For many people, driving for Uber is one of the most convenient ways to make extra money on the side. Others devote far more time each week, driving as a means to make a living altogether. Uber has no doubt changed the landscape of urban transportation, but that’s not to say there haven’t been challenges for both drivers and riders alike. One of the most controversial (and one that has yet to be truly addressed) challenges is that of tipping and receiving tips.
To Tip, or Not to Tip?
It’s a question that practically every new Uber rider asks him or herself—do I need to tip at the end of my first ride? This is especially polarizing for those who are used to taking city cabs, where tipping is an unspoken part of the transaction. Take a look at Uber’s website, however, and it’s clearly stated that riders are not required to tip their drivers at any point. Seeking to create a cashless experience, the company has gone to great lengths to let riders know that taking a cab and ordering an Uber are entirely different from one another.
One of the biggest problems with Uber’s prescribed tipping policy is that the app does not allow riders to add tips to their fares. This adds tension to the scenario, especially considering the notion that many people still find themselves torn between whether or not they should be tipping for Uber rides. Perhaps even more of an issue is that many riders believe Uber includes a “tip” in the cost of the fare, which is only true of UberTaxi rides—UberX and UberBlack drivers are out of luck.
As one might expect, Uber’s efforts to take tipping out of the equation have in large part been successful. Many drivers report receiving tips from only a small fraction of riders, while some take to online forums to discuss how they’ve never even seen a tip once. Because Uber drivers are discouraged from actually soliciting tips, some believe they aren’t allowed to receive them at all and would be at risk of losing their driving privileges if they accepted money. It’s important to realize that this is not the case.
What’s a Driver to Do?
When Uber first entered the FHV landscape, it was a veritable godsend for everyday individuals who enjoyed driving and were looking to pad their bank accounts. As fares have decreased over time in major cities (especially for UberX drivers), pulling in enough money each hour to make driving worthwhile has gotten more and more difficult. The addition of even a small percentage of tips each week can actually make a major difference for some drivers, and there’s no reason to believe that this isn’t a plausible scenario.
So, what can Uber drivers do to increase their chances of receiving tips from riders? First, it’s important to clarify that outright solicitation is not the answer. Instead, Uber drivers can benefit from going out of their way to create the best ride experience possible. The vehicle should be spotless. Water and snacks should be available for the rider. Interactions should be professional, kind and helpful. Being the best driver you can be is prerequisite to giving a rider the incentive to tip in the first place, and it’s where every Uber driver should start.
Second, it can be helpful to educate the rider to some extent on Uber’s tipping policy if given the opportunity. It’s not something that you can logically bring up out of nowhere, but segueing into a conversation on how tips work and dispelling the myths that drivers aren’t allowed to accept them at all can help to open a rider’s eyes and reevaluate whether or not they feel they should tip at the end of a ride. This is an excellent chance to clarify that the vast majority of Uber drivers are not tipped by the company as part of each fare, as many riders are completely unaware of this.
Third, you may want to consider going out of your way to help a rider or make their experience more enjoyable. There are plenty of ways to go about this, but one of the most effective for those who find themselves driving in big cities is to act as a concierge. Many Uber riders use the service when traveling and thus could benefit from the help of a local. Striking up a conversation about how the rider’s night is going and what their plans for the evening will allow you to make recommendations and cause the rider to feel as if they’re getting special attention. In many circumstances, this may lead to a nice tip.
Finally, there is a method of getting around the issue of a driver wanting to tip, but not having any cash on hand. Square is an effective tool for running credit cards and can be connected to Android and Apple phones. If the rider says he or she would like to tip you but they don’t any cash on them, offer the opportunity to run their card and explain exactly how it works. While more time-consuming than a simple cash transaction, having Square on you for each ride may lead to an extra tip or two in the grand scheme of things.
The Bottom Line
Tipping is optional in any industry, and Uber is no different. This being said, there’s no getting around the fact that we live in a tipping culture. Despite the efforts that Uber has put forth to make riders think that tips are included in their fares, this is simply not the case for UberX and UberBlack drivers. If properly educated, riders may change their minds about whether or not they should be offering up a tip at the end of each ride, and drivers are on the frontline of clearing up this misconception. Be a great driver, don’t solicit tips and answer any questions with honesty—the rest will take care of itself.
P.S: If you’ve got a car and are looking to make some extra money from it, make sure to check out our guide on how to rent your car out. You can make up to $12,000/year!