A few weeks ago I got an interesting e-mail from the company Vugo. For those who don’t know, Vugo (formerly known as Viewswagen) is a new rideshare start-up that is looking to put geo-targeted video ads in the back of Uber cars. Just imagine how valuable it would be for a company like Budweiser to show your 20 something passenger a beer ad right before dropping them off at a bar. That’s exactly what Vugo is trying to do.
I covered Vugo’s launch a couple months ago and have been keeping an eye on them since they’ve promised drivers$3/hr once things get up and running. Now that might not sound like a ton but when you think about it on a weekly or even monthly basis, if you’re driving 40 hrs/week, that’s over $500/month!
As you guys know, I’m always looking for ways to diversify my income and think outside the box when it comes to working smarter, not harder. And in my mind, Vugo could be a real opportunity for drivers who are looking to bump up their earnings without much, if any, additional work.
Some of you have been e-mailing me about this company and I will be doing a full review of them in a few weeks but today I wanted to let you know about a new feature they’re launching that could be a game-changer for Uber drivers.
Vugo Now Allows Tipping For Uber Drivers!
Normally I like to build up the suspense a little bit but if you’re reading this you probably already figured it out: Vugo now allows for Uber drivers to receive tips. Vugo is an app (available on Android and iOS) that needs to be downloaded onto your tablet and smartphone. The two sync up during rides and the tablet will then deliver video ads to your riders.
(You need to register/sign-up for Vugo by downloading the app onto your tablet AND smartphone)
I know some drivers have been hesitant to show ads to their passengers and I was on the fence for a while myself, but this tipping feature makes it a no-brainer in my opinion.
Here’s how the ads and tipping feature will work. Basically, you mount a tablet on the back of your headrest and during the ride, the tablet will play video ads. There will also be a 2″ x 2″ box in the left corner that says ‘Tip Your Driver’.
Passengers then have the option of selecting a tip amount and entering their contact info (you can see the app in action below). From there, the passenger will receive a Paypal invoice that they can pay at their convenience. At the end of the week, drivers will get a payment via Paypal with their total tip earnings from the week.
Vugo e-mailed me about this feature last week and after trying it out, I was actually pretty impressed. I thought it was going to be a little more clunky but it’s pretty easy for passengers to leave a tip.
For now, the only option for passengers to pay is through Paypal but passengers don’t need a Paypal account. Once they submit their info (e-mail or phone), they’ll get an e-mail or text from Paypal and they can pay with their Paypal account or by credit card.
Obviously this solution isn’t as smooth as an in-app tipping option but I think it could be a game-changer for drivers for two reasons. First, it’s going to no doubt lead to higher earnings: not only will you get tips but once Vugo gets advertisers up and running, you’ll also get money from the ads. Second, and possibly the more important reason, is that it will get conversation going between you and your passenger about tipping.
Many passengers are under the false impression that tip is included in Uber rides and while I don’t think every passenger should leave a tip on every ride, I do think they should at least be given the option.
If you’d like to sign up and give Vugo a try, it’s free. All you have to do is download the app onto your smart phone and tablet. And if you’d like to use my referral code, it’s ‘RSG‘.
Apple iOS – Download Link
Android Play Store – Download Link
Why Is Tipping Still Such A Big Issue?
Tipping is probably by far the biggest complaint that drivers have about Uber right now. Any time I do polls on Facebook or talk about features that Uber needs to add, tipping is always at the forefront. Here’s why it’s such a big point of contention between Uber and its drivers:
- Uber’s Deceptive Language: If you’ve ever signed up for Uber as a passenger, you’re actually prompted to set a tip amount for UberTaxi when you’re setting up your account. UberTaxi is just what it sounds like BUT despite being available in only a few select cities, every single Uber passenger still has to select a tip amount. Newbie passengers have no idea what the difference between UberTaxi and UberX is so they often incorrectly assume that their UberX fares will include a tip to the driver. When I first signed up a few years ago as a passenger, I actually remember setting a tip amount and assuming that it went to my UberX driver. Wrong!
- Uber’s Policy on Tipping: Uber has recently maintained that ‘there’s no need to tip your drivers’. And while this doesn’t come right out and say it, when you couple the UberTaxi issue with Uber’s stance on tipping, it’s somewhat implied to riders that tipping is a part of the fare.
- There’s No Option to Tip: Drivers shouldn’t expect a tip on every single ride but one of the most frustrating things about the whole thing is that there’s not even an option for passengers to leave a tip. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had passengers who want to leave a tip but don’t have cash. But I don’t blame passengers for this, it’s not their responsibility to carry around cash so that they can tip their driver, its Uber’s responsibility to add a tipping function.
- Lower Fares: If you’ve ever been to a restaurant that doesn’t allow tipping, they generally back that policy up with above average wages for their workers. Now obviously many Uber drivers agreed to not receive tips when they first signed up but this is when rates were higher and drivers were earning more money. Now that fares have been cut severely in many cities, many drivers (especially ones that have been around for a while) feel like they’re not being compensated as fairly as they once were.
- Disincentive to Work Hard: The thing I don’t like about not having a tip option is that there really isn’t a whole lot of financial incentive to go above and beyond the call of duty. Sure you should do a good job to maintain your rating but beyond that, there’s not a whole lot of correlation between how hard you work and how much you earn. I know that I could really impress riders with my service and city knowledge and if I earned more from that, that would allow me to work less. Work smarter, not harder right?
Will Uber Add A Tipping Function?
It was really only a matter of time before a third-party came up with a solution like this. Drivers have been clamoring for a tip option for over a year now and I suspect Uber will not be happy about this. But fortunately for drivers, with all the impending talk (and lawsuits) surrounding the ‘W2 vs Employee’ issue, there’s not a whole lot Uber can do to stop you.
Johana Bhuiyan at BuzzFeed actually wrote an article a couple months ago on this very topic. She got an official statement from Uber that basically said while Uber discourages rideshare ads, drivers are free to display whatever they want in their cars.
Now I know some drivers might think the ads are a little tacky but if this tablet will get you higher tips AND eventually add $3/hr to your income, that’s tough to say no to. Especially with the way rates are headed. I think if enough drivers get these tablets up with the tipping option on the screen, it will force Uber to take notice and address it.
Will This Device Increase Your Tips?
Just sticking this device in your car and hoping for more tips probably isn’t going to work. Passengers may very well be turned off by this if you put the tablet up and say “Tip me!”. But if you are a driver who wants to go above and beyond with your service, and really stand out from other drivers, this is the perfect way to reward you for your service.
As you guys know, there is a lot of complaining at times in the rideshare world and while I’m all for venting here and there, you also need to be ready to do something about your situation if you’re not happy about it.
So if you’re one of the countless drivers who wants to have the option of being tipped, you now have a solution. If just half the drivers that read this article go out and buy a tablet and install this app, that could be thousands of drivers on the road who will in turn give tens of thousands of rides.
Now you have tens of thousands of passengers who will start asking Uber why they can’t tip their driver on the app. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my year and a half of covering this industry, what drivers want doesn’t matter a whole lot to Uber. But what passengers want. Well that’s something they’ll listen to.
Drivers, what do you think about the Vugo tip option? Do you think it’s a step in the right direction?
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-Harry @ RSG