Are You Supposed to Tip an Uber Driver?
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
To tip or not to tip? That’s precisely the question as you exit your Uber ride for that birthday party or show you are about to enjoy.
While that question was so easily answered during the initial throes of the ride-hailing app, it has become a tad bit gray with time.
I first used Uber a few years ago just as the service was taking over Los Angeles. At the time, I attempted to give a little tip when the ride was concluded – I was used to taking taxis. Well, I was completely rebuffed and told that Uber drivers were absolutely not allowed to take tips.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago and I was in an Uber that actually had a tip jar, so you can understand the confusion.
The day when an Uber driver would shove your cash back in your hand is long gone. Your tips will most certainly be accepted – as they should. However, there is a general murkiness surrounding the practice when departing your Uber ride.
We decided to get to the bottom of the gratuity conundrum.
One driver who preferred not to be named generally enjoyed working for Uber, something they have done for the past year, “So far, so good. It’s just a part-time job so no pressure.”
When the subject of tips came up, the driver was happy to indulge my questions.
One aspect of Uber that could influence tipping is the fact that the ratings are a two-way street. As users can rate drivers, drivers can also rate passengers. It seems in this case that tips have no bearing in how this driver rated their riders. However, a gratuity is something that would be greatly appreciated.
The driver did note that there is an expectation that no tip would be forthcoming when starting Uber: “We’ve already been informed that no tip is necessary. And through the app there is no way to tip.”
However, the driver continued, “Of course, if the riders give me tips I will be very, very happy.” But really, pleasantries go just as far as monetary transactions: “As long as they are very nice to me it’s OK – if they don’t tip me; it’s OK.”
And when asked whether tips affect riders’ ratings, “For me? No.”
In fact, the driver went on to regale me with a tale of a recent rider who made sure to tip each and every time they took an Uber so they could keep their precious five-star rating. But as we found in our completely cursory study, that might be a tad unnecessary as long as you are polite and on time as a rider.
Raymond has been working with Uber for about two weeks in the D.C. and Baltimore area, so he was able to bring a fresh vantage to the practice.
And, according to this driver, tips aren’t exactly what get you to sign up to drive: “I knew tipping was not part of the Uber agenda and they discourage it.”
What I found from our previous driver and Raymond is that tipping isn’t all that common. While the urge to give might be universal, the practice isn’t. Raymond puts the number of tips at about one in every 30 rides, which seems to echo what we found with our previous driver’s assertions. And again, your driver will be pleasantly surprised if you fork over a little gratuity, according to Raymond: “It would be nice, but I knew that I couldn't expect it.”
READ MORE: Kill It With Tech: To Tip Or Not To Tip
Now Kevin, who works in the Los Angeles area, was happy to sing Uber’s praises as we left the Santa Monica area. In fact, in the six months that Kevin has been working with Uber, he regularly puts in about 50-60 hours per week, a practice that gets noticed and rewarded, he says, by Uber. In those six months he has met generally warm and pleasant patrons: “99.9 percent of people I pick up in L.A. are so cool.”
As for tipping, he said “I don’t have a problem with people not tipping.”
[BREAKOUT]“I’m just glad I have work, and I have a job. Because of Uber’s policy, there’s an overabundance of work constantly. This app doesn’t stop. Before I get to the next job it’s beeping again.”[/BREAKOUT]
He continued, stating that it’s precisely the no-tipping policy that makes this app so popular: “I’m just glad I have work, and I have a job. Because of Uber’s policy, there’s an overabundance of work constantly. This app doesn’t stop. Before I get to the next job it’s beeping again.”
The gleeful driver continued: “If someone wants to give you a tip that’s great. But I don’t even expect it anymore. I don’t expect it. It’s not part of the job. If I was taking an Uber I’d probably give a tip, because that’s the kind of person I am. But a lot of people don’t have money. They’re on budgets. Getting the five star ratings I get. That’s enough as a tip.”
As for you riders and your ratings: “I give everybody a five star unless they’re mean. If they’re mean and ignorant and rude I put a one star and I put a comment.”
And that seemed to be the consensus at this stage in the game. The drivers, at least the ones we spoke with, didn’t expect a tip and wouldn’t dare mark you down a star or two for leaving the Prius or Accord without tossing out some monetary thanks.
It seemed the most important aspect when it comes to ratings is to be nice, which is generally good advice for any scenario.
Raymond does have some advice for riders, however, “Tip the drivers; they use their own car to really not make that much money if you consider wear and tear and gas costs. Also, it is a pretty tiresome job and drivers spend extra time between fares and to maintain cleanliness of their vehicles. I personally try to make the rides as pleasant as possible regardless of the tip. If you feel like a driver did a great job and left you with a pleasant experience they deserve a tip just like a cab driver would. I really wish Uber would include a tipping option on their app.”
Our anonymous driver echoed that sentiment, explaining that sometimes you have to drive in rather difficult surroundings, such as in the mountains. If things are particularly perilous you should, as they put it, throw some green their way.
HOW MUCH DO DRIVERS MAKE?
YouTube channel ScIQ recently broke down how much Uber drivers may actually make working for the mammoth ride-hailing service. They put the cost, considering depreciation, gas and myriad other items, at just six cents per mile.
Now QZ.com reminds that a recent settlement forced Uber to tweak some of its verbiage concerning tipping recently.
The report states: “First, Uber will have to clearly state that, contrary to what riders might believe, tips are not included. Second, it has agreed that ‘its policies do not prohibit a driver from putting up signs or requesting a tip.’ The settlement is pending approval by a federal judge.”
Uber’s website, at the moment, states the following: “When you arrive at your destination, just hop out—we’ll automatically charge the credit card on file. And there’s no need to tip.”
We have reached out to Uber and have not as yet received any comment.
Now for consumers, Uber is popular because it’s quick, easy and relatively inexpensive.
As Kevin noted, taxis had been the bane of L.A. life for decades and the last thing people want to do is tip.
I agree that taxis are indeed a long-forgotten solution to many in L.A. Just a few years ago you would have to dial into a taxi service and hope that the reserved ride didn’t ignore your call and just pick up another fare en route to you – something that would happen constantly.
And a ride in a cab would feature the dread of seeing the meter go up one dollar at a time, ensuring that you would have to do the math to see if you had enough to tip the driver.
Uber is far more pleasant an experience. However, it’s far from perfect, especially for the driver.
While services like Lyft allow you to tip the driver after a ride within the app, Uber stays clear of such devices.
So it’s completely understandable that there has been a shift from completely refusing a tip to welcoming one if it’s offered.
SHOULD YOU TIP?
These are hardworking people using their own gas and their own car to drive you around town.
That, of course, raises the question as to whether the consumer should kick in for Uber, which had a revenue of about $1.5 billion in 2015.
This lone rider is happy to take a bit more expensive rides or to tip with an in-app solution, because it’s clear that the drivers end up getting stiffed in the end.
What isn’t sustainable is continuing a not-quite-transparent gratuity dance in the backseat of Uber cars.
READ MORE: Tipping Etiquette Around the World
What we found is that drivers don’t exactly expect a tip. And they are happy to give you a five-star rating without one if you are simply a decent human being.
If they want a tip, they could just as easily flip their app to Lyft and work that pink mustache for a few hours.
As a rider, however, the choice is very much up to you. I don’t tip, because that’s how it’s been since I started using the app, and my 4.8 rating is high enough for me to go on living with my head held relatively high.
But I have considered anew my own policy. These drivers do need some form of additional compensation. But should it come out of my pocket as Uber grows throughout the world? Perhaps, at times.
Then again, leaving an Uber without ever fiddling through your pockets for spare change is the kind of experience that created the behemoth.
Do you have to tip? Absolutely not, is the answer we received.
However, should you? We leave that up to you.
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