Uber's new option to tip a driver - introduced to Australia and New Zealand yesterday - sparked immediate conspiracy theories on social media.
There was suspicion that Uber would clip the ticket on a tip. An Uber spokeswoman says "100 per cent of the tip goes to the driver."
And many expressed the fear that they would get a bad passenger rating if they failed to tip, or tipped low (at the end of a ride, the passenger and driver rate each other out of five stars).
And a link to an Uber driver discussion group in Australia has been been shared on Twitter, featuring a thread where one participant suggests a passenger's star rating be tied to how much they tip (the new tipping option lets you click to give the driver $1, $2, $3 or a custom amount up to $50).
A $1 tip should earn one star, the poster says, a $2 tip two stars and so on.
Uber's spokeswoman says a driver can, in theory, see whether a passenger has tipped before giving them a star rating, but she says what happens in practice is that "a driver usually gives a passenger a rating immediately they finish a ride so they can get on to the next trip, while a passenger usually doesn't rate [or, now, tip] for 15 to 20 minutes - or only when they're prompted when they next open the app."
There's a 30-day window to leave a tip - so unlike when you're at the till in an uncomfortable transaction with a restaurant cashier, your Uber driver won't know if you're being cheap or might deliver a $5 bonus in a few minutes ... or days.
She says there was no change to rating patterns after tipping was introduced in the UK in 2017, but nevertheless "We'll be watching things closely and make changes if there's any abuse of the system."
Uber rivals respond
On Twitter, some have said Uber's new tipping feature will push them toward homegrown rival Zoomy, backed by the rich list Spencer family. Zoomy also takes a smaller clip of the ticket (15 per cent to Uber's 25 to 28 per cent), though the fact it makes less use of surge pricing also means a smaller ticket to clip.
Zoomy chairman Ben Unger says, "When we first designed the Zoomy app we put in functionality for tipping. We never switched it on. We got so many observations from Uber drivers about how little they earned after the Uber fees, we listened and put in a much lower fee structure so that the driver is fairly rewarded on each and every ride."
He adds, "We believe Kiwi companies work on a quality service being an expectation, not an exception. We encourage the drivers that take our rides to share that view."
The India-founded Ola, which recently launched in NZ, does not offer a tipping option and is not about to add one.
"Riders should not be asked to pay more for drivers, it's the rideshare companies who should be paying drivers more," Ola NZ country manager Brian Dewil says.
Ola, like Zoomy, takes a 15 per cent commission.