Paying for Tipping Convenience

Tipping a taxie driver has become more complicated with the acceptance of credit cards and the use of touch screen devices for paying a fare plus the tip.

I recently took a taxi and when it came time to pay, I charged the ride to my credit card. For years the only way I paid for a taxi was with cash, but now it seems every cab has the capability to accept a credit card payment. Some cabs even have a touch pad screen attached to the back of the front seat so a customer can charge the fare without ever handing the card over to the driver.

With the advent of being able to pay with a credit card comes the question of what to tip. In the cash days, that was easy: Figure a fifteen to twenty percent tip on the fare and then pay the appropriate amount. Add a dollar or two per bag if the driver helped get them into and out of the trunk. I also recommend rounding up the final payment. For instance a 15% tip on a $38 fare is exactly $5.70. It’s easier to round up the tip to $6.00 and give the driver $44 even, rather than scrounge around for the seventy cents or ask for the thirty cents change.

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When I handed the driver my credit card, I confirmed the amount of the fare, which was $45. So I asked him to bill me $54, which included a twenty percent tip. I prefer to do that than pay the exact amount of the fare and give him the tip in cash because I have no easy way to account for the cash tip for company reimbursement other than handwriting it on the slip.

The newest method of paying involves a tablet that lets you swipe your card and charge the fare and a tip without giving the card to the driver. But, here’s where you pay for convenience. Swipe your card in a taxi, pick a pre-loaded tipping percentage, have the receipt emailed to you and the payment and expense receipt part of your ride is done in seconds. But customer beware: Pre-loaded tipping options usually start at 15 percent and can go as high as 30 percent, far outside the recommended norms. It sure is easy to just accept the default tip, but that default could easily be more than you usually tip. And, if none of the other options suit you, it’s not always simple to enter an amount of your choosing Some alternative taxi service apps do allow you to input your own default tip percentage instead of the “recommended” options.

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While definitely convenient, these programs are designed to increase the amount we tip service providers. Tipping used to be at the discretion of the customer, to express appreciation for good or excellent service. There’s something a little impersonal and “demanding” when the service provider is suggesting the amount the customer tips, and skewing the options on the high side.
If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org.

Peter Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled etiquette issues in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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