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Uber Changes Course, Adds Tipping Option to App

This morning’s big story: Uber’s embattled CEO Travis Kalanick today resigned from the company he helped found and built into the world’s largest rideshare service. The move follows months of stories depicting Uber as a hotbed of dodgy business practices, harassment, and discrimination. Much of the blame for the misdeeds and corporate chaos fell on Kalanick’s shoulders.

If you’re one of Uber’s millions of customers, the bigger story broke earlier this week, with the announcement that the company was reversing its long-held no-tipping policy.

Part of what has made Uber the undisputed leader in rideshare services is its no-tipping policy. As recently as a year ago, the following promise was featured front and center on the company’s website: “No cash, no tip, no hassle … When you arrive at your destination, just hop out—we’ll automatically charge the credit card on file. And there’s no need to tip.”

Great for riders; less so for drivers.

That verbiage no longer appears on Uber’s website. Instead, there’s a landing page in the drivers’ section titled “Tipping,” subtitled “Great service deserves to be rewarded.” It says, in part:

Tipping is now available in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Houston starting on June 20, 2017. 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 making tips available to all U.S. drivers and delivery partners by the end of July 2017.

So, there you have it: the end of tipless Uber rides. Great for drivers; less so for riders.

The new tipping policy is one of a series of improvements outlined in a memo to drivers designed to appease the company’s increasingly restive workforce. Among the other changes promised over the next 180 days:

  • Drivers will receive a cancellation fee if riders cancel after more than two minutes (versus five minutes currently)
  • Drivers will be paid for time spent waiting for riders

But again, for Uber customers, the big story is tipping. And it’s a decided negative, both because it means an effective price hike for riders, and because it perpetuates an inherently unethical compensation scheme.

The very possibility of tipping implies that employees aren’t being adequately compensated for their work by their employers, and it’s up to the customer to make up the difference.

It’s just the sort of nasty business practice that once might have been attributed to the likes of Travis Kalanick. But he’s out, so this one is on Uber.

Reader Reality Check

Will you be tipping your Uber driver?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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