An Uber Driver’s Social Experiment with a Tip Box in the Back

I love being an Uber driver. You may think the best part of my job is the flexibility and the interaction and the driving (I do love cars!). These are all nice perks and I truly appreciate these aspects of my work, but the best part of driving a car and remaining virtually anonymous (hey, I’m just known as the driver and I’m perfectly fine with that) is that I can conduct whatever social experiment I want.

Oh, I know they’re not scientific (I did study behavioral economics) and I know the sample size isn’t large (I typically do about 12 rides a day) and I know the results are definitely biased (I make them up to entertain myself), but oh what fun it is to keep a running tally of who will mention Donald Trump (3/12, last time) or who will take the water bottle I give out (9/12, it must have been a hot day!), or who will seek my advice on a relationship crisis (2/12 last time).

Experiment: Added a Tip Box in the Back

So, I decided to do a new experiment the other day. And this one had a practical purpose. I wanted to see who would leave a tip if I left a tip box in the back, one that read: “Tipping is certainly not required. But it is really appreciated and makes sense… dollars and cents!” with a hand-drawn picture of a smiling coin. Lame, maybe, but it was mine.

Well, my day went like this. I had 7 rides before dinner time and 7 after dinner. I wanted to see if my rating would be affected and if I would actually receive tips or not. I also wanted to see if I could notice any considerable difference between attitudes when I had the sign up.

Results

Only one passenger before dinner left a tip. Well, I shouldn’t say ‘only.’ That’s $4 that I typically would not have received. But a whopping five out of seven riders after dinner left tips! I was a mind-blowing $19 richer the day! With my newfound wealth, I almost drove straight to Taco Bell on the way home.

 

Of the fourteen passengers, all of them noticed the sign. I know this because I’m psychic… or I have access to a rear-view mirror. It’s easy to track their eyes. At least 3 of them chuckled or laughed. Two of them pointed and discussed it. 7 of them had no idea that tips weren’t included in their Uber charges. The rest at least acknowledged it. And you know what, no one complained! That’s right, Uber management, not one customer was offended or bewildered by a polite, friendly tip box in a service related area. Imagine that.

Uber Rating Unaffected

More importantly, there was no difference in my rating for that day. I’ve done well over 500 trips and I have a 4.9 rating. The passengers on that day all left 5 stars or nothing. And that’s a good sign because when someone is coming with a vengeance, you’ll usually feel their wrath right away.

Wonder what prompted them to tip?

I wish I could ask each passenger why they chose to tip. Was it my incredibly witty sign? Was it my charming good looks? Was it my suave conversation? Or… was it my water bottles? Sadly, we’ll never know (unless there’s an app for that and collects this data for us!). But what I do know is that people want to tip when they feel happy. This is a general rule of thumb that extends to all service industries. So it will always boggle my mind why a company as large as Uber wants to stifle the practice. Maybe they’re against the practice of tipping in general, which is fine. Many countries have done away with tipping. But as a driver in the United States of America, we live in a land where tipping is still generally accepted and encouraged. So it feels strange to single out Uber drivers.

We need a tipping app!

The other thing I wondered is how many more people would choose to leave a tip if they could do so cash-less (since it doesn’t seem like Uber is going to support this feature anytime soon). I’d venture it’s more than the clients that tipped me. There are many people that love Uber because it’s so hands-free. It may not be practical to carry around tips, especially if you’re flying in a different country or if you’re taking an unexpected trip around town. But from the data I had, people were more than happy to give a tip to a friendly and professional driver. And, if I do say so myself, I take incredible pride in my work to make the journey funny, informative or quiet – whatever the customer wants.

Granted, the sample was small. I’m not saying that six out of fourteen riders will leave a tip. It may be more. It may be less. I don’t have that data. But I do know that people tip their taxi drivers and that having a paper-less option for tipping like TipBx could only increase the chance of receiving a tip. I also know that I didn’t receive any backlash, snide remarks or lower ratings because of my tip sign. People understand that drivers need tips and the fact that Uber discourages the practice only confuses the situation.

Final Word for…

Uber Riders

So here’s a tip from me. If you’re a rider, don’t hesitate to tip if you feel like it. There’s no pressure. Really, there isn’t because in the end you still hold the ace up your sleeve. No reasonable tip is worth a dip in ratings so no sane driver is going to pester you if he or she knows what is best. Those rude and pushy drivers will be pushed out fairly quickly.

Uber Drivers

And if you’re a driver, make your own sign. Join the cause. Be witty and original. The worst that can happen is that you don’t make any tips which is in line with what typically happens anyway (because most people don’t know you can tip your Uber driver). And follow TipBx to be first to sign up when the app launches! It’s going to change your life.

The best case is that people that want to tip will reward you for a job well done. And hey, if you can make them laugh in the process, it’s a great thing too. It just makes cents! I mean sense!

 

Written by Ryan

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