Thursday, April 28, 2016
You might want to start tipping your Uber driver, but only in cash, or else
As part of the landmark $100 million settlement agreed to last week, Uber says drivers will now be allowed to ask for tips. Which means everyone, even you, will now have to tip their drivers. Forever. Probably in cash, since there's no way to do it in the app.
What's at stake if you don't? Well, your rating as a rider could take a serious hit if you start stiffing drivers. And after a while, you may wonder why no drivers accept your trip requests. The answer should be obvious: because you're a no-tip-giving monster and you don't deserve to go anywhere, so good luck catching the bus, I hear it's going to be crowded for the next 100 years.
Previously, drivers rated riders based on whether they were good passengers or vile, racist, barf people. If you fell in the former group, you likely had a rating somewhere between 4.5 and 5 stars, and have no problems hailing a ride. If you're in the latter category, you may have noticed all but the most desperate drivers declining your requests.
A lot of people, millennials and the very tech savy especially, liked Uber because it eliminated all the ambiguity in financial transactions. Before Uber, tipping in the service economy was basically obligatory. Order a beer at the bar? One dollar tip. Party of four for dinner? Better figure out how to divide that 20 percent tip by four. Oh, you're a liberal arts major? Your phone has a calculator. Get to work.
Moreover, tipping created a short-lived power rush, turning consumers into "little lords" who dispensed a shiny coin upon the lowly but grateful service worker. The mantra was drilled into us: waiters depend on tips, bartenders depend on tips, even baristas and barbers. "Some people exploit this role, demanding too much, asking for special favors, and enjoying having someone do our bidding," writes Cathy O'Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. "Others are over-sensitive to slights; if they feel like their status is being questioned at any level, they switch from little lords to little tyrants, demanding attention and extra work from their waiters. We've all seen this."
Then Uber came along and said, Hey tipping is dumb, we're going to take 20 percent of your fare and give the rest to the driver, cool? Drivers were discouraged from taking tips, but most wouldn't say no if you tried to flip them a couple of bills at the end of the ride. Lyft, always trying to be the Betty to Uber's Veronica, includes an option in its app to tip drivers. "100% of tips go to drivers," Lyft insists on its website — tacitly acknowledging that it's kind of weird to tip a gig-economy driver. Uber made not tipping cool. Lyft doesn't care about being cool, it just doesn't want to go out of business.
Well, thanks to the worker misclassification settlement, tips are back. And this time, they may as well be mandatory. Sure, the sign in the back of the car will say something like, "Tips are not included, they are not required, but they would be appreciated," as theorized by Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case.
But the underlying message will be, "Tips may not be required, but neither is taking the new gig-economy paradigm for granted, so don't be stingy and pay up." Otherwise, you may find yourself raising your hand on a street corner trying to hail a yellow cab like some kind of flip-phone-owning luddite. And guess what? Cab drivers like tips, too.