To tip or not to tip

Medecci Lineil

Some food delivery apps like Grab include a tipping feature, others don’t. The apps that do allow customers to tip assure the public that whatever amount one decides to input goes to the rider unscathed. (It’s also important to mention that the option does not appear if the rider has been given a rating of fewer than five stars.)

If we didn’t have to practise social distancing, it wouldn’t matter if you tipped through the app or in person; either way, those among us who make it a point to tip are at a fairly even split between people who trust the app implicitly, and people who feel better physically forking over the cash, to make sure it goes in the rider’s pocket.

I’m not saying all delivery riders are absolute angels, or that Saint Vincent de Paul (patron saint of compassion and generosity, thank you) has his eyes on us. Or maybe he does, who’s to say? The point is, while there is no wallet-policing happening here today, you could consider it worthwhile to reflect on the effects of gratuity, particularly here in Sarawak – and especially in the urban areas.

I suppose the rise in on-demand food apps has led to a puzzling new etiquette dilemma: do you tip your food delivery riders? If you don’t, why not? Once an issue that only arose after meals, haircuts and taxi journeys – tipping is an issue that has now landed on our doorstep, literally.

The task of going from point A to point B with an order sounds simple enough, sure, but given the unpredictability of Kuching traffic flow and, more recently, the unbelievable degree of congestion in every road known to us, roadworks, the daily grind for riders entails a little more adventure (or misadventure) than the average job.

To be fair, these days we are more likely to encounter customers who tip no matter what; the only thing that changes is how much. Factors that affect the size of the tip range from how bad the weather is to how difficult the destination might be to find. Also when they are about to tip generously, they see us pick up their food, then they see us pick up and deliver three other orders. Now their food is late and cold. A tip? Hardly.

A few months ago, it was raining heavily and the map (I don’t know how) directed me to the closed gate of an apartment in Stutong Baru from where I had to travel two more kms to arrive at the destination. Yet I was patient and delivered the food almost on time. She paid a tip via the app itself. Actually I was really not aware when or how we received these tips. Nevertheless, I was very grateful even though it was not a big amount.

If asked, we tend to agree that it’s really up to the customer to tip – we say we make enough to get by every day. We’d never dream of asking for anything more than a five-star rating, which tends to guarantee us more trips, as opposed to our colleagues with fewer stars.

I agree tipping is voluntary not compulsory. I also know that we don’t automatically have the right to expect a tip. We are already being paid by Grab and if we have to rely on tips to give us a decent wage, I guess we change our job.

Those people who do not tip for delivery, that’s fine, because I know, by requesting a tip, I am essentially requesting extra money.

There are many reasons why we didn’t get a tip though. Maybe they didn’t have enough money. Maybe they didn’t like the way we ran over the curb on the way up their driveway. Maybe the last time we delivered their steamed tilapia it was cold/spilled all over when they opened it/we forgot part of the order/we gave them the wrong pizza. Who knows, right?

The very nature of the job is one of definitive hustle; a reasonable amount of control over one’s hours can go in either direction, but for many, it almost always spells a full day of deliveries and whatever other avenues of honest income are available, if not the rider’s schooling.

When it comes down to it, there’s no requisite amount. But the average tip range of RM1 to RM10 seems like a small price to pay when someone has helped ensure that your house is well-stocked, or even that your latest craving is satisfied, without you having to endanger yourself.

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