Chicago Cab Vomit Penalty: Where Do You Stand?

I briefly mentioned the Chicago cab ‘vomit tax’in an article yesterday about ‘quirky’ new laws, but in case you missed it, here’s the gist: starting July 1, Chicago cabbies can slap a $50 ‘cleanup fee’ on the fare of any passenger who hurls in their cab.

Cab drivers in the city have been pushing for this since 2009, though as I also wrote yesterday, I didn’t even consider this a ‘quirky’ law: cab drivers in my native Britain have been able to charge cleanup costs for years now.

However, a good chunk of Internet commenters seem to think this is an OUTRAGE.

Well, I disagree. I think it’s perfectly fair. And I speak on this matter from a position of, er, semi-authority. My Dad cabbed in a northern UK town for going on 12 years, and I genuinely lost count of the number of times some numbskull chundered in his vehicle. a.k.a. his livelihood. Every time it happened – often at a peak time for cabs and mindless drinking, such as Friday evenings – the taxi would have to be pulled from the road, sometimes for hours at a time. It would often result in a loss which ran well into three figures. And obviously, it wasn’t exactly pleasant to clean up (yes, I did it once or thrice).

This, however, is unlikely to quell many commenters: commenters like Vsp773 at CBS Chicago:

“Always a new fee or tax for something in Chicago…..its going downhill with punishing the ones who live in the city. Maybe its time to move and stop letting others take money out of our pockets….Chicago used to be fun”

I hear you, Vsp. Chicago used to be FUN. All that non-stop, all-night hurling in cabs. Wild times. Why the hell should The Man want to punish us for a bit of innocent chundering? Anyway, fellow CBSer tom sharp foresees other problems:

Good luck getting your money when a couple of 63 drunks heave in your cab and you’re a 5’6″ Hispanic! Unless these guys go “home” on the ride you have no chance of collecting without fist fight.

Leaving aside the charmless racial stereotyping, this was never actually a problem in my father’s experience. When people have just barfed, they’re not usually in fisticuffs mood. More Want-To-Crawl-Into-And-Subsequently-Die-In-Bed mode. Not that it’s even relevant, mind. Over at Yahoo!, meanwhile, Some Dude thinks cabbies should just deal with it:

“I agree with every part except their vomit fee. It’s unfortunately a hazard of the job, and has been happening since cabs were invented.”

YEAH. Just part of the job, innit. You pay for a cab, you get the right to say where you go, when you go there, and also to splutter up half-digested kebab across somebody’s car interior. It’s like, a right or something.

Fortunately, a little more common sense seems to reign over at Huff Post. Take it away, Jai Hro:

“That’s reasonable and its actually cost more that $50 bucks.”

And finally, former cabbie Stan Schulz (a man more informed on this than the majority of commenters by default):

“As a retired Chicago cabbie, this tax is a good thing.Since I mostly drove nights and dealt with a lot of drunks, I had to clean up passengers vomit many times.. you have to get the smell out of your cab immediately or other people will refuse to get in the car.”

Where do you stand in the great cab vomit penalty debate, readers?