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Insanely Honest Uber Driver Returns Passenger's Wallet With $3K Inside

By Mae Rice in News on Jul 28, 2016 6:40PM

Uber driver Jose Figueroa (left) and the passenger whose wallet he returned (photo courtesy of Jose Figueroa

An Uber driver recently returned a passenger's wallet with more than $3,000 in cash inside, establishing himself the most honest person in the history of Uber driving and perhaps all of Chicago.

"I could have upgraded myself with the money," Uber driver Jose Figueroa, 53, told Chicagoist. (Figueroa currently lives with his mom in Humboldt Park, in what he calls a "very poor" area.) But, he added, "Me being Christian, I couldn't do that... I always have my blessings with God, and I'm fine."

Figueroa's feat of amazing honesty started Monday night, when he picked up a passenger who spoke almost no English at O'Hare International Airport. He drove the man to River Grove, where the man's sister lived. By talking with the man during the cab ride, in spite of the language barrier—"I try to break the ice," Figueroa said—and talking with the man's sister at drop-off, Figueroa learned that the man had just arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine, looking for work. He had sold his business in Ukraine, he said, and the money in his wallet was all he had.

When he dropped the man off, Figueroa checked to make sure he had his phone and asked him if he had everything. Only when Figueroa was back at the airport, making sure his car was clean for the next passenger, did he realize the man had left his wallet behind. It was not only filled with cash—it also contained the man's ID and other key documents.

The wallet Figueroa found (photo courtesy of Jose Figueroa)

Figueroa decided to return the wallet himself, rather than going through Uber headquarters; he knew how much his passenger needed the wallet. Figueroa said he headed back to the site of the drop-off, and waited and buzzed until he got into the passenger's sister's 12-unit apartment building. From there, he knocked on doors until he found the man and his sister eating dinner.

When the passenger's sister opened the door, "She sounded like I was a guardian angel," Figueroa said.

Figueroa's behavior was genuinely angelic—he had little outside incentive to help the man out. Though Uber has a protocol in place for returning lost items to passengers, it includes the not-promising sentence "Drivers are independent contractors. Uber and drivers do not bear responsibility for items left in a vehicle after a trip ends."

That means the return process often involves drivers expending time and gas to conduct the returns for "nothing in return, just a thank you," according to Figueroa. (A spokesperson for Uber confirmed that they don't compensate drivers for item returns, though "we do everything we can to facilitate the return of lost item.")

When Figueroa dropped off this particular wallet, though, he got a thank you and a bit more. His passenger's sister invited him to stay and eat dinner with them; when Figueroa couldn't stay, the man's sister gave him a $100 cash reward.

Even then, Figueroa said he demurred. "I can't take this," he reports saying. "I just did a proper thing." But she insisted, and at long last, he took it.