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Uber, Airbnb fees can catch you by surprise

Posted at 11:47 AM, Apr 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-20 11:47:07-04

Americans love the new sharing economy: Services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are enjoying explosive growth. But unlike hotels and cabs, these services are much less regulated, and that means it can be tricky finding out what you are going to pay in the end.

In the new sharing economy, we jump into an driver's car, or stay in their home as a house guest. That has many advantages over the traditional economy, but there's also a downside, according to a new report in the Washington Post.

These lightly regulated businesses can make it harder than ever to determine your final price, which can lead to big surprises. One woman was expecting a $25 ride, but a "peak surcharge" lead to a $120 bill.

Uber and Lyft offer price ranges up front but not exact prices, which catches many first- and second-time users off guard. Of course, a cabbie won't give you the fare up front, but you can see it on his meter, and if it starts moving north of $50, you can ask him to end the trip early.

The Post also suggests you watch for extra fees that can make an Airbnb listing as pricey as a four star hotel. The Post found listings with extra $45 service fees and $25 cleaning fees that were not disclosed until well into the booking process.

You might say "doesn't that stink," since most hotels don't add cleaning fees to your bill. Maid service is included, even in the cheapest hotels.

So my advice?  Airbnb is a great service, but if you are staying in someone's home, be sure to ask about any extra fees you might encounter.

If it's a ride, assume you will pay the higher side of any estimate you get, and make sure you understand peak surcharges before you ask for a ride home after a concert, ballgame, or at midnight on a Saturday night.

That way you are not surprised, and you don't waste your money.

-- John Matarese