Let me preface this with stating that this post is not about my opinion on whether riders should tip their Uber drivers, or if they feel it is unnecessary to do so. I truly believe, in the grand scheme of service industry tipping standards, and the true spirit behind leaving a gratuity, that it is completely up to the passenger to decide if they want to leave a tip for quality service. Regardless of how much a driver earns per ride, top notch service will stand out to passengers, and their decision to tip is completely their own. Having said that….
When you look up the great debate on whether or not passengers “should tip” their Uber drivers, two informative 2015 articles come up: NY Post‘s “Does Your Uber Driver Expect A Tip?” and Quoted‘s “Should You Tip Your Uber Driver?” Both have the bottom line that it is the “most confusing” topic of Uber, and that, at the end of the day – or shall we say, the ride – it is totally up to the rider to offer a tip to the driver. If you want to know more about Uber’s policy on tipping, then both of the aforementioned articles go further into detail on the company’s official position that “there’s no need to tip.” So, again, that’s NOT what this is about…
THIS is about the times when I have the most inspired and enriching conversations during rides with my passengers, and they in turn insist on leaving me with a little gratitude in the form of cash!
I can say that about roughly 10-15% of my passengers insist on gifting me with a tip at the end of the ride. Often times it is an airport drop off, or a lengthy ride into New Jersey. Usually people who don’t live in the city are more prone to offer a tip without even thinking twice about it. I am taken by surprise when they offer and never expect it, one way or another. Whether or not a person tips also has no bearing on what star rating I will give them (contrary to what is said in the NY Post article). I’ve heard people talk about exceptional rides they’ve had with drivers and have even heard mention of wanting to rate a driver higher than 5. My immediate thought was “A cash tip is certainly better than a five star rating, I mean, if you’re really trying to take your gratitude to the next level.” But I kept my two cents to myself.
Much like I think it is unnecessary to leave a tip for bad service at a restaurant, it doesn’t make sense to me to be expected to leave a tip for questionable service with an Uber driver. If I miss a turn, or if there is no real rapport with a passenger, receiving a tip is the furthest thing from my mind.
But, there are some MAGICAL moments when, from the backseat of my little SUV, a passenger has engaged me in what seems like the most special heart to heart conversation two beings could have. It feels more like long lost friends catching up rather than one stranger paying the other to be taken somewhere. It is in those moments when, at the end of the ride, someone has unexpectedly dug up a couple of extra dollars to hand me. The way I see it, the transaction was still cashless (a favorite Uber buzz word), however the gratitude given AFTER the transaction is completely good money!
It’s happened at least three times where a passenger was so satisfied with their interaction with me that they gifted me with $10+ and the most heartfelt “Thank you, and good luck with all of your endeavors!” before parting ways. Other times people have said how they wished they had a couple of extra dollars to give me, and of course I thank them by telling them it’s the thought that counts. Most often, someone will hand me $2 – 3 and a quick “Thanks” before my cheery “Goodbye.” I think passengers like talking to me because, much like the quintessential bartender of the past where a patron sits on the bar stool and lays it all out over a whiskey on the rocks, I love listening to the stories they’re telling and consider it a pleasure to give meaningful feedback if they should ask.
On one particular occasion, I drove a passenger from Bed Stuy to Chelsea only days after she decided to leave NYC for good, though she loves living here. What I shared really resonated with her, about my experience in choosing to leave NYC for a year (and then again for a couple of months) though I, too, love it here, but having the OPTION to come back later. “Life is FULL of options!” I also explained that, though she will never know until she gets settled back at home, there may be some things taking place that require her to be THERE, and choosing to leave now may be setting herself up to be in a better position at that point. When she said that God was speaking to her through me, I ultimately found THAT more humbling than the $10 I drove off with.
…And, by the way, the few times that I now ride Uber as a passenger, I remember to tip my driver if I have happen to have cash on hand!