Do The Right Thing – Tip Your Driver

A study released this week made clear what I’ve known all along as an Uber/Lyft driver. Most of you don’t tip.

The new study analyzed 40 million Uber rides in 2017, just after Uber added a tipping option to its app.  Here are the key findings:

Riders tip on just 16 percent of rides, and only 1 percent of riders tip every time (Paula and I are notably in the minority here).

60 percent never tip at all – and you know who you are. Guys tip 19 percent more often than females, and 23 percent more overall. Female drivers get better tips, especially if they’re younger. Riders tip less when there is erratic driving, such as speeding or hard braking.

As a story in Wired attests, it is “a glimpse into the tipping decisions people make when no one is looking, and when they believe they may never see the tip-ee again.”

I’ve been driving for four years, and while I don’t keep track of the demographic tendencies of specific groups, I generally agree with the study’s findings. I get about the same percentage of riders who tip on Uber and Lyft — around 20 and 25 percent. The number goes up or down during specific events. It seems to be higher when there are big events in town and I’m transporting a lot of people here for business or vacation.

Those who don’t tip much are people getting a ride to work, unless they are in the service industry — servers and bartenders tend to tip more. Just because someone lives in a big house doesn’t mean they’re going to tip. And just because someone is getting picked up in a poorer part of town doesn’t mean they won’t tip. People who are drinking seem to tip more than average, if they remember.

Those going to the airport frequently tip. But in talking with others about this topic, it’s hard to believe some of the people who don’t tip. For example, a few weeks ago I took a couple from the Omni Hotel to the airport in Cincinnati. These were regular folks, in town for the Ironman event. They talked on the way about plans to spend the weekend on the lake on their boat. The ride was $90, and unbelievably they didn’t tip. That’s balanced by the good experiences – this morning a server at the Omni getting a short ride from Indiana gave me a $7 cash tip.

The bottom line is you just never know about human tipping behavior.

But here’s the logic I don’t get.  There are those who argue against the American tradition of tipping (oh, yes, those from foreign countries rarely tip). Tipping isn’t going away in America, and almost everyone tips at restaurants and for other service providers like barbers and pizza delivery drivers. If those people make a mistake, you might not get your food on time or you have to suffer a bad haircut. I’ve never heard of someone not tipping a cab driver.

But your Uber/Lyft driver has your life in his hands. Delivering you to your destination safely requires paying attention and skillfully managing maneuvers in traffic. Most drivers take the time to keep the car clean for you, engage in conversation, tell you about the city if you want. I’ll even stop at Thornton’s if you ask.

And most people STILL don’t bother to tip.

I hope to see you on the road.