Harry here. There’s been a lot of buzz around tipping lately, so we sent RSG senior contributor Christian Perea out onto the roads armed with a couple tipping signs to see if he would get any Uber tips.
Update 7/25/17: Uber has since added a tip button to the passenger app. If you are an Uber passenger you can tip your Uber driver through the passenger app and you no longer need to do so in cash.
Since the proposed settlement of the Uber employee misclassification lawsuit (O’Connor vs Uber), we have been getting a lot of questions about tipping signs on Uber. Part of that settlement allowed drivers to place a small sign in their car alerting passengers that tips are not included. Something to the effect of:
“Tips are not included, they are not required, but they are appreciated.”
Within hours, a few publications picked up on this and told everyone that they should probably start tipping their Uber drivers. I actually want to thank Devin Coldewey and Andrew Hawkins for going to bat for TNC for drivers.
However, many drivers are still a little bit shy about using a tip sign because they fear that it will affect their ratings. Yet they are curious to see what happens to those who do put an Uber tip sign in their car. So I hit the road with a basic tip sign to see if an Uber tip sign could snag me some tips without killing my ratings.
Related article: How to make hundreds of extra dollars driving for Uber
I Tested This Sign:
I wanted to make people laugh since they probably are not used to seeing a tip sign yet. I also figured it would be a good ice breaker as people would inevitably ask about the sign. It cost me around $7 dollars at Office Max to get this little sign and I “borrowed” the rubber bands from the copy shop. It took 5 minutes to make.
I also plan to eventually test a more mundane sign like the one below. Feel free to use either of them if you want to test them for yourself.
Other Drivers Are Using Tip Boxes
Here’s a company that sells tip boxes: I like that there are charging cables and that it lights up too 🙂 (note: this company is no longer selling these and we switched the link to a different tip jar)
Here’s another that sells tipping jars
Free Tip Signs From HyreCar
HyreCar is providing free tip-signs for drivers. You can get one here. They are a company that specializes in renting a car for Uber. If you have a car you don’t use, you can actually use HyreCar to rent it out to other Uber drivers and make some extra money. Get one here.
So, Did I Get Any Tips?
I did 15 rides and received tips from 2 people in the amount of $6. Which is $6 more than I normally receive in tips on my Uber rides. At first I was a little nervous. I had never asked for tips before. It was not the same as Lyft where the tip option is passive. However, I quickly learned that asking for tips is just like any other new skill.
My First Run: Saturday Night. 4 Trips. No Tips.
After affixing my Uber tip signage, I hit the road in SF on a Saturday night. I was expecting to at least get some questions about the sign. Instead, within the first few rides I did, nobody seemed to notice. I also received no tips. Since it was raining, there was no surge, AND I had no chance of getting hourly guarantees, I decided to return home at 1 AM. Simply put, the late night risky conditions of rain + drunks without surge meant it wasn’t worth it to drive.
Second Run: Monday Afternoon and Evening. 11 Trips. 2 Tips.
I decided to hit the road during a weekday when it was daylight and when people were more likely to be sober. I was a little bit discouraged after my Saturday night where nobody seemed to notice my (awesome) Uber tip signage.
First Person: Turned out the first request I received was an UberPool. I picked up the passenger from the Caltrain Station and he got into the back seat. He noticed the sign and we immediately began to talk about tipping on Uber. We had a pleasant and personable conversation and he tipped a dollar.
Second Person: The second person to tip me did so in the evening on an UberX ride across the city. We exchanged the typical pleasantries but I got the sense she wanted some space/quiet time after being bombarded at work and happy hour. She ordered the ride to not have to think about getting home. I took the best route, kept the music quiet, and kept things low-key. When I dropped her off, she tipped me a $5 and stylishly said “I am MacGyvver” as she left the car.
Related article: Essential gear for rideshare drivers
Did It Affect My Rating?
Now clearly 15 trips isn’t much to judge by. I thought I would receive at least a few bad ratings or perhaps some mean comments, but I didn’t. However, one of the things I found out was now that I was seeking tips I dressed nicer, kept the car clean, and generally provided better service. In the past I knew I would never get any Uber tips, so I did not try. I only did the minimum for decent ratings.
What Did Passengers Think of My Uber Tipping Sign?
You are bound to get some passengers who talk about how they think tipping is included or how requiring no cash is the biggest reason they take Uber. I agree with them: it is nice getting into a car and not having to worry about bringing cash along. Uber originally got traction over cabs because cash tipping was not part of the equation. It genuinely made everything easier for those who were simply looking to get a ride – which is why they should add a freakin’ Uber tips button!
My first passenger to tip was also the first to ask about the sign. He was an UberPool passenger on a “last mile” trip from Caltrain to his home. He noticed the sign and asked how tipping works on Uber. So we ended up having a conversation where I went through the history of how drivers have had multiple pay cuts, how they had no control over it, and that tipping helps us get by. I also told him about the proposed settlement and how the tipping policy had been misleading with the “tip included” language of the past.
An Important Tip About Tip Conversations: When talking about tips, it is important to not seem entitled to a tip. I made it a point to explain the situation while attempting to remain unbiased. Most passengers don’t know how difficult it is to be a driver. Some suspect it, but have never heard it from us.
Overall, most passengers just got in the back of my car and either pretended to not notice the sign or kept to themselves. There was no negative feedback about the Uber tip signage. Yet.
Tips To Get You More Uber Tips
Make Your Sign Funny or Unique
Those who noticed the MacGyvver sign thought it was funny. This helped because it didn’t come across as being entitled to Uber tips. It was a little mini-piece of content for them to enjoy for a second. My point is that your sign should provide some sort of value. You can make it artistic, funny, or a way to charge your phone. It is actually a pretty good chance to get creative. I didn’t try hard but you can.
Get A Square Card Reader
If you signup for Square, they will send you a free card reader which plugs right into your cell phone. You can process side payments directly from your phone. Many drivers have been doing this for quite a while now. If you put a sign in your car I suggest you get a Square account and card reader. Other apps like Vugo also have a tipping option that you can take advantage of if you have a tablet.
List Your Ca$h Tag/Venmo Information On Your Sign
Square Cash and Venmo are two popular apps that most people have nowadays to send money to their friends. I suggest downloading and setting up these apps so your passengers can easily tip you outside of the Uber App. For some reason I didn’t even think of doing this on my first run at a sign. I knew few would have cash on hand to tip with since they called an Uber in the first place. So in the future, I am going to list this information on my sign to maximize my Uber tips.
Make The Sign Visible At Night
Most of my rides occurred at night. I noticed almost all of my passengers commented on my sign during the day. When night came, the comments and questions started to slow down or become non-existent. Those who were drunk never asked about the sign. So I suggest getting a light or finding a way to make it visually pleasant to look at. This will increase your Uber tips.
So Should You Get A Tip Sign?
Even though only a small portion of people tipped me, I still made $6 more off tips than I normally do. This all adds up at the end of the year, and it is in the form of cold cash. I suspect that after a while I could also get better at receiving tips by making my phone chargers available or loading up the Starbursts like I did back in the day. Maybe even water. Basically, if you’re going to be soliciting tips, you should probably be providing some level of service or amenties that other drivers aren’t. This helps you stand out from the pack and will encourage tipping.
My rating didn’t seem to be affected with my small test group. Even if I had gotten some dings, the bar for driver ratings is pretty low. I would rather end the day with extra cash than an extra 1/10th of a star that tells me that I am a “good boy”. I don’t need validation from Uber. I know I’m a good driver. Ultimately, I don’t think a tipping sign is going to
Further, if enough of us get tipping signs, then it will normalize the idea of tipping your Uber driver and increase the demand for a tipping button within the Uber app. Either way, we stand to make a little more money and our passengers stand to have drivers who are less grumpy.
So go forth and make signs. Make boxes. Stickers. Jars. GET YOUR UBER TIPS ON!
Read next: Essential gear for rideshare drivers
Readers, what do you think of having a “tips appreciated” sign in your car? Do you think you’ll create or buy a sign that encourages Uber tipping?
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-Christian @ RSG