By now, you’re accustomed to getting around via ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. The convenience of using a smartphone to “hail” a ride and pay for that ride is still a new concept, but it’s already one that is hard to imagine living without. So, do you Uber often—and if you do, do you tip your driver? This is probably something that you have questioned before, because living in the United States means living in a tipping-friendly culture. We tip our waitresses, our taxi drivers, our valets, our baristas, and even our good friends over at Chipotle. So, why do some people not tip their Uber drivers? And if we don’t tip them, should we? We’ve done some digging and found the answer to all your tipping quandaries.
When it comes to tipping and ridesharing, almost everyone is confused. Many people do not understand how the payment process works for ridesharing companies, especially Uber. The entire payment process takes place within the app, so most people assume a tip is already included in their fare price. Others don’t even know that they can tip, but no matter what, tips are welcome—and honestly, this can make or break a driver’s income for the week.
When you Google, “Should I tip my uber driver?”, a lot of inquiries come up. Uberpeople.net exposes some real rider’s thoughts and concerns. One customer was very surprised and confused by Uber’s policy: “I just signed up for Uber and I want to do right by the driver. A service charge is included, and the web site says ‘no need to tip.’ Is tipping really not expected?” Another customer thought his tip was calculated into his bill: “I thought my tip was automatically added to my bill and given to you guys. Is this not true?” These real life exchanges between Uber drivers and Uber riders just underscore the argument that everyone is confused on whether tipping is included, required, or even appropriate when paying for your ride.
Uber’s Updated Tipping Policy (as of June 2017)
On June 20, Uber announced that it will roll out the functionality for riders to tip drivers within its app, a functionality drivers have long argued and complained about (as is evident in this very post).
According to CNN, Uber will first roll out in-app tipping in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Houston, and expects to expand to all U.S. cities by the end of next month.
Uber revealed this update as part of its “180 Days of Change” campaign, a new initiative announced by Uber leadership including cofounder and chairman Garrett Camp. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick took an indefinite leave of absence earlier this month following a slew of negative press surrounding the company as well as a tragic family death.
Uber’s official party line on tipping used to be that it was not necessary, a policy reinforced by the fact that tipping was not possible through the app (which is still true). Tips, claimed Uber, were included in the fare, an appealing policy for those looking for a simple transaction unencumbered by elusive tipping conventions, as well as those who rarely carry cash. In fact, drivers were instructed to turn down tips the first time a customer offered, and drivers were only supposed to accept a tip if the customer then insisted. Harry Campbell, The Rideshare Guy and frequent contributor for Quoted about the Uber driver experience, told us Uber’s policy meant drivers received tips from about one out of every 100 customers. Though Uber claimed that tips weren’t necessary because their drivers earned about $6 more per hour than traditional taxi drivers, Uber drivers argued that, unlike taxi drivers, they were responsible for gas, car maintenance, and received no employer-sponsored benefits, meaning their actual salary often ended up being much less per hour than taxi drivers.
On April 21, 2016, the courts agreed with Uber drivers, awarding a settlement of $100 million dollars to drivers and calling for an official policy change at Uber. In addition to other incremental benefits to drivers, which Newsweek details, Uber will now notify riders that tips are not included in their fare, and drivers are free to hang signs in their cars stating as much. Further, drivers can no longer be deactivated at will or for not accepting a minimum percentage of rides, writes Newsweek.
What Does Uber’s New Tipping Policy Mean for Drivers?
While Campbell told us the policy change is already resulting in a few more tips for drivers, his enthusiasm is measured. “There isn’t a whole lot of instant gratification for drivers,” Campbell says of the settlement, and it’ll take time for the policy changes to trickle down to drivers. Campbell says he now has a sign in his car indicating that tips aren’t included, but he stresses drivers soliciting tips should offer above-average service and shouldn’t expect every rider to tip.
Uber, as a result of the settlement, gets to keep classifying drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, which means drivers still aren’t eligible for employee protections like over time, health care, or sick leave, reports Newsweek. If Uber adds an option for tipping to the app, says Campbell, he’ll be more inclined to consider the settlement a real win for drivers. Until then, he’s waiting to see what impact the settlement really has on drivers’ bottom line.
Tipping with Uber is still a choice, however the days of not tipping while keeping a clean conscious (and experiencing no negative consequences) are over. Customers who still choose not to tip might see their rider ratings plummet (just look at the comments on this post!), meaning eventually drivers might stop picking up known non-tippers. Since drivers can no longer be deactivated for being choosey about who they pick up, tipping conventions within Uber may change quickly.
Your payment when using UberTAXI—which is when you use the Uber app to call a normal cab for you—includes a 20 percent gratuity. You pay within the app and the gratuity goes to the cab driver. This is different from UberT, which is where they call a normal cab for you and then you just pay your cab driver directly, as usual. When using UberT you do not use the app to pay; this is all done physically.
Lyft’s story with tipping is a much shorter one. Lyft allows their customers to add a tip within the app at the end of their payment process. So, at the end of your ride you will see a button that says “add tip”—and if you were satisfied with your ride—all you have to do is click it and you are good to go. Also if you go to Lyft’s website they have a lot to say about tipping and it thoroughly explains how you can go about it:
“After an especially delightful ride, you might feel inspired to tip your driver. It’s certainly not required, but tipping goes a long way to encourage community drivers who go the extra mile. Drivers keep 100 percent of their tips. If you want to show your appreciation for a great driver, just select the amount you’d like to tip from the options below your driver’s picture on the Payment screen. If you add enough, you’ll even get to enjoy the exclusive fireworks show! Please note that all tips will be charged to the credit card on file, and not pulled from any existing ride credits.”
Lyft even takes it to the next level by allowing you to tip your driver after you have already paid for your ride, so you are never in those “oh-no-I-forgot” type situations. All you have to do is go look at your email receipt, scroll to the bottom, and click ‘add tip’—it’s as easy as that!
What Can Rideshare Drivers Do to Encourage Tipping?
Ask for tips
Some rideshare drivers have taken to adding signs in their cars to clarify to passengers that tipping is not included in their fares and that they can indeed offer a tip.
In Austin, Texas, a driver for rideshare company Fasten named Syed explained that the payment a driver receives is only a fraction of the fare the passenger is charged. He stressed that Uber, Fasten, and other rideshare companies take a sizable portion of the fare, so if passengers add a couple dollars as a tip, it helps the drivers out in a big way.
In April 2017, the New York Times reported that officials in New York City are moving to require that Uber (and, ultimately, other ridesharing companies) provide a option to tip within the app itself. More than 11,000 people signed a petition from the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents Uber drivers in New York.
“The lack of a tipping option in Uber’s app has been a sore point for drivers. If new rules are approved in New York, it would be a major change in how Uber runs its business in its largest United States market. Other cities could demand to have the same choice.”
New York City Uber drivers should expect to see the proposal formally introduced by July.
Living in the United States, tipping is just something that we do. So would you tip your Uber driver, too? Are you of the opinion that a couple of bucks here and there won’t hurt you and could really help these drivers, or is the whole appeal of the experience the wallet-less, cash-less bit? The next time you Uber or Lyft—will you tip?