving riders fair warning.

"They've always paid the fee," Ruffo said. "They feel bad. They're embarrassed."

Now the city may put that cleanup charge on its law books.

City commissioners on Tuesday will consider amending its "vehicles for hire" ordinance to order a $50 cleaning fee added to the fare of any paying party that leaves "bodily fluids or solids" inside a local taxi.

The commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.

If approved, all cab drivers would have to post a notice about the cleanup fee inside their cars and vans.

Sponsored by Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, the proposed ordinance states, "It is reasonable to allow taxi operators to collect a clean-up fee under circumstances when a passenger soils the vehicle."

The exact language of the proposed law is: "In the event that a taxicab passenger soils the interior of a taxicab with bodily fluids or solids, a $50 clean-up fee will be added to the trip fare. Notice of this fee must be posted in a location inside the vehicle that is plainly visible to the passengers."

Spilling drinks is one thing, Ruffo said, but vomit requires a serious cleaning that can put a car out of service for two hours or force a driver to switch vehicles.

So the mess, however unintentional, can end up costing a driver wages.

"It does not happen a lot, but it does happen," said Ruffo, 48, who has driven a cab here for three years. "Mostly night shifts."

Asked if he remembered the last time a passenger upchucked in transit, though, Ruffo didn't miss a beat.

"Yeah, I was projectile-puked on eight weeks ago," he said. "It was a woman and her two sisters. She was behind me. They mixed their drinks."

They were properly embarrassed and forked over the fare plus the $50 cleanup fee.

"I don't get mad; it's 50 bucks and I go back to work," said Ruffo. "They're here supporting our economy."


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