TIME: The concept of tipping has been in flux recently. Some restaurants have killed off tipping to simplify the customer experience and give their employees a living wage. At the same time there’s been “tip creep” in the countless coffeeshops that use the Square payment platform, which pressures customers into tipping by having them actively select “no tip” on a screen everyone behind them can see. One category that has seen tipping recede is transportation. Although Lyft’s platform has tipping as an option, the rise of Uber has left consumers with a simplified this-is-the-price payment model. The company’s help page states explicitly that “there’s no need to tip.”
The tip-free party for Uber riders looks to be over, however. Last week the company agreed to pay a $100 million settlement to drivers to stop them from becoming employees who are entitled to benefits like health insurance. While the main news was the fact that Uber drivers will be independent contractors in infinitum, there was just as much news in the driver agreement’s details—which as the Wall Street Journal noted indicates that tipping on Uber rides could be the new norm.
The agreement now allows drivers to post signs in the car letting customers know that tipping is not included. This notice implies that riders could–and probably should–add a tip for drivers, who have been experiencing fare cuts around the country during Uber promotional periods. Since Uber riders are rated by drivers, the drivers have a bit of leverage besides guilt. Leaving a bad tip or no tip at all could lead to a bad customer review–and down the road drivers could be inclined to pass on picking up riders who are known as bad tippers. Essentially, the change levels out a playing field that has been stacked against drivers considerably.
The gratuities, however, will not come from within the app like with Lyft. Uber drivers will have to rely on cash for tips, and cash is not necessarily something your typical modern Uber passenger carries at all times. In fact, to many consumers, cash tipping is an annoying aspect of the process that the app-for-that industry was supposed to fix, and until Uber adds a tipping screen to its app, it appears Lyft enjoys an advantage. In addition to tipping, the new driver agreement adds protections for the drivers against getting booted off the service for a 4-star rating—a bad rating, with Uber’s warped five-star rating system—and allows drivers to decline fares with less impunity compared to the past.
It’s a long read but includes a ton of pertinent information that applies to pretty much all of us. And I’ve done everyone a solid by bolding what I think is of the utmost emphasis in the above excerpt. This is a big deal. By far and away the best aspect of Uber is its convenience. You click two buttons and that’s literally it. Not having to physically make a payment exchange upon arrival is such a luxury, it’s a shame they may do away with it completely.
Before jumping down Uber’s throat, which I am prepared to do, you gotta put flip the script and put yourself in the drivers’ shoes. I don’t know for sure how much they make on every ride, but I’ve been lead to believe the drivers take somewhere around 3/4 of each receipt. If you ask me I think that’s a damn good situation; they have no boss, work whenever they want, and in doing so have complete control over how much they make. They can choose one ride over another because they know it’s more paper in the pocket. There aren’t many jobs with such freedom. But obviously there have been issues and legal battles (nothing new, by the way). They don’t have benefits (advantage Uber), so want to make more money.
It’s pretty much a known fact that you don’t have to tip the drivers. Uber passengers know when they get in the car that they don’t have to tip the driver (advantage customer, maybe). If that was taken off the table, if it became a thing that you could tip, people will do it. Maybe not all, maybe not most, but there’s a better chance of someone getting a little extra coin if there is a tip jar. I was under the assumption that the tip was built into the fare. I’m almost certain it is. So if the rates will be lowered to account for the ancillary tipping option, we as customers won’t see much of a difference in price (in theory). But I don’t see that happening because from a business standpoint, keeping the current strategy and implementing the supplementary choice.
With that being said, the physical act of tipping will be seen as a nuisance. We have become spoiled with the convenience of the Uber business platform. Most of my Uber rides are heavily induced by alcohol intake. I’m fucked up in the car. The last thing I need to be doing is fumbling through my wallet to please the driver. And I’d think that the average drunk passenger would skip the tip altogether. In effect, that would A) NOT solve the problem drivers are currently complaining about, B) lead to customers getting shitty ratings, C) augmenting the issue at hand.
It would make SO much more sense to have the tip option on the app and placed before rating the driver. They could have a recommended tip (10% for example), and the option to change it to whatever is desired. It’s gotta be convenient for the passenger. Making customers give a CASH tip is insanity. Nobody carries around cash anymore. If I can pay for a NYC taxi with a credit card, there’s absolutely no reason I should be resorting to a cash tip with a company valued at $68B. I can go on and on as there are a lot of aspects of this to dissect, but you get the gist of it. Nothing is set in stone yet, but Uber needs to figure this thing out.