All About Tipping

Image result for tipping
No, I Have No Change
Recently, I heard an episode of "Freakonomics" while in the car doing the rideshare hustle. The episode talked with an economist who looked at tipping in the Uber app, and shared the following "surprising" findings.

1) Introducing tipping didn't improve the per hour revenue for drivers. Mostly because it got more drivers into the pool, and more drivers in the pool means less surge pricing and fewer rides per hour.

2) A very small percentage of passengers tip. Something like 7% always do, and over 60% never do. This seems odd, considering that nearly 100% of cab riders tip, but I get it - the dynamic is different and the transaction is all digital. It's just not as expected. But should be. (The percentage of my take-home amount from tipping is, to be fair, less than 7%, and has dropped from around 9% when I worked out on the West Coast.)

3) Men tip more often than women, and women drivers get more tips than men. Again, not very surprising. That's just how sexism works!

All of this seems fine and correct. But here's a few more from my own experience (15K rides and counting) that you can also take to the bank.

1) Shared or pool riders rarely, if ever, tip. Not too surprising, right? These folks are trying to spend as little as possible pretty often, rather than doing an environmentally conscious act.

2) Riders in economically disadvantaged areas also rarely tip. Again, not surprising. I tend to work these areas often, because the ride density is strong and I'm frequently chasing a ride bonus. If you don't have it, you're not sharing it. Or if you get the gist that I might (shh!) make more than you do, and am just doing this as a side hustle.

3) Airport riders, especially with luggage, tip. I tend to hop out of the car and grab the bags, mostly to speed the ride along. Airport rides also tend to be longer, and...

4) Long rides tip more than short ones. You have more time to get to know the passenger, and most folks know that airport rides are unpleasant for the driver. If someone is taking you out to the middle of nowhere, they also tend to feel bad and try to compensate for that.

5) Routine commuters are unlikely to tip. A fair amount of my rides come from supermarkets and train stations, and for these folks, the cost of the rideshare is something they are thinking hard about.

6) Folks who are (knowingly) paying a surge price. Which is, to be fair, a pretty small percentage, and leads to the next one...

7) Drunk people tip. Especially if they are feeling self-conscious about how much time they've spent talking through the ride.

8) If they match your demographic, or have something in common with you... they're gonna tip. People who wind up linking to me on LinkedIn don't want to start the relationship without throwing a few extra bucks on the ride.

9) Older riders tip. Most often in cash, and highly considered amounts, after a startling amount of conversation. Sometimes, I want to give it back, especially if they appear to be in poor health... but I never do. It'd be insulting, honestly.

10) Other people who work for tips. Waitresses, bartenders -- these folks respect hustle, and game respects game.

The best tipping person in my career as a rideshare driver is a waitress who has gotten me a half dozen times, and always tipped hard -- and I repaid the favor just this last week with a visit to her restaurant. We asked for her special, waited longer to get one of her tables, and hit the check with a 25% gratuity, in cash. It's how I roll, folks. (At least, when I can afford it.)

Bonus: The people who tip... always tip. And yes, this includes me. If your service stinks, it might just be a buck, but I want to live in a world where rideshare drivers can make a living. Which is possible if we just treat them, well, like the cab drivers they are replacing...

Five Ways That Lyft And Uber Could Make Things Better

Nope, It Never Is
Recently Lyft had me complete a training course (i.e., watch videos) of what to do to promote better safety and passenger ease during rides. Painfully earnest and well-meaning advice ensues!

It was the kind of thing that companies do because they have to (see any number of cringe inducing HR moments over the years). Besides, getting all of the drivers (including the ones that are new to the job, and maybe the country) to pass a basis requirement is A Thing. No real bone to pick, and I think I got a $10 Amazon card for my troubles. 

And, um, still. I can't help but feel these folks are doing it wrong, leaving money on the table, and lots of other consultant style buzz words. (I am a consultant! Honest! And not a transportation one, even though right now, I kind of am. Moving on.)

Here's the thing about doing this hustle: it's more, much more, about the passenger than the driver. So long as I provide you with a clean place to be, safe transport to the location, and nothing that distracts terribly from these points, everything else is gravy. My own ratings have gone up over the years as I have, generally, talked less and less.

However... it's still my car. I'm still a human being, at least until the self-driving software is perfected and these companies become actual businesses, rather than ways to burn venture capital. (More on that later.) If you want to interact with me, I'm more than up for it, if for the simple reason that I'm more likely to inspire a tip from you.

So, with that taken into account, here's a few things that could improve the experience for everyone involved.

1) Give the passenger more driver metrics.

I know, they do this already with the ranking the passenger sees, right? Well, yes. But the most important metric isn't what the last 100 Lyft passengers or 500 Uber riders ranked me, especially when 5 stars is the default and the difference between a perfect and terrible driver is less than 10% of the visible ranking, and hence, really subject to rare events. 

Nope, the most important ranking is simpler. It's the number of the ride this is in my Rideshare Career. (It is depressingly high for me, but probably reassuring for you.) With that, you get near total assurance that I'm Not A Creep, Nor Dangerous, and that a whole big bunch of people have ridden with me without incident.

If you really want to get into the weeds on this, maybe even show the passenger how much time I've been in the app today. In that moment, I get far more actionable information on whether my driver is Probably Not Microsleeping. (And don't make these things something the passenger has to hunt for, for heaven's sake.)

2) Give the driver more passenger metrics.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but those rare event passengers that feel that no driver is ever good enough for a perfect rating? I may want to avoid having them in my car. My livelihood in this hustle should not be subject to the whims of someone who is saving five stars for marriage, or has made it their mission in life to get all small hybrid cars out of the rideshare fleet. (Yes, my car is not kind to the very tall or the very big. Cancel the ride and get someone who is less fuel-efficient if you wanna hate.)

Realistically, I'm not likely to spend a lot of my precious non-accepts on people who rank their drivers lower than the median. I provide more service and amenities than most folks, and I'm confident that I can turn a tough client around. And if you are ordering me in the slow hours of the day, or I don't have enough full acceptance days to be choosy? I'm rolling the dice and taking you anyway.

But if you are on a shared ride, a long way away and a bad rater? Yeah, I want to pass. A lot. And I'll drive more for the platform that lets me do that,.

3) Give both parties the chance to show trigger categories.

I have a political science degree and a direct connection to a leading Presidential candidate (worked as their secretary a long time ago). Many of my passengers who have started a conversation in this vein have seemed *really* into the talk and happy with the ride. 

It's also more than a little silly that I have to hide that in the fear of talking to someone who thinks that conversations like that are a red flag / third rail. Give both sides the ability to know which points are off-limits, and make everyone happier. At the very least, test it.

4) You have data. Have fun with it!

Imagine getting into a car and being told that the ride is free because it's your (insert big round number here). Or seeing your driver do a little dance because it's their (insert big round number here), and they just got some bonus. Perhaps even some goofy moment on an utterly random number, or the apps start shooting off firework noises because it's Explosion Tuesday. The idea that every ride needs to be the same in the app is, well, kind of blah.

5) Create a few crazy cool rides.

If you really want to get into the realm of Actual Fun Happening (which means social media positive moments for once, which you'd think these platforms might want to encourage), rent some over the top luxury car for a day, give it to a driver, and have them pick up people in a Bentley or Aston Martin. 

Free marketing name: SuperUber or IncrediLyft

Honestly, someone, hire me already. I'm good at the marketing.

The driver gets the fun of driving a great car for a day, the passenger rides in one, they both Gram the hell out of the moment. This should not be hard, really.

Driving Strangers: Episode Two - No Carseat

The driver enforces the no carseat, no ride rule. Creativity ensues!

Where To Go

There's one aspect of rideshare driving that escapes the notice of everyone who isn't a driver. Bluntly, the fact that you become a remarkable expert at where you should use a public restroom, and where you should not.

I've been doing this hustle for so long, wiping down all surfaces has become second nature, and it's nearly on auto pilot.

So without further ado, my rankings for the central NJ area, from best to worst.

1) Casinos.

There's almost nothing to dislike about a casino bathroom. You get secure and free parking, a scrupulously maintained facility, working wi-fi (yes, I'm checking my email here, and you would as well), and the special thrill of walking into a place where nearly everyone but you is losing money. Plus, once you are done and back to the car, there's a very solid chance of your next fare being close by. It's a win all around, assuming you don't make the mistake of stopping to play games or eat overpriced food.

2) Costco.

You don't need to be a member to buy gas, eat the cheapest food court food on the planet, and use well-maintained bathrooms that also have quality Costco toilet paper in abundance. What keeps this from the top spot is that the hours are limited, some locations are definitely better than others, and the wi-fi doesn't work in the stalls.

3) Wawa.

The region's best convenience stores are all over the place, open 24 hours, and have a surprising amount of healthy food options (that you probably won't eat) that are low cost. You are fighting for stall space with their gas station attendants, and locations vary on cleanliness. Also, a Wawa worker once told me that in the smaller places, where the stall is closer to the sink, that's where you get your best drug user traffic. Oy.

4) Starbucks.

They don't restrict for purchase anymore, and the facilities are usually clean, but hours are limited and parking is usually a mess. I confess, I'm a fan of just using their facilities without paying for anything, ever since Howard Schultz dallied around with an idiotic independent run for the Presidency.

5) The Home Depot.

It's usually a good long schlep to get to the room, but parking is ample and the place is usually clean, especially in better neighborhoods. The bonus here is that the room is usually outfitted with their best materials and plumbing as a way to subtly show off their wares.

6) Target.

Better than Wal-Mart, and usually OK. But not always. Aim for better areas.

7) McDonald's.

You are starting to step down into unacceptable levels here, but the nice thing about McD's now is that due to the growing use of touch screens to order, fewer people will give you the hairy eyeball for just running in and out and not buying anything. (I usually buy something. But not always, especially if the day isn't going great.)

7) Wendy's.

Somehow always a little off, but mostly acceptable.

8) The side of the road.

Yeah, no, I don't do this, but it still ranks higher than...

9) Burger King

I'm not sue what's wrong with this franchise, but I've never been in one of their bathrooms and felt even a little good about the experience. Even in an emergency.

10) Taco Bell

Like Burger King, but with a much greater chance of a clogged toilet with someone's recent bad digestion issue. Even if you aren't using a stall, the smell alone has left it's mark on me.

11) Wal-Mart

I'm not sure what prompts the socially challenged people of the area to go to their local Wal-Mart to break the fixtures, carve messages into the walls and generally make you reconsider whether Thanos had a point, but, um, yeah. I've driven further in pain rather than take this option.

12) Airport Port A Potty

They have these for rideshare drivers, and yes, they are always Hellmouths. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Feel free to add your two cents below....

All About Tipping

No, I Have No Change Recently, I heard an episode of "Freakonomics" while in the car doing the rideshare hustle. The episod...