Research peeks into dark heart of Uber riders when it comes to tipping

Your ride is over, you’ve reached your destination. Its just you and your smartphone and the payment app. No ones looking. Do you tip or not?

A study just published by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that whether you tip or not has more to do with you than your driver’s performance. Researchers also came to the conclusion that the use of apps as intermediaries between workers and customers also has a huge implication as to whether people ‘share’ when it comes to services rendered and received.

The study used 40 million data collected on Uber customer’s tipping behavior over a period of four weeks of UberX rides during the summer of 2017 right after Uber started using in-app tipping. Uber had resisted for a long time in using a tipping function in its payment app, reasoning that it would only encourage drivers to respond to requests for rides in wealthier neighborhoods in order to get bigger tips. Uber says that its drivers have received over $2 billion in tips over the last two years.

Here’s what the researcher found. Uber riders were terrible tippers in that drivers received tips from only 16% of their rides and that 60% of riders did not tip at all.The study did reveal that male riders tipped 19% more often than female riders and that tips made by males were 23% more overall. The research also showed that the more often people took rides the less often they tipped.

The study included detailed data on each driver, rider, how long the ride was, pick-up and drop-off times and even the number of quick accelerations, hard braking, and speeding distances that occurred during each trip.

It appears that a driver’s characteristic and behavior influenced a rider’s tipping decision. Young female drivers were especially tipped more often than male drivers, especially by male riders. Also drivers who accelerated quickly received 50% less in tips and those drivers who braked hard received 1 % less.

The study showed that the age of the car did not matter as much in the tipping decisions of the riders.

Bharat Chandar, who is a former Uber economist and who is currently studying for his PhD at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in Stanford, CA says drivers should not use this study as a how-to manual, as tipping is the consequence of several different factors which may not always be connected to quality.  The decision to tip and how much, is more often driven by a personal moral compass and social standards. 

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