Uber Comes Up With Imaginary Way to Treat Its Drivers Better

By Sophie Kleeman on at

Before it gets rid of its drivers altogether, Uber is trying to make nice with them. But instead of paying them more or giving riders the ability to give them a tip, they’re rewarding them with “compliments.” Because if there’s one thing unrepentant capitalism is good for, it’s an imaginary reward system!

Today, the ride-sharing app announced “a new way to say thanks,” which amounts to a roster of canned compliments and stickers. Now, in addition to the star rating system, riders will be able to compensate their drivers with notes like “Above and Beyond,” “Cool Car,” and “Awesome Music.”

“We want to give riders the opportunity to thank and recognise drivers for the things they do to make the experience more memorable and fun,” the announcement says, neatly shifting the burden from company to customer in one fell swoop.

Adding in small niceties like this isn’t an inherently offensive or awful idea, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to make someone smile once in a while. But when Uber trots out lines like this:

It is Thanksgiving week after all—a time to be, well, thankful.

And this:

We figured what better time than now to make it easier to say “thank you” to the drivers who help us get from A to B every day.

It’s well worth remembering that the app—which is worth billions of dollars—has fought fiercely against properly compensating its drivers, argued that tipping isn’t necessary, and punished drivers for opting out of the UberPool system.

But according to Wired’s alarmingly glowing writeup of the new feature, the seven-year-old company recently realized that it better start treating its drivers better. “What we’re trying to do is rebalance that scale,” Amritha Prasad, Uber’s product design lead, told the outlet, in reference to the company’s split focus on riders and drivers.

Ah, yes. And the best way to brighten up that veneer of “balance” is with a fresh coat of meaningless stickers, of course.