Uber, Lyft and tipping

I rarely use Uber, and even less often its biggest competitor Lyft, since the latter one is only active in the US. However, I attended the two most recent editions of the SXSW Festival in Austin, which gave me the opportunity to compare.

LyftFor the most, the experience is the same. What’s different is that during conversations with Lyft drivers, they end up telling you that they prefer driving for Lyft over Uber. I have yet to hear the opposite. One key reason for that: Lyft encourages riders to tip their drivers after a completed ride, and tipping is done right from within the app. Uber on the other hand has no tipping option and it specifically states that tipping is not necessary.

During my rides with Lyft I realized: Tipping is not only an appreciated option among the drivers, but even I felt much better knowing that I can reward my driver for good service and a nice attitude. Since I usually don’t carry cash, even if I would like to tip an Uber driver (who until now only is allowed to accept cash tips if the passenger insists), I could not.

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I am generally critical about the tipping culture when it comes to salaried employees of a company and in situations in which interactions with staff are brief. But ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft do not employ their drivers, yet define their fares, which puts all financial risks on the driver. In addition, sitting together in a car for 30 or 60 minutes creates a type of “unique” emotional connection. For that specific case, that transforms me from a tip critic into a tip supporter. Lyft lets me satisfy this desire. Uber does not.

But things might change. As part of a recent settlement with drivers in California and Massachusetts, Uber for the first time has agreed to notify riders that tip is not included in the fares. It will allow drivers “to place signs in their car informing riders that tips are not included and while they are not required, they would be appreciated”.

For me as a cashless rider, this is obviously not sufficient. But it could be just a start. I am sure that Uber has been debating the question of a tipping feature, considering that Lyft is gaining on Uber. Adding tipping to the app would change the expectation from “no tip needed” to “tipping customary”, which for sure would annoy some frequent Uber travelers, who love the fact that they do not even need to pull out their phone after leaving a car.

In the end it all depends on the how the dynamics between the different protagonist in the ridesharing system develop. If Lyft keeps growing, if more frustrated Uber drivers increase the number of trips for Lyft, if enough riders want to tip drivers (as a feel-good deed to counter possible bad conscious over the alleged exploitation of desperate workers), Uber might end up seeing no other way than including a tipping option. As a rider, I’d welcome that.

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One comment

  1. Uber sucks. I’ve tried to use them several times in the past and their act app was always down, sometimes for hours. There is no other way to contact them, which I find infuriating. When Lyft came to my area I was excited to see how much better they are than Uber. I will never use Uber and advise everyone I know not to. I’ve heard a lot of similar stories and worse, including a drunk Uber driver & a verbally abusive Uber driver

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