Uber announced today that it is rolling out in-app tipping in three major US markets with the rest of the country to follow by the end of July — thereby addressing one of drivers' biggest and longest-standing complaints with the ride-hail giant.
The change is part of what Uber is calling 180 days of "meaningful changes & improvements" to the driver experience. Other changes include shortening the no-fee cancellation window from five minutes to two minutes, and paying drivers for time they spend waiting for riders after the two-minute mark.
Uber riders will have 30 days to add a tip after taking a trip. For UberEats customers, that window will be seven days.
"As a driver I think that the tip feature is great," said Chicago-based driver Jason Tucker via email. "This is a step in the right direction."
Uber drivers and their advocates have long pushed for in-app tipping. The Independent Drivers Guild, a non-union worker body backed by Uber and affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, found in a survey last year that the lack of in-app tipping was drivers' top concern.
IDG founder Jim Conigliaro called today's tipping news "an important win for drivers" in an email statement. "We were proud to lead the way on this fight on behalf of drivers in New York City and across the nation. This is an important first step toward a more fair ride-hail industry," he said. "Make no mistake, Uber only did this because members of the Independent Drivers Guild pressured regulators."
Drivers will need to opt into in-app tipping, Uber said, because some driver programs – like its Xchange leasing program – automatically deduct payments from fares.
While Uber's app didn't allow riders to tip drivers, the company had said riders were welcome to tip in cash. As part of a lawsuit settlement earlier this year, Uber agreed to clarify its tipping policy by allowing drivers to place signs in their cars noting that tips are not included in the app's fares. The company introduced a "compliments" feature in November, through which riders could send messages to their drivers. Drivers criticized the feature in a public Q&A with Uber's former president of ride-sharing, Jeff Jones, who has since quit the company, saying "compliments don't pay the bills."
Lyft, Uber's biggest competitor in the US, already offers the option to tip drivers through its app. Riders are prompted to rate their trip and add a tip after a Lyft ride ends. The company has attempted to highlight this distinction in national ads, poking at an Uber-like company for not allowing in-app tipping. Lyft said on Monday that drivers had amassed more than $250 million in tips to date, and announced that passengers would begin seeing new prompts to encourage more tipping.
"This is fantastic news for drivers," said a company spokesperson in an email statement. "Lyft is closing in on 1800 days of in-app tipping."
In April, regulators in New York City said they planned to begin writing a rule that would require the ride-hail giant to offer an in-app tipping option.
BuzzFeed News reported last year that in three major US markets — Denver, Detroit, and Houston — Uber drivers earned less than $13.25 an hour, after expenses, in late 2015. Earlier this year, the company paid the Federal Trade Commission $20 million to settle claims that it misled its drivers about pay. The ride-hail giant claimed drivers in New York made more than $90,000 a year, but the agency found the median income of drivers there to be $29,000 less than that.