Tipping 💰

Aditya Gupta
6 min readAug 11, 2019
illustration: icons8

All it took was someone willing to have a look into what was going on behind the scenes. And the lives of thousands of gig workers–the most vulnerable workforce in today’s society — changed for better. Only a bit though, but it did.

Last month, an article by the New York Times detailed what’s a delivery executive’s life was like in the city and how the US food-delivery companies like Doordash and Postmates were conveniently pocketing customers’ tips given to them. What followed was the fierce backlash from customers who thought they were doing a good deed tipping hardworking delivery executives all along, not knowing they were donating their precious dollars to multi-billion dollar companies.

Trying to save its damaged image, Doordash plunged into action and announced it would restructure its compensation structure and not use customers’ tips to subsidised the base pay for the fleet members. The whole episode basically shone a light on the plight of delivery executives and the empathetic side of customers, willing to chip in to improve the work conditions of these often overworked and underpaid giggers.

India doesn’t have this problem. Well, yet. Simply for the reason that Indians don’t tip enough to be pocketed by anyone. The country’s problem is different, rooted in the very way it thinks, which is what why the tipping culture is almost non-existent.

Why do I need to tip the delivery guy, shouldn’t Swiggy and Zomato take care of them?

Why should I leave tips for Uber or Ola drivers when both companies make enough money charging me surge pricing every morning and evening?

We also don’t like to be forced into tipping. Look at the service charge fiasco. Usually levied as 10% of the total bill by restaurants in the name of giving tips to their staff (which more often than not can be waived off at request) — it has always been a big turn off for customers. But these very customers have no problem paying increased food prices and leaving a tip for the waiter who served them with a smile.

That’s the way the majority of us think. And that’s normal. Every penny seems so important when it comes to tipping delivery guys or designated drivers, isn’t it?

Think about it. We often end up tipping, however, small the amount, without any prompt from the restaurant. But then why is it okay to tip at a restaurant and not to your on-demand workforce delivery guy? Did you not think that the restaurant should be paying the staff ‘’good enough’’ like you think for the food delivery apps?

The answer to this simple question is even simpler. Because you are expected to pay a tip. Perhaps you feel people around you would judge you for not doing so. And you don’t want a dirty little snark from the staff. For most people, that’s why and how, it has become a habit, a good one though since you end up sharing some of your wealth with those who need it more, and possibly deserve it for their awesome service.

You don’t feel obliged to tip your delivery guy coming to your home or office, because there is no one to judge you. But if you ponder over it bit, doesn’t vice-versa make more sense?

After all, those who deliver your food at your doorstep are doing much more than just waiting the tables. Mind you, the restaurant and delivery charges that you pay to food apps do not necessarily go to those making deliveries. Be it sunny or rainy, these new-age gig economy workers brave their way to you, so that they can serve you the food that you had been waiting for. And of course, to complete their quota of deliveries to earn incentives for the day.

At the bottom of the pyramid, the gig economy workers are usually paid bare minimum so that they don’t further dig a hole in their employer’s pocket. More vulnerable than any other section of the workforce, they are treated poorly despite being the most important pillar of these food-delivery or ride-hailing companies. Ultimately, they are the ones who are ultimately earning them money. Here, a little tip can be a small, yet much-appreciated, gesture to help them out.

But if one should tip a cab driver or a food delivery boy, or their respective companies should be taking care of it by ‘paying them enough’ is an endless debate. It always was, and mot likely, it will continue to be.

The money has never been a problem for those availing these on-demand services. But it is the attitude towards spending money. So long as you are paying for your own whims and fancies, you are fine even when overpaying. But when it comes to giving someone a reward for his or her good service, even Rs 10 or Rs 20 feels like a big amount. And even if you have no problem paying a little tip, it may not be on top of your mind.

The flag bearers of the gig economy in India — Uber, Ola, Swiggy, Urbanclap, Housejoy, and Dunzo — seem to know very well how Indians think and behave. Because none of them has even bothered to integrate the tipping option in their apps. The list doesn’t include Zomato though, which became the first company to allow consumers to tip the delivery fleet through the app mid last year. It’s biggest rivals Swiggy and UberEats are yet to do the same.

If Doordash and Postmates cases are anything to go by, you can never be too sure about your money actually going to your well-spoken, smiling guy that just delivered your pizza. And true enough, soon after adding the tipping option, Zomato came under fire for delivery executives not getting the tips they had received. So the food delivery company, after hearing tons of stories of tips not reaching the delivery guys, went a step ahead. In May this year, it added a real-time tip viewing option for its delivery partners. Thanks to which, they now no longer have to wait for a week for their tips to get reflected in their payout.

Uber and UberEats back in the US allow users to tip through the app, but they don’t have it in India. Although Uber India has a clear-cut stand on tipping, it is buried in an obscure corner:

“The Uber app does not include a tip when billing you for a trip fare…Tipping is voluntary. Tips are not included in the fare, nor are they expected or required. As a rider, you are not obligated to offer your driver a gratuity in cash. If you decide you would like to tip, your driver is welcome to accept.”

Ola never had a tipping option, to begin with. Same is the case other hyper-local, on-demand delivery services — from UrbanClap to Dunzo.

At the end of the day, tipping is all about rewarding those who run your errands, because more often than not, they get exploited by the very organisations they work for.

I usually end up tipping just because of the walk to my apartment from my society’s main gate. By adding those extra 5–8 mins, it feels like I’m eating into their work hours. But sometimes I can’t, because of not carrying any cash. At such times, the need for an in-app tip option becomes much more apparent to me.

Still, isn’t it better to show empathy to a person directly than through an app?

Ever tried thanking a delivery guy for doing his job so very well every? Try it out once & see how it feels. 🙌

Reposted from aditya-gupta



Aditya Gupta

Building | Product, Growth & Business | Investments @Hustle Partners | 2x exit | Startups. Travel. Music. Curious. Learner.