Uber Introduces Tipping After Driver Backlash

By Kate Conger on at

For years, Uber drivers have complained that the app doesn’t prompt riders to tip them. It’s the first complaint drivers often voice, and Uber only began to allow drivers to accept tips after being sued in California and Massachusetts.

But that’s changing today. Uber announced that it is rolling out a tipping option for drivers.

“Tipping is available in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston as of today. We’re starting with only 3 cities so we can create the best tipping experience for you and your riders. We’ll be adding more cities over the next few weeks, and will make tips available to all U.S. drivers, by the end of July 2017,” Uber said in a statement. Presumably it'll  start rolling out across the rest of the world after that.

Uber has always argued that it offers a seamless experience and that adding a tip feature into its app would interfere with that. The company promises an up-front fare to the rider and the driver (although another drivers’ lawsuit alleges the company skimmed unfairly from their wages), with no fumbling around for cash or evaluation of a driver’s performance beyond assigning a rating.

“We felt it would be better for riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip — without the uncertainty of tipping,” Uber’s public policy team wrote in a 2016 blog post.

“Tipping is not included, nor is it expected or required,” the team added. “And that’s how we intend to keep it.”

That’s changing today amid mounting pressure over how Uber treats its employees and drivers. Uber’s company culture has been under scrutiny since allegations of widespread sexual harassment surfaced in February. CEO Travis Kalanick is in the midst of a leave of absence, and 20 employees have been fired following an investigation into harassment and discrimination at Uber.

Uber is the only major company in the ride-hailing industry to deny tips. Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney who represents drivers in the California lawsuit, welcomed the change. Uber’s effort to deny tips, she said, has “been nothing short of mean-spirited to its workers in an attempt to pad its own bottom line.”

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