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TAXI TIPPING: Could the trade ever move to a Service Charge model?


Image credit: DALL.E (AI generated)

In the UK, a significant shift is underway in the realm of service charges, particularly in restaurants. As cash payments become increasingly rare, replaced by the convenience of 'tap and go' contactless payments, the traditional method of tipping is gradually being phased out. This trend is now particularly evident in UK restaurants, where automatic service charging is becoming commonplace.


This changing landscape has led to fewer people opting to leave tips for taxi drivers. This change in consumer behaviour is partly influenced by the global norm of service charges being included in bills. Customers are growing accustomed to the expectation of a service charge being automatically added, rather than scrutinising their bill to check if it's included.

While passengers must pay the metered amount, they are free to leave tips. Currently, passengers wishing to tip must select a 'Yes' option on the card payment terminal and enter the tip amount or pay by cash. So, for taxi drivers, especially those offering card payment solutions, the question arises: could they adopt a similar model to restaurants for service charges? It's crucial to note that taxi drivers are legally bound to charge no more than the metered amount for their services so any tip would need to remain rightly optional.


However, introducing a service charge in taxis could be explored and would involve clear communication to passengers, possibly through signage in the cab, similar to how restaurants mention service charges on menus or verbally inform customers.

The key points about service charges are:


Optional or Discretionary: Service charges are not legally mandatory. Customers have the choice to pay, reduce, or not pay the charge based on their satisfaction with the service.


Percentage of the Bill: Typically, a service charge is a set percentage of the total bill, usually around 10-12.5%, but this can vary.


Tip on Top: Some customers choose to leave a tip in addition to the service charge, particularly if they find the service exceptional. However, this is not obligatory.


Legal Requirements: In the UK, there is no legal requirement for the inclusion of a service charge in

restaurants, and it's discretionary for customers to pay it.


For self-employed taxi drivers, tips are a significant part of their income, often making the difference in their daily earnings. As the taxi industry seeks ways to modernise, the potential adoption of service charges could be a subject of debate, balancing tradition with what is accepted elsewhere in the service sector.

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