Best, Worst Tippers From Rich to Middle Class: Uber, DoorDash Drivers

  • Many gig workers rely on tips to make ends meet, but some say tipping is getting worse.
  • Three gig workers told Insider that people who appear to be wealthy are the worst tippers.
  • They said their middle-class customers are the most likely to tip generously.

Some gig workers have a bone to pick with the wealthiest Americans.

Insider published a story last week about Jay, a Philadelphia DoorDash driver who said he declines 75% of the orders he receives because most of them offer little or no up-front tip. Jay said he deliberately hangs around more affluent neighborhoods because customers there tend to tip better.

“I know what parts of the city have the better tips and which ones don’t,” he said. “That typically does have to do with the income of the area.”

Several delivery drivers replied to the story, and while a few related to Jay’s experience, most of the workers Insider heard from said that the opposite was true in their experience: Rich people are the worst tippers. 

Ray, a 57-year-old Tampa Bay gig worker of seven years who drives at least 50 hours a week for Uber, Lyft, and Instacart, told Insider that roughly one out of four of his riders tip — and that those who do usually only leave a buck or two. But he said that customers who appear to be wealthy are particularly poor tippers.

“Business travelers and the affluent are bad with tipping,” said Ray, who asked that his last name be withheld due to fear of professional repercussions. Insider viewed documents detailing Ray’s earnings from the three platforms, including his recent weekly hours, fares, and tips.

Ray, like other drivers in this story, only had appearances to go on, but he said it’s pretty easy to figure out which riders are well-off based on their homes, neighborhoods, or destinations, as well as the conversations he overhears or has directly with them. Business travelers often require transportation to and from the airport. 

Regardless of the reason, poor tipping doesn’t sit well with him.

“They have absolutely no problem paying for expensive meals at places where we pick them up, paying waiters there tips,” he said, “and yet when we get them safely home after a night of drinking, they can’t even be bothered to do the same with us?”

As for business travelers, Ray speculated that riders aren’t tipping because it’s not covered in their company’s travel reimbursements. Other drivers have come to a similar conclusion

“If it’s not covered, they don’t do it, even if it’s the right thing to do,” Ray said. 

Drivers for companies like Uber and DoorDash say they’re reliant on tips to make ends meet, but many of them have told Insider that tipping has gotten worse in recent years. Drivers provided several potential explanations for their lack of tips, including higher fares and delivery prices, a lack of knowledge about how little gig workers make, Uber’s initial resistance to in-app tipping options, and the return to “normal” following a period of some generous early-pandemic tips

When reached for comment, an Uber spokesperson told Insider that tipping has risen considerably for both Uber and Uber Eats over the last few years. A DoorDash spokesperson said that the majority of customers leave tips. 

Research on tipping is limited. A 2022 poll of 2,610 US adults found that higher-income people tend to tip more at restaurants, for instance, but it’s not clear whether this was also the case for ride-hailing and food delivery. 

According to drivers, however, bad tips from the wealthy should be added to the list of reasons they’re not getting the tips they say they deserve. 

Middle-class people are the best tippers

An Atlanta-based 44-year-old who requested her name be withheld for privacy reasons, drove part time for Uber and Uber Eats for four years before stopping in April. She shared documents with Insider showing her earnings and said that for the most part tipping was “pretty abysmal” in her experience, but she’d noticed a trend in which neighborhoods tip better.

“My best tippers were the low- to middle-class passengers and middle-class business people,” she said. “I have dozens of stories of picking up or dropping off an Uber passenger to or from affluent neighborhoods during dinnertime or to and from airports and no tips, or $5 or less. Had numerous pilots — did not tip. Numerous flight attendants — did tip. Numerous people picked up from affluent neighborhoods out to dinner — no tip.” 

Omar, a South Florida Uber Eats and DoorDash driver, said he’s experienced the same thing. 

“When it comes to wealthier areas, it’s a catch-22 being that I’ve experienced high tips in what would be perceived as the ‘hood’ and no tips from gilded-gate residents,” he said.

According to Ray, the best tippers are people who appear to be middle-class service-industry workers. 

“Service-industry people are usually my best tippers as they rely on tips also and understand what we go through,” he said. The riders he picks up from a Ruth’s Chris Steak House, for instance? “Not so much,” he said.

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