They say that you should keep your opinions on religion, politics, and sports to yourself. Based on the vitriol generated by the topic on the internet, I feel like “your stance on tipping Uber drivers” should be added to that same list. Peoples’ perspective on tipping Uber drivers seems polarizing, and you’ll rarely find anyone who is indifferent about it.

Uber’s stance on tipping drivers

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, Uber has softened their stance on tipping in a subtle way. In the past Uber’s website said the following about tipping:

Do I need to tip my driver?

You don’t need cash when you ride with Uber. Once you arrive at your destination, your fare is automatically charged to your credit card on file — there’s no need to tip.

However, nowadays the Uber website says the following:

Can I tip my driver with the app?

The Uber app does not include a tip when billing you for a trip fare.

In most cities, Uber is a cashless experience. Tipping is voluntary. Tips are not included in the fare, nor are they expected or required.

As a rider, you are not obligated to offer your driver a gratuity in cash. If you decide you would like to tip, your driver is welcome to accept.

Make of it what you will, but that’s what they say.

My stance on tipping Uber drivers

Here’s my stance on tipping Uber drivers, which I in no way claim is better than anyone else’s:

  • I don’t tip with UberBLACK, since I think the prices are typically fair
  • In markets where I personally think Uber is too cheap, I will tip (for example, in Los Angeles, UberX costs 90 cents per mile nowadays, which is about a third the price of a taxi)
  • For markets where I find UberX prices to be “fair” (like New York City, for example) I tip if it’s a great experience, but typically don’t otherwise

Having said the above, I think it’s important to acknowledge the following:

  • One of the selling points of Uber is that you don’t need cash, so I’m annoyed on one hand by the lack of ability to tip in-app; if tipping is going to be expected by drivers, make it possible through the app
  • I totally agree that the tipping culture in the US is out of control, but it doesn’t change the fact that people need to make a living, and that Uber prices in some markets are unsustainably low; I believe in living and letting live

Seriously, what expectations can I have in an UberX in LA when the price is a third the cost of a taxi, and you’re expected to tip in a taxi but not in an Uber? The math just doesn’t make sense.

Uber may finally be forced to allow in-app tipping

Well, it looks like things may soon be changing. Bloomberg reports that New York City’s taxi and black car regulators plan to introduce a rule that would require Uber to add an in-app tipping feature, and it could happen as soon as July. Per the article:

Uber is facing a similar push in California, where a state lawmaker introduced a bill early this year that would require ride-hailing companies to accept tips via credit cards. If Uber is forced to adopt tipping in its two most important U.S. markets, it wouldn’t make much sense to refuse to do so elsewhere. Uber drivers have been asking for a tipping option for years. As Uber faces myriad controversies this year, it’s locked in intense competition with Lyft Inc. for drivers, and any worker who feels tipping is important can easily switch to Uber’s rival.

A pro-tipping rule in New York would be a big victory for the Independent Drivers Guild, an organization that Uber helped set up last year in conjunction with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, a trade union. The drivers guild has made tipping a priority in recent months and pushed the New York City regulator to take action. The group said the rule could mean $300 million of additional income for Uber drivers in New York each year if passengers tip at the same rate as in yellow cabs.

Bottom line

While Uber has been fighting policymakers for years, I imagine that if tipping is adopted in New York and Los Angeles, this will spread very quickly. I see both sides of the argument here. On one hand I see merit to Uber being a cashless system where good service is the norm, rather than just based on tipping.

However, I also genuinely believe that the fares are too low in many markets, at least if you have any expectations in terms of the quality of cars and drivers. Some will say “well if the drivers don’t like it they can do something else.” Personally I don’t think that’s totally fair. A lot of people gave up their jobs to become Uber driver based on things they were promised, while Uber has been cutting prices in order to gain market share, at the expense of their drivers (though it’s sort of good for consumers, at least in the short term).

Some will obviously be opposed to this, because it ultimately raises the cost of an Uber ride. At the same time, I imagine those who sometimes tip Uber drivers will mostly be in favor of this, since it will make it easier to tip.

What do you guys think — would Uber adding an in-app tip feature be a good or bad thing?