In response to reactions like SFist's this week to the growing idea that Uber drivers want passengers to tip them in cash, Uber has just put up a new official statement on Medium on their tipping policy. And even though "tip is included" was always the implied understanding behind "no tips required," they insist that tips have never been included and that they never said that.
When we started Uber six years ago, we thought long and hard about whether to build a tipping option into the app. In the end, we decided against including one because we felt 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.
That’s still the case today. Tipping is not included, nor is it expected or required. In fact riders tell us that one of the things they like most about Uber is that it’s hassle-free. And that’s how we intend to keep it.
OK, great. And they go on to make the very reasonable case that adding a tipping function would make drivers more motivated to service wealthier neighborhoods, knowing they could make better tips there, and it would mean that certain drivers would make more money than others because of the inherent biases in the way people tip.
But there's pretty wide disagreement over tipping and ride-hailing apps given a) Uber's biggest competitor, Lyft, has a built-in tipping function, and b) Uber drivers of late have been doing a lot of complaining, via protest and otherwise, about how little they get paid, as Uber continues to cut fares.
LAist's Uber driver columnist Lexus Jones wrote in this piece last year that s/he doesn't expect tips and rarely gets them, but in the same breath says, "When you take a $5 Uber ride, keep in mind the driver's cut is about $2.60. You tip everyone else, if you have a buck or two that you can spare, do what you'd do with a cabbie or bartender." And our compadres at Chicagoist insist that tipping your Uber drivers should be de rigeur, as with any taxi.
Uber knows, though, that a huge part of their appeal comes in never having to worry about tips the thing is, if lots of people are willing to pay more to make sure drivers are getting tipped, doesn't it follow that fares have to rise?