In a press release announcing a new feature to reward drivers, Uber stated, “Sometimes, 5 stars just isn’t enough.” But instead of adding a feature to tip drivers for their service, Uber has instead created virtual compliment stickers.
The new feature, dubbed Compliments, gives riders the ability to provide more detailed feedback on the ride. They can now let the driver know if they enjoyed the conversation, found the car to be exceptionally clean, liked the music being played, or any number of other canned options that suggest the rider had a good experience.
As nice and insightful as the new compliments may be, they won’t really be worth much unless Uber has a plan to convert those stickers into cash. Uber has resisted the option to allow riders to tip their drivers, despite the fact its competition—Lyft, Fasten and taxi services, among others—has embraced the ability to monetarily reward drivers. (Of course, there is nothing stopping a rider from offering a cash tip if they have some paper money on hand.)
Uber did at one point state in its marketing materials that it automatically collected a 20 percent tip for drivers, but a lawsuit revealed the company was pocketing up to 50 percent of those tips from its drivers.
While drivers appreciate the compliments, it’s pretty clear they would also be fine with customer satisfaction being expressed in the form of a couple extra bucks in their pocket. On UberPeople.net, a popular forum for Uber drivers, users appear irritated with the new compliments feature.
“Apparently I have a cool car and provide excellent service. No tips of course, I get stickers,” one user wrote. “It is stupid and pointless but now I want to collect all the compliment badges,” another lamented.
Others expressed frustration that some badges are subtle nudges to the drivers to go above and beyond just getting the rider to their destination. The drivers argue badges like “Great Amenities” suggest drivers should offer things like drinks or snacks in the car—additional expenses the driver incurs but can’t make back.
“As if we make enough to provide amenities. I fly to NY on Southwest for $400 and get nothing more than soda and peanuts. Yet Uber wants drivers providing amenities,” one driver said.
The call for tipping by drivers isn’t likely to disappear, especially as new data from Uber reveals the average driver earnings and expenses. The data, collected and analyzed by economist Alan Krueger—who previously served as a paid consultant for Uber—found the average Uber driver earns a wage of $18.75 an hour before expenses. Drivers also rack up nearly $6 per hour in expenses, depending on the type of vehicle they drive.
BuzzFeed conducted an investigation into Uber expenses last year, and found while some drivers thrive in cities with a higher hourly rate, cities that have cut back on the per mile and per minute earnings rates for drivers have essentially become minimum wage jobs. BuzzFeed found in Detroit, drivers made as little as $8.77 per hour with expenses accounted for.
A tip—even a small one—could go a long way toward making driving Uber a more sustainable gig for those behind the wheel. For the timing being a sticker will have to suffice, though it’s not much of a bandage.