Justice

People Are Going to Freak Over Uber's New Policy

Currently, Uber tells users that there's "no need to tip." But is that actually true?

It's rather obvious that tips are always appreciated. Who doesn't like extra cash? Even if you wanted to tip, however, the San Francisco-based company doesn't provide an option for users to add a gratuity from within the app like competitor Lyft does. It also appears that they currently have no plans to do so, despite a very recent $100 million settlement that upends Uber's longstanding policy barring its drivers from asking for tips. Plus, Uber makes it seem like their drivers are tipped from within their pay structure.

It turns out, however, that it's not that simple.

So what's a conscientious Uber rider to do?

The answer is that you should tip your Uber driver — and unfortunately, you probably should have been doing so all along.

Perhaps luckily for Uber drivers, you will have no excuse for your ignorance shortly. As a part of the recent Uber settlement, drivers will now be allowed to place discreet signs in their cars to address tipping. Whether this is a win or not remains to be seen, since riders can give their Uber driver a lower rating if they don't like their sign or being asked for a tip. (Conversely, drivers can also give riders a lower rating for not tipping, which is perhaps another reason to do the decent thing and tip your driver.)

If you haven't been tipping on your Uber rides before this though, don't feel too badly right away, unless you continue to ride tip-free now that drivers are able to be more upfront about their previous lack of tips. Uber's shifting statements on the company's gratuity policy are partially to blame, as the company has obfuscated how Uber drivers are actually compensated through their all-inclusive fare system. Back in 2014 in a section of the company's website called "Do I Have To Tip My Driver?" Uber explained:

"Being Uber means there is no need to tip drivers with any of our services.

When using uberTAXI (requesting a ride from a cab via the Uber app, available in select cities), drivers will input the metered fare into the Uber driver application. A default 20% of the metered fare will be automatically added and paid to the driver as a gratuity. You can select the percentage amount of the gratuity by signing into your account at uber.com then clicking the ‘Payment’ link at the top."

This probably made you think that Uber drivers were receiving a wage that was high enough to include the typical taxi gratuity. And although the company's current answer to the question "Do I Need To Tip My Driver?" has changed, the message is still no less obvious: Tips are not necessary.

Uber's current tip policy in 2016 still says that tipping is not necessary.

But as this Reddit comment on one of many threads trying to puzzle through Uber tipping points out: "The next time you take an UberX ride you'll probably think to yourself, "Wow, that's super cheap, how can the driver afford that?" Trust your mind and gut... give a little extra cash to your driver!"

Turns out this Redditor was right, and Uber drivers present a very different view of their wages than the company. Hilal Aissani, an UberSUV driver protesting the company's treatment of its drivers, told Business Insider in September 2014 that "Uber tells the customer that their tip for the driver is included, but it isn't. Drivers never see a dollar of that tip money."

Aissani isn't the only driver to come forward with such accusations either — or to suggest that Uber's unclear policy and lack of tipping option in the app leads customers to make inaccurate assumptions that tips are included in the fare price.

It's not just an Uber problem, though.

The tipping question at Uber also raises another issue that's common to service sector jobs — why are customers paying more for services to supplement the wages of low paid workers while company's rake in the profits? As TechCrunch writes:

"One of the unfortunate dark sides of the gig/1099 economy is this: if the price seems too good to be true, the company isn’t paying for it — the worker is. Who better to subsidize the price than the people who have no choice in the matter, since the alternative is often no job at all? It’s exploitative, and you should be suspicious of every business model that drags its workers with it on a race to the bottom."

Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the share economy is guilty of the same sin as other more conventional part-time industries. (As ATTN: has discussed previously, restaurants are also quietly ripping consumers and workers off in similar ways.) Gig-based employment may provide some flexibility and freedom, but it also frequently means no heath benefits, no 401(k), and a lack of protection from predatory companies.

Although Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick did release a statement about the recent settlement, no mention was made of the change to Uber's tipping policy. ATTN: reached out to Uber regarding its policies but did not hear back before publication.