Harry here. Tipping seems to be one of the top complaints for Uber drivers lately, but it doesn’t seem like Uber will be adding a tip option to the app any time soon. Today, RSG contributor Jon Knope shares the results from his recent testing of tip boxes, signs and jars. It turns out they work, but it definitely takes some practice and there are a few key takeaways from his experiment.
Tipping Uber and Lyft Drivers
As we’re all painfully aware, there’s no in-app tipping option for Uber riders. But one way to warm your Uber passengers up to the idea of tipping is by having a tip jar or a tip sign in your car. We first tested this idea last year and since that article, MANY drivers have reported they’ve started using tip signs, boxes and jars and seen their tips go up as a result.
Today, there are lots of options for tipping accessories on the market specifically geared toward rideshare drivers. Recently, we at RSG received a few for free to test out and review. Here’s what we tried, and how each option performed on the road. Check out the video version below if you’re pressed for time!
Tip Jars And Ratings
The big question a lot of drivers have about tip signs and jars is whether having one will lower their rating, and it really depends on the service you’re offering. If you’re just doing the bare minimum, asking for tips may prompt passengers to give you a lower rating.
But going the extra mile helps justify the ask, and your rating will be far less likely to suffer. I didn’t notice any hit to my rating on Uber or Lyft since I started using these tip jars – but, I think a big part of that is due to the level of service I provide to my passengers.
Recently I got an unlimited 4G wifi hotspot from an organization called Calyx. (I know, the website looks kind of sketchy. So far, it’s working as expected, though – and you can find many other positive reviews on the web!) The hotspot isn’t cheap, but the device allows me to give my passengers in-flight wifi so they can play music or watch videos on their devices. I also made a quick sign to give passengers the login info.
While it’s a great conversation starter, and it helped justify having tip signs and containers during my test, I found that most passengers didn’t actually use the hotspot. And there are plenty of other ways to justify a tip container without buying an expensive wifi gadget – and they may be even more effective at getting you tips! You could offer bottled water, mints, candy, or even just phone chargers. All of these are tip-worthy extras, and they’ll go a long way towards making your passengers feel good about your tip jar. Plus, it’s all deductible on your taxes.
Ultimately though, if you drive safely and can provide excellent navigation, you’ll be doing better than the average driver and most likely providing a tip-worthy experience. If you’ve ever taken a ride as an Uber passenger, you know how many drivers fail to do just the basics, so that alone would be enough to warrant asking for tips.
The MacGyver Sign
Christian first tested this exact sign last year and did well with it, but I didn’t have as much luck. I took this professionally printed and laminated sign out for a spin on a recent Thursday afternoon. I was driving from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and in that time, I didn’t receive any tips. In fact, none of the seven passengers I picked up mentioned the sign at all.
I tried again the following Thursday, this time during party hours – 8:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Over the course of the evening, I had at least a dozen different people in my car; unfortunately, the results were pretty much the same. Only one group commented on it – a group of four large and rather intoxicated dads, who seemed a bit miffed about having to squeeze into my subcompact car. They briefly discussed the reboot of the MacGyver TV series before the conversation turned back to complaining about their kids. None of them tipped.
I expected the humor in this sign to bring out people’s generosity, but my tests didn’t seem to support that hypothesis. This sign is pretty direct; if I had to guess, I’d say that directness is why it didn’t perform very well. However, my sample size was pretty small. I’m sure if I took the sign out for a longer week-long test, I might have seen better results. It’s also possible I got an unusually stingy bunch of passengers.
The Illuminated Uber Tip Jar
Taking this item out of the box for the first time, I expected a normal tip jar. But to my surprise, it includes a string of soft blue LED lights, powered by a button-cell battery. The handle design means it’s easy to suspend from your car’s headrest, and the words “Thank You!” will still be visible.
I took this jar out on a Wednesday from 6:45 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. This jar was the most profitable during my testing period, and it got plenty of comments. Several folks said “oh, I’ve seen things like this on Pinterest” or “I want to have these on the tables at our next party.” People really engaged with it, and that meant plenty of tips – a total of $15 on just six rides.
This was an unusually lucky run – a second test from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. on Friday didn’t get me any tips, but my first experiment was enough to confirm that this jar definitely works. The lights are just bright enough to help people see in the backseat without being distracting.
My only complaint about this item is that the velcro attachment for the battery and switch mechanism is not super secure, and I don’t see it lasting very long. Going forward, I may glue it onto the lid. Other than that, this is a fantastic and effective tip jar. Click here to pick up this jar today.
Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have
The Uber Tip Box
This box is designed to secure to your car’s center console using a long velcro strap. Included with the tip box, you’ll also receive a high-quality braided charging cable, compatible with iPhone, Android, and USB-C. The box features a blue LED to illuminate the tip slot and cables, powered by two double-A batteries.
I actually don’t have a center console in my tiny car, but I managed to squeeze it in anyway. I ended up using the velcro strap to affix the box to my two front seat belt connectors. It’s not the most secure setup, but it looks fine and seems to stay put. The only issue is that it gets messed up if I need to move the front seats back and forth – but in cars that have center consoles, this won’t be an issue
Customers really liked having the chargers right there – almost everyone uses them! I also love that the box keeps them off the floor – I’ve had to replace my chargers many times after they got stepped on or caught in the door, so having them secured like this is a big plus.
I tested this box on a lazy Tuesday evening, from 7:30 p.m. to midnight. During that time I scooped up 7 passengers, and none of them tipped. I repeated the experiment the following day, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with the same results.
However, almost every passenger engaged with the box at least a little, commenting on the light or the chargers. I took this as a good sign, and I definitely think this box would receive some tips during a longer testing period. My only complaint is that the words “Thank You” are very hard to read in a dark car, because the blue LED doesn’t shine through that part of the box. It would be pretty simple to add your own decal to the clear plastic portion though. Click here to pick up your own Uber Tip Box. (note: these boxes are no longer available
Tip: Add some cash to the box ahead of time so it looks like other passengers have been tipping you 🙂
This is by no means an extensive list of all the tipping boxes and jars available out there, and there are others that our readers recommend/use.
The ORIGINAL Rideshare Candy Jar by Carlos Cruz – This is one of the first rideshare jars/boxes created by Uber driver Carlos Cruz. It straps to your center console and has convenient slots for cell phones, business cards, charging and more.
More Tips (No Pun Intended)
One unexpected benefit of the illuminated box and tip jar options: they’ll make your interior dashcam a lot more effective. One of the main problems with the dashcams we tested out last year was their less-than-ideal night vision when it came to keeping an eye on the backseat. Having a few soft LED’s in your car goes a surprisingly long way toward making the footage clearer – which could be really helpful if you ever need to positively identify someone who was in your car.
One more thought: since Uber and Lyft are designed to be cashless systems, many of your passengers may not be carrying paper money at all. One way around this is to accept tips digitally. There are a multitude of ways to do this – but one which hasn’t been mentioned much yet is Venmo.
Venmo is a Paypal subsidiary, and their app allows people to send small amounts of cash to each other via convenient usernames for nominal transaction fees. Venmo is really popular among millennials – the same folks who tend to use Uber a lot! If you make your own tip sign, I’d recommend making a Venmo account too, and listing your username there on the sign. You’re likely to see an even bigger boost in your tips.
At the end of the day, having a tip jar or sign, by itself, may not get you a ton of extra tips. When people tip, they’re tipping you – not the jar! Don’t expect to be rolling in cash the day you get one. Collecting tips takes practice and patience, and the main secret is to provide a tip-worthy experience. But when you add a tip jar to an already exceptional ride, you’re likely to see a boost in your earnings.
Readers: How do you encourage your passengers to tip? What containers or signage have you found most effective? Share your wisdom below!
-Jon @ RSG
Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have