Are you supposed to tip Uber drivers? Uber just answered in a surprising way.

I believe "Uber" is the German word for "super-convenient rides when the subway shuts down."

Which is appropriate, even though I just made it up.

The once-underdog-startup-turned-transportation-empire has become a pretty dominant force in the world of people who need to get places, which has also made it the subject of several recent controversies.


Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

First, New York City taxi owners sued Uber, saying the ride-booking service was threatening their livelihoods. Then Uber drivers got angry and sued the company, citing unfair wages and lack of proper employment status.

The company has also come under fire for spying on a reporter, a sexist campaign in France that claimed to pair passengers with beautiful women, and a "negligent" driver onboarding process that many say has led to incidents of sexual assault.

Like that area under the passenger seat, Uber has never really been squeaky clean. And now, another controversy is putting the company back into the headlights.

Uber just announced that its app won't include an option for tipping. And there's a really interesting reason.

You see, tipping is a bit confusing when it comes to ride-booking.

While Uber's official policy is that passengers don't have to tip and there is no option that allows users to tip using the app, many Uber drivers say that policy has created the misconception that drivers get tips from the company. In fact, drivers receive only the ride's fare, minus a 20-25% cut that goes to Uber.

Photo Illustration by David Ramos/Getty Images.

As part of the settlement from the class action lawsuit brought by drivers back in 2015, Uber has agreed to clarify once and for all that tips are not included in drivers' fares.

However, the company says it's still not planning on adding a tip function to the app anytime soon.

Why?

Tipping is inherently unfair because of customers' subconscious racial biases, Uber says.

While most conversations about racial bias and tipping tend to focus on the likelihood of a customer to tip based on his or her race, Uber has done its homework on research that suggests the bias goes the other way, as well.

According to The Boston Globe, an Uber spokesperson cited a study done by two Cornell University professors that found "consumers of both races discriminate against black service providers by tipping them less than white service providers.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

A study published in the Yale Law Journal also found that after controlling for other variables, African-American cab drivers were tipped one-third less than white cab drivers on average. It also suggested that government-mandated tipping would directly reduce the racial tipping bias and might even reduce the tendency of drivers to refuse African-American customers.

Some have argued that race doesn't factor into how customers tip. But the data doesn't back them up.

Kiesha Seaton, an Uber driver who is black, told the Globe that she doesn't think race has anything to do with the tips she does or does not receive, saying, “It’s all about the service you provide, and if you provide top-notch, five-star service, you expect to be compensated as such." She went on to cite a large tip she once received as evidence, while admitting that she’s not sure how the experience would have played out if she were white.

Still, other Uber drivers have argued that everything from the model of the car they drive to their physical appearance can affect their tips.

In the service industry, there are obviously innumerable variables that can affect tipping behavior, ranging from the general mood of the customer or server to their economic status to the widely misunderstood and confusing language of a tipping policy.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

In a perfect system, Uber wouldn't need a tipping feature.

The company would simply pay their drivers a fair living wage and negate the need for the customer to provide extra in the form of tips.

Joe's Crab Shack recently became the first major restaurant chain to test out that concept. The restaurant raised its servers' starting wage to $14 an hour (from just over $2) and banned tipping. CEO Ray Blanchette argued that it would increase employee retention and guarantee that servers take home a consistent paycheck even if they work on slow nights — something that could be financially devastating to a server under the old model.

If Uber wants to make its employees happy, clear up all the tipping confusion, and account for unfortunate racial discrepancies, it might want to try paying its drivers a living wage.

Frankly, if Uber can afford to deliver kittens to your door once a year, it can probably afford to treat its workers fairly.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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