Today roughly 1/3 of the US workforce is categorized as somehow being in the “service” industry. But tipping is not clear cut across the board. It seems odd that someone would get tipped for making coffee, but not for spending half an hour helping you pick out a pair of comfortable pants. Why would you tip a flight attendant when he/she sells you a beverage, but not when they bring you a pillow and blanket?
It is customary in the USA to tip most minimum wage (equivalent) service people. The general population recognizes that trying to survive on minimum wage is an utterly ridiculous notion. The word TIPS is commonly said to mean “To Insure Prompt Service”. This implies that if someone does NOT provide a normal level of service, then they would not deserve a tip. We have all had the rotten waiter/waitress, and thought to ourselves about giving them nothing because we felt they were horrible.
So the question is, should you tip your driver?
Often times this question is tossed about on the driver forums, and the discussions can get quite lively! What commonly occurs in these discussions is a comparison of Uber and Lyft drivers to other service people in society. What if your driver were a…..
Taxi drivers are the closest comparison to Uber and Lyft drivers. Cab drivers are usually driving a company vehicle that they rent, so their expenses are rent + gas, vs an Uber driver, who is usually responsible for gas as well as maintenance and repair. People who have taken a cab will often tip the driver, AND the ride costs more to begin with! Do you tip your cab driver? I know, some of the readers are too young to have ever seen the inside of a Crown Vic, lol. If you believe that comparing Uber and Lyft drivers to taxi drivers is a fair comparison, then YES you should tip your driver.
Pizza Delivery Driver
Someone brings a hot pizza to your place and you slide them a few bucks. If they took an hour to get it to you, they are probably getting nothing. The tip is “To Insure Prompt Service”. Yes, it is their job, but whether they do a good job or a lousy job will affect your happiness. Even if you only give $1 of $2, you still give something, right? I hope….
The pizza delivery driver is likely using their own vehicle, and they get paid a small portion of the delivery fee. But at 50 cents per delivery, that does not cover the cost of a new set of tires or brakes. The tips cover the difference.
As an Uber driver, there is nothing extra that drivers earn per delivery. Uber and Lyft keep 100% of the Booking Fees.
This person brings you a menu, gets drinks for you, takes your order, brings your food, brings extra napkins or ketchup, refills your drinks, takes additional orders perhaps (dessert anyone?), goes back and forth to your table over and over, and may end up cleaning up after you. The amount of work they do is tremendous for a minimum wage job. Without the tip, it is just a miserable job.
If the tips dry up in the food business, the service people are gone. The cooks and owners will stick around, but without tips waiters and waitresses leave that line of work.
Uber drivers get NO minimum, so when business “dries up” and there are no rides, they get paid NOTHING, not even minimum wage.
Barista or Bartender
These fine people stand in one area and make your drinks. Depending on the establishment, they may be cleaning up after you as well. Do you tip them? If you tip your bartender but not the barista, what is the logic behind that? Both of them bring you a tasty beverage, and have to clean up their work area when they are done. Both have to deal with people who may be picky about what they want, and who may leave a mess behind.
Your driver may have to clean up after you (hopefully not). Your driver most definitely needs to keep their vehicle clean, which means spending money and time for car washes and vacuum, dust, etc. If the driver is providing any amenities (water, gum, vomit bags) they are paying for it out of pocket. The driver needs to make sure the car is in good running order on a regular basis, which means paying for oil changes, tires, brakes, gasoline, etc. And, if you make a mess then they have to take time out of their day to stop and clean, which means lost income during that time.
A little history
Lyft began when Uber started their Uber X service, they were within one week of each other. They took opposite approaches to tipping. Lyft put the tip option right up front – when the ride is over you get a screen asking if you wanted to tip the driver, and THEN it asked what rating you wanted to give. Uber, on the other hand, LIED to the public and claimed that tips were included! They are not, obviously, and it took a class action lawsuit to get them to rescind that lie. $28 million dollars later they changed the wording to say that tips are “not required”. In 2017 when the former CEO was kicked out Uber did an about face on tipping and allowed tips to be input via the app.
Unfortunately, the damage from the first lie was tremendous, and people had gotten the idea that they didn’t need to tip their Uber driver. To this day Lyft is still “in your face” about a tip, while with Uber you have to make an effort to find the place to leave a tip.
Arguments against tipping
One argument against tipping is that driving is their job, and they are already paid by the companies. If they don’t like the pay they receive, then they should go find a different line of work. Why should you have to pay a bribe to someone in order to get them to do the job they are paid to do in the first place?
A counter argument is that this line of thought would apply to ALL tipped jobs, and tipping ANYONE becomes a waste of money under this reasoning. You could argue that people just need to do the jobs they were hired for, and this includes ANY job that has a reasonable expectation of a tip. If you feel that a tip is a bribe, then why should you have to tip anyone, anywhere?
In some countries, businesses charge a bit more and pay their service workers a fair wage. This completely eliminates the need for tipping. This system seems much more fair, however that is not the system we have. In the United States, one of the ways that a business keeps prices low is by skimping on paying the workers. The customers make up for the income shortfall by providing tips. This way the worker gets paid more fairly, and the prices stay low overall. The debate of having the customers subsidize the low prices by tipping the workers has been going on for a long time. Will it change any time soon? Probably not. You have a better chance of getting the US to convert to the metric system than to give up the tipping culture.
I urge you to do a little research and find out for sure what service people (who expect tips) really make per hour, and I bet it is very close (before tips) to minimum wage (across the board). Try looking up what Uber and Lyft drivers make. You will find that their earnings are in the bottom 10% of all earners in the United States! When Uber and Lyft talk about how much drivers earn, they lie by inflating figures and quoting gross earnings instead of net earnings. The companies are relatively new to the world, and so the regulations and lawsuits to prevent this have not yet really taken hold. And there are always the drivers who are trying to get a bonus by recruiting more drivers, and they lie about how great the earnings are (but that is another article).
Another argument against tipping, is why should you tip unless they do something special or give extra service? A valid point, and once again you could make that argument about ANY job. Why do you tip the bartender, all they do is pour you a beer, and that’s their job, right? Again, the answer is, money. We all know the pay is so low in certain jobs that tipping is what makes the difference between eating McDonald’s every day and having money for groceries for home cooked meals. Tips allow a parent to take one day a week off to be with their children. If the bartender did not get tipped by anyone, you would see a new bartender working there every single week. After experiencing some good service and some lousy service, you might realize that it is worth paying an extra dollar or two in order to keep one of the better ones around. The same is true of drivers, do you want to get into a vehicle expecting good service, or do you cringe at the thought of getting into an Uber?
My philosophy on tipping
My beliefs have changed over the years as I have aged. We tip service people who are the lowest paid people in society. The lowest paying jobs in society are a stepping stone to help individuals get by, until they can move up the economic ladder, and a tip makes it sustainable while they are trying to get ahead.
When it comes to a tip, I ask myself a simple question: Do I want to see this person succeed at this job? If so, I will tip. If they have a good attitude, or bring something extra to the encounter, or can do their job in a satisfactory manner, then yes, I would like them to serve me again, and I show that by leaving a tip. Not leaving a tip is sending them a message that you don’t care if they quit, in my opinion.
What do you think? Feel free to comment!