The ride-hailing company on Tuesday launched the new tipping feature in three U.S. cities, including Seattle, as part of a broader initiative to improve its relationship with drivers.
Seattle-area Uber drivers are praising the company’s move to allow tipping on the ride-service app for the first time, saying the change marks a positive shift in how Uber is prioritizing drivers’ complaints.
Dozens gathered at an event hosted by Uber in the city’s Squire Park neighborhood Tuesday, cheering and applauding as company representatives outlined the new tipping option as part of what they are calling “180 Days of Change,” Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley said.
“A number one thing that drivers have been complaining about is tips,” said Uber driver Debra Jeffs-Grad, 70, who is part of the company’s peer adviser program in the Seattle-area that aims to connect drivers and company leaders over working issues. “They’re making it so much more driver friendly.”
The new push, aiming to improve Uber’s relationship with drivers, comes as the corporation grapples with a damaged reputation from a series of scandals, including a report of the company’s toleration of sexual harassment and allegations of trade secrets theft.
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The company launched the tipping option Tuesday in three U.S. cities — Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis — with plans to offer it nationwide by the end of July.
In Seattle, drivers’ pay and working conditions have been in the public spotlight with the passage of the city’s first-of-its-kind law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize. A federal judge in Seattle has temporarily blocked the law’s implementation, however.
Lyft’s app has long allowed riders to tip drivers.
Jeffs-Grad, a retired nurse and psychiatric social worker, said enabling passengers to tip could boost her weekly earnings “quite a bit.” She drives for both Uber and Lyft around the Seattle area roughly 10 hours a week to cover extra expenses such as traveling.
“An extra couple or five dollars on top of the fare we’re already being paid will only help,” said another Uber driver, Jacqui Morris, 36, of West Seattle.
In addition to the tipping feature, Uber is rolling out other switches to the app that aim to help drivers make money.
In August, Uber will charge passengers by the minute if they keep a driver waiting for more than two minutes. Also, the company is reducing the time riders have to cancel a trip to avoid a $5 fee from five minutes to two minutes after calling a driver.
Driver Charles Jenkins, 52, of Tacoma, said he expects his weekly earnings, ranging between $950 to $1,300, to increase by at least 15 or 20 percent with the tipping change.
“It’s a game changer,” he said. “It’s also a reflection of your good service.”
More than 10,000 Uber drivers and thousands of Lyft drivers operate in Seattle, the companies say. Some drivers work for both companies.