We're Terrible About Tipping Our Uber/Lyft Drivers

A new study finds that Americans are really bad tippers, at least when it comes to tipping their Uber and Lyft drivers. Fully 60% of us never leave a tip, and only one percent of people tip every time.

One percent!

Full disclosure: I drove for a living long before apps and app-based ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft took over the world. I was in college, and it was a great source of extra income that didn't require a rigid schedule, meaning it didn't interfere with school. And I wasn't driving people around either. I was simply delivering people their pizzas, in 30 minutes or less. As a Domino's Pizza delivery driver, I didn't always get tipped on those deliveries. Maybe not even usually. In the 80s, I'm not sure everyone knew that tips were part of the deal; but if we didn't get tips, it would have been a minimum wage job.

Like most people who've worked for tips, I tend to err on the side of tipping. I always tip a minimum of fifteen percent at a restaurant when service is... meh! If it's everyday good service, I'll go with 20 percent and even higher for outstanding service. I also tip the housekeeping staff at hotels, because they essentially make minimum wage otherwise.

And I always leave a tip for my Uber or Lyft driver. It might be the next day, but I'll get to it eventually.

Male crowdsourced taxi driver talking with passenger in car

When Uber first burst onto the scene, they promoted themselves as an uncomplicated way to get a ride and to know what you're paying. That last part is so important, because anyone who's ever taken a taxi knows that the price can be a big unknown. I still remember my taxi to the airport in Athens, Greece. With no idea of how far I was going, or how much it cost, I watched in horror as the meter kept going... and going and going. We arrived about $108 later, or maybe it was euros (which would mean it cost even more).

Uber also told riders in their early days that the price they quoted would be the total price, and that tipping wasn't necessary. Their app didn't even allow you to leave a tip for a while, and it was only thanks to pressure from Lyft (which had a tipping function) that Uber finally relented and made it easy to tip drivers. But if leaving a tip is so easy, why do so few people leave one? That's a question that wasn't really addressed by the recent study.

If you fear for your life when getting a ride, I can totally understand not leaving a tip. If the car smells bad or the driver is rude, by all means don't leave a tip. And for what it's worth, people who tipped in cash were not factored into this study. So you might leave a couple of dollars in cash for a driver, rather than tipping within the app, and the study would say you weren't among those who leave tips.

I think the real reason we're not tipping is because we're likely never going to see that person again, and we're already gone before the question of tipping arises. We hop out of the car and look at our phone later, and only then do we see an alert asking us to rate our ride and leave a tip. It's so much harder not to tip if we have to look that person in the eye, or if we have to slink out of a restaurant without tipping. Even taxi drivers get their tip in person, before we move on -- making it much harder to deny them their tip. But the world of Uber and Lyft lets us off the hook. We simply "forget" about doing anything more, and save the money.

Some other fascinating results from this comprehensive study:

  • Between those who never tip and those who always tip, drivers receive tips an average of 16% of the time.
  • Men tip 23% more often, and 19% better, than women.
  • Men also tend to give women drivers bigger tips, especially when they're young.
  • Tips drop about 30% when a driver doesn't speak good English
  • The average tip, when there was a tip at all, was $3.11 -- about 26% of the fare paid.
  • Tips were lowest when drivers or passengers were from the least-educated or most-educated neighborhoods. Apparently, average education makes us better at tipping.

So if you never tip an Uber driver, you're not nearly alone. But if you think tipping is the right thing to do, then take the extra step and leave the poor driver a couple of bucks. And if they go out of their way for you, tip them even better.

 

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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