New Uber Tipping Scam: How Drivers Are Manipulating Riders For More Money

When Uber launched, customers weren’t supposed to tip their drivers. The drivers, the app promised, were paid well enough that the fare ‘included the tip.’ And the experience was seamless – just get out of the vehicle.

Drivers wanted to earn more, and Uber agreed to support tipping in its app. But because customers started paying more to drivers through tips, Uber reduced how much they paid to drivers.

  • If a driver will take a ride for $20, it doesn’t matter whether the customer pays Uber and Uber pays the driver $20 or if the customer pays Uber and then adds $5 and Uber pays the driver $20.

  • Uber cares that it has enough drivers to satisfy ride requests. It will pay drivers the least amount that it can while doing this.

On a given ride, though, the more a customer tips the more the driver will make. So drivers do want riders to tip. It’s just that once that happens in the aggregate, Uber’s compensation model adjusts.

Here’s an Uber tipping scam you need to watch out for. Tipping is still voluntary in the app, and there is no automatic tip for rides. But some drivers, apparently, are warning riders about an automatic “30% tip” if they don’t choose their own tip. That motivates riders to enter a tip.

Received this before pickup?
byu/empty40oz inuber

The biggest reason drivers don’t get tipped isn’t that the rider prefers a $0 tip, it’s that they don’t return to the app to do it. So drivers who get passengers into the app to select a tip could be getting them to tip $0. More likely, though, they’re getting the rider to leave an amount they’d have left if only they’d returned to the app. And they’ve set the base expectation at 30% – people are motivated to go below that, but maybe feel bad tipping only 10% so tip 15% or 20% instead.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary — Simple rule — never tip uber/lyft. As you state abpve, it is included. Same rule applies to hotel housekeeping, pick-up food, self-serve machines, etc. Tips are already included. Why pay again?

  2. Screenshot the message from the driver and cancel the ride. Let Uber know to get the cancellation fee waived if you’re charged. Reminds me of the cabbies in BOS when you needed a ride over to eastie, tipped them well for it and they still griped.

  3. Agreed, anyone that tips for satisfactory service at all for anything doesn’t understand what a tip even is. For outstanding service above and beyond what is required for a job, sure tip is fine. Anything else is just for suckers.

  4. @Gene – That comes across as pretty cheap with regards to housekeeping. These people have dirty, heavy, unpleasant, and largely thankless jobs. I’m not so self-absorbed that I don’t understand how just a few bucks per room can make a big difference in the quality of life for housekeepers. I tend to agree with you a lot but you’re way off base on this one.

  5. @ Christain — Their jobs are hard and their employer should be paying them for it. I pay their employer alot of money for a room, housekeeping, electricty, internet, water, etc. Sorry, I’m not paying twice. I stayed in hotels for 15 years before I ever even heard of the concept of tipping for housekeeping. I was surprised to learn that people tipped for this basic service.

  6. @Gene, tips are NOT included. Tips are NOT required. Those are two very different things. Back in the day when taxis proliferated, we always tipped (for better or worse). You’re right about one thing though, the majority of Uber riders DO NOT tip, and I guess that gives all riders cover to not tip as they don’t feel like they are an outlier.

    However, the typical Uber driver makes 25-30% of what the rider is paying Uber. You can do the math, whether that is a good deal for the driver’s time and wear and tear on their vehicle. Yes, it is their choice to drive, but don’t be misled into thinking that the drivers are making much more than the minimum wage (before expenses) in many cases.

  7. Don’t like the job, leave. Plain and simple. Americans overtip in ways that the rest of the world simply can’t understand, and in the process we’re once again putting our unwelcome stamp on others.

  8. “My 2 cents’ worth” to Gene and Christian: For me, whether or not to tip housekeeping personnel in a hotel isn’t about whether the hotel pays “a just wage.” It’s more about my personal “attitude of gratitude,” and even a sense of solidarity with people who work hard for a living…offering a tip in addition to whatever their wage might be, is a choice I make, in a sense for me, as well as to benefit “the other.”

  9. “never tip uber/lyft. As you state abpve, it is included”

    Tips are not included. As Gary noted, Uber will put as much downward pressure on what they pay the drivers as they can. Tips help make up for that. If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the ride.

    “Their jobs are hard and their employer should be paying them for it”

    Yes, they should. They’re not. Until you single-handedly change the world to be better, don’t be worse.

  10. @ Christian @ jon @ Total — Until a few years ago, Uber tips weren’t even passed on to drivers. So, I should have been tipping the CEO? I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

  11. The only time I have used Uber is traveling to the US (as I currently reside out of the country)
    So, there’s always 1 heavy piece of luggage involved. In the last 20+ rides I’ve had the Uber driver attempt to help with the luggage exactly twice. On those 2 occasions the drivers were tipped. Sorry, when they do no more than pop the trunk from the comfort of the driver’s seat, I really don’t believe they deserve a tip.
    That would be akin to tipping someone 20% for a carryout order at a drive in restaurant.
    Of course, their employer may not have a problem with it. Anything that helps them not pay a living wage to their employees likely makes their day. The name of their game is pass the expenses to the customer… even while their prices skyrocket.

  12. “Until a few years ago, Uber tips weren’t even passed on to drivers”

    Something that is no longer true, because people rightly protested. They now are. So tip your driver.

    What’s your next excuse?

  13. @Total – the more you tip, the less Uber will pay drivers. That’s what’s already happened. As I say, on a given right the driver is better off with a tip than without one. But the tipping regime benefits Uber, not drivers.

  14. Thank you idiot leftist commentators for convincing me to never tip an Uber/Lyft/DD driver ever again. I always tipped a small amount out of pure guilt, but no more. If you don’t like doing unskilled labor then get some skills.

    If I got that text I would not cancel the ride, but I would not tip purely out of spite, then forward the message to corporate and demand compensation for the lying and bullying.

    Please, one platform go back to no tipping, and you’ll get 100% of my business.

  15. I wonder how many people will quit tipping at restaurants because the waitstaff is paid at least minimum wage, which in California is well above federal minimum wage. Probably only a few. I tip Uber for a clean car and a safe ride but I do it in cash that I have already paid taxes on. Once they have the cash tip, it is up to them how they account for it. The drivers are always helpful with my luggage. I usually ask how much the drivers make. Lately it has been a bit less than 50%.

  16. @Everyone Wherever I go I always try to carry small bills and tip in cash. That works great for Uber drivers: it’s off the books, I’m sure they get it, and on paper it appears the drivers are getting stiffed, so that’s ammo for down the road pay increases, ie, high returns back to the driver. Also, I can pay lower tips in cash because it’s not taxable.

    Same with housekeeping in a hotel: the workers get a few cash dollars to augment their hourly income, and The Man never knows.

  17. “the more you tip, the less Uber will pay drivers”

    And yet you’re arguing in this article that Uber drivers are deliberately trying to increase their tips with this scam? Why would that be the case if Uber is going to pay them less? Gary, do try not to contradict yourself *immediately* after posting something.

    “No excuses, just no tips”

    Oh, no, you have excuses. Jerks always do.

    “Thank you idiot leftist commentators for convincing me to never tip an Uber/Lyft/DD driver ever again.”

    See? Jerks always do.

  18. I am a part time Uber driver. I tip when i take rides going back to when i was taking cabs. Tip Uber and Lyft like you would a cab driver or don’t. Tip a food delivery like you would any food delivery driver. That’s all.

  19. Personally, I think this is brilliant on behalf of the drivers!

    And no, I do not think this is a scam whatsoever.

    It is the same game theory optimization where really good waiters/waitresses Will leave a check with 2 minutes, but then very quickly return with six mints and let the customers know they got extra because they were special.

    This type of communication is what customers really like and they’re more than happy to give extra money..

    And money is a good thing!. In my experience, too many people are afraid of money, and are worried about when they accept it.

    Instead, my suggestion is to not work for the money, but work for what the money says. And the money says that you are very very valuable.


  20. Jesus, just all world stop giving tips for all services at once and the huge freaking problem plaguing centuries will be finafcknly resolved. This very stupid mechanics is like a cocroach, surviving for so long. Rise selleries of your employees and leave tips in museums.

  21. Tips are NOT included. Drivers are getting less and less from Uber and Lyft. Not tipping is a disservice to drivers. Their compensation has been cut back dramatically in the past year.

    That said, if a driver sent something like this to me about an automatic tip, I would automatically give the driver one star, and explain why

  22. I usually don’t tip on take out orders unless I’m picking up multiple orders but otherwise, it’s not a huge burden on e to add a few dollars to my order because everyone is just trying to get by. If you can afford an extra $2 or $5 bucks, stop buying it. It’s not the same as a scam by a corporation like a ‘convenience fee’ or a ‘resort fee.’ You have a choice to be a better person. Yes, it’s the same as saying thanks or holding a door. You can choose to be an a**hat, that is ultimately your choice but stop trying to defend it when you are just being cheap or some warlord looking down on peasants for a few dollars. If taking an Uber + a tip is a burden, take a bus. It’s WAY CHEAPER. Walk the walk. Again, your choice but like loading up on sweetener at the diner, don’t defend it as anything but being cheap.

  23. I’ve earned an Uber rating of 4.80. I just learned that I need to tip in cash to try to raise my rating to a perfect 5.0.

    I’ve had drivers cancel on me due to my slightly less than stellar rating. That’s the real issue.

    So yeah, I need to keep some Andrew Jackson (ATM gives out neither Lincolns nor Hamiltons.)

    I don’t want to be left waiting on cancelled rides to/from Airport.

    Some people choose higher level Airport private car service.

    Half my airport drivers don’t leave their seat. Luckily, on my last trip, I had a medical weight restriction and the driver thankfully lifted my big airport roller bag into and out of his trunk.

  24. Gary! Gary! You said that Uber drivers are trying to scam us for bigger tips but also that bigger tips benefit only Uber? Would you like to comment on your paradox? Gary?

  25. Imagine relying on strangers to drive your drunk, trash, or cheap ass around in their backseat.

    People are insane if they think UBER pays enough. The minimum ride fare should be $20.

  26. I’ve been an off and on tipper for ride share but. No more. No tipping. Let the market figure it out. If the drivers can’t make money or enough money driving, get another job that pays more or get the skills to do so. You do t get to choose how hard you work at what AND that it pays you what you want.

  27. @ BigTee — New Chase ATMs will let you choose any combination of bills — $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills. I LOVE THIS! I always get lots of $1 and $5 for tipping to more exact amounts (waiters, bellman ONLY when we ask for help, never housekeeping, never uber/lyft)

  28. I stay about 300 nights a year in hotels, mostly in Asia, two months at a time. When I check in I pick up a brighter looking housekeeping guy and tell him that if he cleans my room while I am at breakfast, gives me extra waters and towels and changes my sheets daily I will pay him for that. Boom done. They rotate staff once a week, so he and each other guy gets $10 a week.
    When I come to the restaurant for breakfast I find someone who looks “eager”, and tell them what I want brought to me right away every day, so I don’t have to fight the chinese and the russians for more desirable food items. I can even request items which are not on the menu. Boom, another $10 a week magic trick.
    Finally, I become friends with F&B manager, give him a few gifts and all of a sudden I am a VIP customer every time I set foot at any of the restaurants, not to mention free drinks and “tasting” events. By the time I leave every staff member at that hotel knows my name and they will try to outdo each other in how they provide excellent service.
    And that’s what a $20 “tip” a week gets you in Asian hotels.
    At resort properties, where cabanas are a thing, strategic “tipping” will get you the best location, and otherwise excellent service even when all of the cabanas are already “reserved”.
    So I don’t tip out of pity or guilt. I pay extra to get extra service. This is kind of the idea of business/first class. It’s impossible to give above/beyond service to 100% of the guests. So the question is how do you get into the top 5%. The answer is simple – pay more. On the airplane you just pay more to the airline to treat you better. All who have flown international first know that you are indeed treated better in F. At hotels when you already paid the room you wanted, you pay extra for the extra service to the staff. It’s remarkable how little it takes to “secure” above and beyond service if you do it upfront. The staff cannot ask for it but they are very eager and grateful for the opportunity and it’s very much a thing.
    Now in Europe or the US it’s a different story. There I never tip and generally prefer not to engage with the staff beyond what’s necessary.

  29. Do you tip the fast food worker? The person checking you out at the grocery store? The person helping you shop for clothes to try on? Your doctor? Your lawyer?

    Why is it up to me to go around subsidizing everyone’s wages? And then I have to do some kind of business model analysis to determine whether the tip goes to whom and how much or whether it’s included, etc. Just let me pay for the product or service! Don’t make me part of your company!

  30. Tipping IS a scam. Period. Shame on anyone who participates in this and made tipflation real and promulgates this disgusting groveling.

    The only correct answer is just say no!

  31. As an Uber driver, if you don’t tip I won’t pick you up again unless you’re the only ride out there. If your ride is out to the boonies (where the driver will desdhead back), plan on tipping or you may not get another ride. Most of the drivers know each other to some extent and bad tippers on crappy routes don’t get rides. Tip in cash to beat the Uber algorithm or tip via the app. After a while your profile will show up as “Good Tipper” in which case you’ll always get a ride. I’m 5* after 10,000 rides. I have water, mints, gum, chocolates, and condoms and the rider gets to choose the music.

  32. I have water, mints, gum, chocolates, and condoms and the rider gets to choose the music.

    Not sure I want to know why you have condoms onboard?

  33. I am a LYFT driver and have been for the past 3 years. I only drive part time as rideshare as a fulltime job is not longer worth it. If a passenger tips great I always appreciate it and I go the extra mile to assist like helping with luggage or even groceries when required. I can careless if a passenger tips me or not and will not bash anyone for not tipping. Uber / Lyft are horrible companies to work for as they lie, cheat and steal from drivers all the time. The only good thing is that now with upfront pricing you know exactly what you will earn for a ride with no surprises. Drivers are making too much of an issue with tips and should not count on riders to give them extra after a ride. That said riders should understand that this gig is not easy and sometimes requires a lot of patience.

  34. Tipping should be for something other than driving the car. I’ve had Lyft drivers not budge from behind the steering wheel even if I have luggage to put in the back at the airport. If they get out of the car, no tip. I dont expect assistance with luggage but operating their back door on their vehicle, yes I do expect that. I would think drivers would want to mildly assist their customers. Since Uber and Lyft are such horrible companies that opens the door to competition. I dont doubt they are both horrible companies.

  35. I am a driver and Uber does not pay right . Most rides are terrible pay . I only accept about 25 percent of rides because of this . If a driver gets you to your place with no problem it doesn’t hurt to just even tip 1.00 dollar . Drivers put up with a lot of stuff from riders , being drunk , eating in car and lots of other things too .

  36. Your issue with Uber not paying right is between the driver and Uber IMO. The tip is for going above and beyond and having a customer service attitude in mind regardless of your dispute with the Uber company. I am sure they are bad for many reasons.

  37. I am a driver with close to 20k trips in a city ranked for worst traffic in the country. In that time, Uber has been chipping away at driver earnings and thieving away often 50% of what a passenger pays. I also need to cover all my gas and maintenance expenses. So now I need to adapt. What do I do? I assume passengers will not tip and reject certain types of rides that are money losers. Need catch a flight to the airport? Rejected. Want to go thru heavy traffic to the ball game? Rejected. Need to go an hour outside the city? Rejected. Sure, I can go do other work and others will follow. Then passengers will complain about no service again like after Covid. You tip taxis, we do the same REAL work.

  38. Your issue is with Uber. You are punishing your customers… which is not good. I dont doubt Uber pulls way more % than they should but that is between you and that company. The customer need not get involved in your issues with your employer. If a customer wishes to tip, fine…. I dont tip taxis.. i pay the fare. There are many drivers that wont REJECT. A tip is for going above and beyond not for paying you what your company wont.

  39. @James – It’s not a punishment, it’s a necessity to make ends meet. Your ilk have demonstrated why I can’t rely on customer generosity, but on what I can control. I can only only accept or reject ride offers, of which Uber sets my pay. I’m not paid for the time it takes to pick you up or the time waiting for you to get outside to start the ride. So therefore I reject on the basis that passengers do not recognize the extra effort it has taken for me just to get there to pick them up. I now only drive 5 mins out of my way to pickup. I factor these into the equation due to tipping culture failures. Uber won’t listen to driver complaints, the same issues persist from almost a decade that could’ve been fixed by now. Uber will only change things if customers complain. Reminder – Uber is not my employer. I’m an independent contractor with limited ability to charge what these trips should be paying. The passed year Uber switched to algorithmic fare generation that has no basis on time or distance. It’s your decision not to tip, but my decision to reject your unprofitable ride. Go ahead and teach another driver not to make the mistake of going the extra mile.

  40. But again customers should not be expected to make up the shortage in pay caused by the greedy Uber company. I realize you can’t control the amount your paid because of their policies but the company needs to realize that the driver is out more than the company. The company should do the right thing then tips would be for going above and beyond not making up the shortage. The bad guy here for the customer and the driver is the Uber company. Someone needs to start a better ride share company and Uber can then go out of business for being greedy.

  41. @James – I agree with your most recent comment. In fact, Uber was great when I started back in 2014. Trips were generally fair pay and commensurate with the rush hour traffic. They stated “a tip was included in the fare”. which was false, but I didn’t care because everything was balanced. Since then they’ve been incrementally reducing the mileage pay rates. They’re such a crooked company that I want both Uber and Lyft to die off and be replaced by a business that has some semblance of ethics. If legislation makes me an employee and kills their business model, I’m all for it.

    The current issue is that Uber and Lyft have a duopoly now. A new rideshare company will have a huge obstacle to getting a foothold in the business. Getting the sheer amount of driver coverage – reducing wait times for passengers – is unlikely to happen. Drivers won’t drive for a new platform if they’re not kept busy and passengers won’t use it if they have to wait longer than the existing ones. I guess a new tech disruptor will have to come along and undermine Uber flouting all existing laws like Uber did to the taxi industry.

  42. @Gary – Your info and timeline is incorrect. Tipping became more urgent and requested due to Uber cutting their pay rates and compensation. Uber was also losing drivers to Lyft who always had a tip feature built into the app. When you frame it as “because drivers wanted to earn more” its inaccurate, when it leaves out the history of cuts that reduced pay and trying to retrieve the lost income. UberPool was a disguised pay cut when debuted around 2015. Also, that whole line “drivers weren’t allowed to accept tips” is nonsense. The origin of that is parroted misinformation that continues to circulate.

  43. @Larry thanks for an open honest confirmation of what terrible companies these are. They only look out for the pockets of already overpaid ceos.

  44. @C it’s laughable that you can make ends meet with all that you are rejecting. And how do you know that one you are rejecting is not going to tip.

  45. I always tip the drivers in cash. $5 minimum on top of the fare. Only pathetic people do not tip.

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