Uber's new option for Kiwi riders to tip its drivers copped a wave of abuse on social media (see tweets below). The company can expect that to continue.

MORE: Uber addresses tipping conspiracy theories

And so will conspiracy theories about whether non-tippers will get a bad rating from their driver (keep reading).

"Tipping is not part of our culture," says Dr Lindsay Neill, who lectures in international hospitality management at AUT.


In general Kiwis only tip if they have a breathtaking experience, or if they feel social pressure as a waiter stares them down at a posh restaurant on the waterfront. "Tipping is regarded as a luxury," he says.

But although he sees a lot of resistance, Neill is personally pro-tipping.

He rejects the received wisdom that it drives down wages.

He worked for years as a chef in the US before entering academia, and he says at the end of each night, waiters would come into the kitchen with "fistfuls of cash".

"That's why service is so good and waiters are so attentive in the US," he says.

Neill says Uber is bringing tipping to NZ because tipping is the dominant culture in many major markets where it operates. He sees our attitude to tipping changing as we adopt "Uber Culture" and "a globalised concept of being and doing".

"We'll become a tipping nation," he says. "Although some people will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into it."

Breaks illusion

AUT marketing lecturer Marian Makkar says consumers often have a romantic notion of sharing-economy services like Airbnb, so will leave a gift like a bottle of wine if they're particularly pleased with a host, but do not tip.


Introducing tipping will destroy that illusion, and make it more bluntly obvious that the sharing economy is based on business transactions.

"In New Zealand, there's hardly a tipping culture and that has been very successful in creating more a friendly-environment that visitors to NZ appreciate, and it allows Kiwis to feel a sense of community between them and small businesses," Makkar says.

"What we might find in the short run is that New Zealanders will not use Uber's tipping feature.

"In the longer run, the effects might influence how Kiwi consumers perceive Uber as a money-grabbing business rather than the romanticised notions that come with being part of a sharing economy."