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Should you be tipping? The custom of tipping is that it is a gratuity, something to express gratitude and a recognition that the service provider is not otherwise making a decent income. The same is true for wait staff in restaurants.
This brings up the issue of whether or not the Uber/Lyft driver is in fact being paid to get you to your destination in the first place. The fact is they are not. The fare rates are set by companies who are not regulated by a public agency, such as a taxi commission.
There is much bad mouthing of "regulation" by the Libertarians many of who make up the Silicon Valley work force and believe that they should be free to make the world a better place for everyone, especilally their bank accounts first of all.
The reason for regulation is to protect a vulnerable group who might otherwise be exploited. The price for a ride in a taxi cab is set for the following considerations. The fare is designed to allow the driver to make a living wage, for the company to pay for the car, the maintaince of the car which includes the tires, transmission, oil changes, engine servicing and so on, as well as the liability insurance and also the staff at the taxi company which includes the dispatcher and mechanics. I have probably left someone out, but the reality is that most drivers are renting the car from the company on a per shift basis and paying for the gas they use.
The Uber/Lyft driver is paying for all those "hidden costs" listed above, costs that are NOT factored into the cost of the ride by Uber or Lyft because their equation is not based on the cost of providing the ride, but on the cost of acquiring market share so that all the venture capital investors will be impressed and inflate their value in anticipation of an eventual sale of stock on the stock market, which is designed to make a lot of people rich, but not the drivers. That is why you should tip the drivers and that is why the companies should be regulated.
By the way, I really like the answer below, which addresses the fact that many drivers are actually skilled at dealing with what they are being paid to do. Unfortunately all too often I hear from passengers about drivers who are clearly unqualified, unprofessional and inexperienced, but the companies of Uber/Lyft want the world to believe that "anyone can do this job" and that is what you get, when "anyone" does it. I just hope that their business model does not extend to medicine because I don't want just "anyone" operating on me or giving me medical advice.
I first drove a taxi in 1973. It was unionized and you had a seniority number, based on when you were hired. The longer you remained, the easier it was to request a different shift, if you wanted it. Many drivers wanted to drive Monday through Friday, 9-5.
You could probably make an adequate income doing that, but I was a student at the time and didn't really care about it. I remained driving Thursday through Monday, from four in the afternoon until three in the morning, that was how I learned the job.
Years passed, I quit, I took other jobs, I finished school, I drove for another cab company but I tended to drive the same schedule most of the years I drove a cab. After ten years over a fourteen year period, I quit and didn't return to the job for over twenty five years until I answered an ad on CraigsList which led to my driving a black car with Uber. I quickly realized I was back in the same business but was now expected to wear a suit and drive a town car.
I did that for two years before switching to UberX and Lyft and have noticed how little has changed for one simple reason. People don't change.
People still go to work, sullenly, reluctantly and then go home, sometimes with a stop at a bar or a grovery store or to pick up kids, but they go home. Then they go out again. They do these things increasingly as the week progresses until on Thursday evening you have folks who are eager to rehearse their weekend drinking, and on Friday all the people that think that because it's Friday and everyone else is going out they are suppossed to go too. On Saturday, they are nursing a hangover, doing their laundry, buying groceries and trying to line up a date for the evening. Then they go out and go to a restaurant, and or a bar, and or a movie, etc. On Sunday, there is a contingent of mostly younger folks who refuse to let the weekend die easily and contiue to party, but they quit earlier and the city begins to die by nine or so in the evening. On Monday few people go out, on Tuesday, much the same, on Wednesday it's slightly better and on Thursday it all starts again. They do these activities until the bars close and they are forced to go home.
People have been performing this pattern for a very long time. It is exactly the way it was when I was first driving a taxi in the mid seventies and today nothing is different except for the illusion that because of the wonders of the digital age, somehow Uber and Lyft make it all different. People in groups in cities change slowly or not at all.
That is why driving Monday to Friday from nine to five doesn't work all that well. Thinking you want to do that is assuming that business wants to be there when you want it to be there and that is a fundamental error. You must adapt to be available for business for when you are needed.
One of the many problems with the type of drivers in the servic of Uber and Lyft is that they are essentialy unprofessional and have little experience with either how to maximize their income and provide good service.
While it is true that a driver may be genuinely wary of no stopping zones and bus stops, a driver who scams passengers by collecting cancellation fees is not a driver you want to drive you anywhere.
The reality of this job is no different than that of the taxi industry which is that you only make money by turning on the application (or the taxi meter) as often as possible. Inevitably there are longer fares and shorter fares and that is what keeps the job interesting. It is a sad fact but the job of both a taxi driver and ride share driver seems to attract people who think the job is "easy" and that they can make money without really working for it.
For a driver to cancel because they think you are going too far, which is completely unethical and illegal for either a taxi driver or a ride share driver. Never having been a passenger, but a driver for over six years of Uber and Lyft, I concur that their customer and driver assistance leaves much to be desired and that unless you are a squeaky wheel and make a lot of noise, you may not be noticed.
The internet has spawned an era of companies thinking they can fob off the need of personalized customer service on a few pages of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), lists that often do not include the very thing you are trying to figure out!
I do have the sense that Uber has of late been making more efforts towards dealing with the long list of justified grievances against them due to their incredibly amatuerish and arrogant origins as a company, so I have hopes that they may yet prevail by becoming what it is people really want.
Lyft at times seems to lag behind, in that their website seems harder to navigate and it is harder to get a response from a person.
Both companies are in a race to the bottom to see who can undercut the other with cheaper fares, which results in drivers making less and less and being more and more willing to cut corners and cheat.
When the companies show they respect the drivers by paying them what they deserve in order to propersly maintain their vehicles and to make a living wage, they will get more responsible drivers.
If anyone read the recent article in the April 9, 2018 issue of the New Yorker magazine that focused on Dara Khosrowshahi, the new CEO of Uber, you might have noticed that one thing stood out, He admitted that the cost of a ride is too low. The cost of a ride is significantly higher than what the public is paying for it. He also admitted that he didn't know how to deal with it because as soon as they raise the price the customers will go to Lyft, or another source.
The problem needs to be taken head on with the public being educated that the drivers are being cheated by not being paid an appropriate fee for the cost to run the vehicle as well as to eat, pay rent and live in the real world.
People complained about the cost of taxi service, but I will tell you from ten years of driving a taxi (and another six and a half with Uber) that there are very good reasons for the price of a taxi ride and that they should not be the focus of complaints, rather, the service they were giving was the real culptit and Uber seized on any chance to malign the taxi services in order to gain market share.
In San Francisco, the citly I know best, the cost of a taxi ride is set by the Publiv Utilities Commission and it breaks down roughly this way: The ride must cover the cost of gasoline to the driver, the drivers rental of the car from the taxi company (assuming he does not own the medallion as most do not), the cost of liability insurance, the cost of maintaining the car (all the brake jobs, oil changes, transmission flushes, tires and the original acquisition of the vehicle) as well as the office overhead of the taxi company which includes office rental and salaries of employees, such as the dispatchers, as well as a reasonable profit. Thus the company sets the rate of the "gate" fee the drivers pay to take out a car and in exchange they are only responsible for paying for gas while they use the car.
No one gets rich in the taxi business, least of all any drivers, even those who own medallions which allow them to rent their car to another driver and for them to drive without paying the full "gate", the price to take out a car. Those drivers still pay a modest fee to the company for the use of the company color scheme painted on the car as well as access to the dispatcher.
An Uber driver, by comparison is responsible for all costs and pays Uber a commission for access to the "dispatch" system, which is fully automated by computer and accessed only through a smart phone.
If I had absolute power I would merge all the taxi companies into Uber, deal with the city authorities in a non adversarial manner and provide a service that was superior to the original taxi cab services and paid the drivers better than the current Uber model does.
However, in order to do that, they would have to create a better incentive for drivers to stay out all night long, perhaps by accepting a much lower commission from drivers between the hours of 3AM and 6AM in order to keep cars on the road.
The prices as they are today should probably rise by 50%-75% in order to be fair to the drivers as well as all the investors waiting to recoup the money they gave Uber to start up.