What Your Uber Driver Secretly Thinks When You Don't Tip
My husband’s road rage doesn’t happen on the highways, but in our home when he notices how much I’ve been on the road as an Uber driver. I’ll admit I’m not a mathematician, but I hoped I’d earn some extra money driving for Uber. I drove 5,000 miles for Uber last month. I would not have believed I drove so much, but the oil change documents prove it’s true. While I’m not so great with math, my husband spells it out in simple terms. If I’m driving 5,000 miles a month, that adds up to 60,000 miles a year or 120,000 miles in two years. Our car would cost about $30,000 to replace. Considering only one in 10 of my passengers tip, I’m never going to make enough to compensate for the car itself. Never mind those oil changes every month at $70 a pop. Or the new tires that cost almost $600. Or the new brakes I need because of Uber driving. I probably gross $400 to $500 a week driving or Uber. My actual pay after subtracting gas, toll roads, and maintenance is significantly less.
Meanwhile, most passengers have almost a smug attitude about the fact that they don’t have to tip. Of course you don’t have to tip, but I question how non-tippers can look at themselves in the mirror without self-loathing. Even the “nice” pax think they are nice by giving you a 5-star rating and no tip. The law of reciprocity means people generally feel as though they need to reciprocate. By giving pax the option to reward you with a compliment or five stars, they feel like they did their part to thank you. I’ve thought about putting up a sign that reads, “I don’t accept compliments. However, I gratefully and gladly accept gratuities/tips.” I also thought about, “Good ratings don’t pay the bills. Good ratings just mean I get to keep driving your sorry ass around for free.”
I talked to a female Uber driver at the Tampa airport last week who told me she slept in her car in the airport parking lot because it did not pay for her to drive back to her hometown in the middle of the night after dropping of a pax. If anyone had tipped her, maybe she’d have money for the vending machines. Tipping an Uber driver one or two dollars is better than nothing. I have so many fantasies about what I’d love to say to passengers especially after meeting full-time drivers who are trying to take care of their families.
Uber lets drivers rate their passengers. Every passenger who does not tip should star with a 4 star rating. If they are also rude, rate them fewer stars. Every driver should check the rider’s rating. Drivers should never go out of the way to pick up a rider with a low score. I doubt any driver would give a rider less than 5 stars if they even tipped a dollar. One dollar. That’s all it takes to show you aren’t a total demon.
Without tips, Uber drivers don't make any money. They might think they are making money, but they aren’t. Net income with Uber driving after actual car depreciation is zero without tips. For some people, it could even come out an actual financial loss. Uber the company makes money without a doubt. Uber passengers get cheap rides by taking advantage of drivers and rationalizing why they are not going to tip. I’d love to hear why riders don’t tip. “If you don’t like the pay, don’t drive.” That sounds good. I’ll quit and, so also, will all other Uber drivers. Then you can pay a taxi service. You can wait for hours. “She or he was a bad driver.” Really, did you show up alive at your destination?
A woman complained to me the other day that no one would pick her up at 10 p.m. in Sun City Center, Florida, which is a fairly remote retirement community. I told her that most drivers go out of their way for 5 star passengers. Even understanding that she could tip her various drivers to secure rides, the woman explained why she doesn’t want to spend more by tipping. So she rather change her work schedule or wait two hours for a co-worker to drive her as opposed to shelling out $1 or $2 as a show of good will. Never mind the fact that even that $1 or $2 only pays for the extra gas to drive without pay to pick up the person 20 minutes away.
Some people do tip. I've noticed 8th-graders, whether male or female, tip well. That's because they lived through the hell of 7th grade and understand karma. Servers who work at The Wing House (like a Hooter's) also tip well. As the driver sleeping at the airport said, "It's always the ones who can afford it the least who tip. Drive up to a mansion and don't expect a tip."
Uber the company can do a lot. They can charge a $1 or $2 “remote pickup charge,” if people don’t want to wait for a driver to come closer to their location. “There are currently no Uber drivers 10 minutes or closer. Do you want to pay $2 extra that goes directly to the driver or wait until a driver randomly appears in your god-forsaken town?” In addition, Uber needs to put back the option to tip on the app so people can enjoy that cashless experience. All Uber the company did by discouraging tipping is create drivers who are infuriated and passengers who can’t help but pick up on the resentment. When there is so much driver-pax hate going on, there’s a failed business plan.
My husband doesn’t want me to drive for Uber. He doesn’t have to worry. I only plan to drive 10 hours a week. During those 10 hours, I’ll let my pax stare at the sign that reads, “Tips are not included in the fare. (frowny face). Tips are not required. (frowny face). But tips are appreciated. (smiley face.) Thank you for tipping so I can pay for my dog to get her master’s degree.”
Uber Housewife understands that some people, including students on their way to fast food jobs, can't afford to tip. Uber Housewife does not spend the rare tips she receives on shoes. The $10 tip recently given by a hair stylist studying mortuary science was given to a homeless man she saw when leaving the same shopping plaza. If you would like to write for Uber People, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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