To Tip, Or Not to Tip? NYC Could Force Uber to Include a Tipping Function

Jeff Chiu/AP Photo
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Uber rides are usually a little awkward.

I mean, you climb into a total stranger’s car and make small talk for a few minutes before being blanketed in an uncomfortable silence that’s only broken when your driver decides to crank some “sweet” tunes.

But that level of awkward? That ain’t nothin’.

The really uncomfortable part comes at the end of the ride when you thank the driver, step out of the car and are forced to do the to-tip-or-not-to-tip dance as you sheepishly check your cashless wallet, knowing full well you aren’t carrying any.

That dance may soon be a thing of the past.

On Monday, New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced a proposal to require car services to allow passengers to tip drivers using credit cards after Uber drivers in the city petitioned officials asking them to change the rule.

The petition, which collected over 11,000 signatures, claimed drivers in New York City were losing thousands of dollars in the absence of a convenient tipping option.

However, while the lack of tipping option allows riders to avoid kowtowing to what many view as an outdated social expectation, the real issue seems to be rooted a little deeper.

During a recent hearing on the matter, more than 80 drivers in New York City showed up to share stories of economic hardship and issues with a lack of transparency in pay.

But what’s less transparent than never knowing if you’ll walk away with enough money to pay your bills because you’re relying on tips?

The Issue With Tipping and Uber

For years, Uber has stood by its decision not to build a tipping option into the app’s interface, saying that it would be “better for riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip  —  without the uncertainty of tipping.”

The company also notes many people tip because it’s expected, even if the service is bad, and that tipping creates bias — particularly within the driver/rider review function on the app.

They went on to explain that tipping could give drivers incentive to spend more time in parts of town where tips are likely to be higher, narrowing the company’s reach.

Still, Uber acknowledges that some riders want to tip their drivers, and says drivers are free to accept them whenever they’re offered.

Either way, it sounds like the rulemaking initiation will move forward.

“This rule proposal will be an important first step to improve earning potential in the For-Hire Vehicle industry,” stated Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi, “but it is just one piece of a more comprehensive effort to improve the economic well-being of drivers.”

What that “comprehensive effort” entails remains to be seen.

Your Turn: What do you think about Uber’s tipping policy?

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Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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