I’m an Uber Driver Who’s Gotten a $150 Tip Over the Holidays

  • Uber driver Bunny Rivera started working for the rideshare company after she became a mom.
  • Rivera said the job was flexible and she enjoyed the experience, so she stuck with it.
  • She recalled some of her most unexpected holiday experiences, which include really big tips.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Bunny Rivera, a 35-year-old Uber driver from Washington, DC, about her experiences working during the holiday season. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

I began delivering food for Uber Eats during the fall of 2019. Prior to that I was a flight attendant. When I got pregnant, I continued flying right up until the 32-week mark, when my doctor insisted I stop.

When my son Kaiden was two months old, I left his father. Flying as a single mom was out of the question for me, so I began searching for another way to earn a living. I also had to find a job where I could take my newborn son with me, since I couldn’t afford a babysitter. Uber Eats provided me with the flexibility I needed to do just that.

I only expected to do work for Uber Eats until I got back on my feet, but I wound up enjoying the experience and the flexibility couldn’t be beat. Most of the time I worked between 20 and 40 hours a week, doing a combination of Uber Eats when Kaiden was with me and Uber rideshare when he was with his dad.

These days, I run an Etsy shop and I’m swamped with orders for the holidays, which doesn’t leave much time for driving. But I have lots of unexpected experiences working with Uber during the holidays.

Where I drive in DC isn’t always the safest, and on more than one occasion I’ve been assaulted

One time a passenger grabbed my chest and I kicked him out of the car. Another time I arrived at my pickup only to find there were too many people in the party, including little kids without car seats. When I told the group I couldn’t take them, one of the guys got mad, reached through the car window, and grabbed me by the shirt. When I tried rolling up the window, a second man reached in, trying to push the window back down. Luckily, I was able to drive off.

Ever since I was first assaulted, I posted a sign in the backseat of my car with a photo of me and Kaiden. If a passenger is looking to start any trouble, my hope is that seeing I’m the mother of a small child will make them reconsider. In addition to the photo, I list my Instagram handle and Cash App information for free.

Despite what one might think, my tips go down during the holidays

In my experience, tipping has gone down since COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, I’d estimate half my rides tipped, even if just a dollar, but these days less than a quarter of my passengers tip. I chalk it up to people trying to save money. However, those that do tip do fairly well.

During my first year driving for Uber, I drove a couple home from a holiday party and they ended up tipping me $100. They even treated me to McDonald’s since they requested we make a stop at the drive-thru.

Working full-time for Uber had become a good way to earn money on my own terms, so I was at a complete loss when Kaiden, at the age of 15 months, got sick and I had to stop working for nearly a month and a half to stay home with him.

I’ll never forget the day I picked Kaiden up from his dad’s house and saw his lips turning blue. We rushed to the emergency room, where a series of X-rays revealed he’d swallowed a coin.

That evening was one of the roughest of our lives. Over the next weeks, Kaiden suffered from lung infections and pneumonia, causing him to lose a dangerous amount of weight. Because he was so weak, he couldn’t return to daycare and so I couldn’t return to work.

Christmas, as we knew it, was looking like it would be canceled in our household, until I turned on the Uber app

On a trip to Walmart, Kaiden spotted a “Baby Shark” ride-on toy that cost $150 and fell in love. One evening, when Kaiden’s dad took him for the night, I decided to Uber as long as I could to earn enough to buy that Baby Shark, assuming it would take five or six hours.

The night started out slow, until I picked up two drunk college guys who were headed from one bar to another.

When they saw my sign, the guys started asking me about my plans for Christmas. I told them we weren’t doing much of anything and that I was out working to afford the Baby Shark toy for Kaiden. I didn’t think much of it when they asked me how much it cost, but then they announced they were going to tip me $150 so I could buy the toy.

Unfortunately, the Uber app has a $100 limit on tips. My passengers didn’t have Cash App and I didn’t have Venmo, so they insisted I call a girlfriend of mine who used Venmo so they could send her the money. It was after midnight, but luckily she answered, I explained the situation to her, and the guys sent her the money.

Then they waited in my car for her to forward the money to my Cash App. As soon as that money hit my phone I just broke down and started crying.

To this day, I keep in touch with one of the guys on Instagram and we message once in a while. What he and his friend of him did that night meant everything to me. One day, when Kaiden is older, I’ll tell him Santa exists in many forms and that he’s not just a guy with a white beard and a red hat.

I haven’t driven for Uber since October, but after the holidays I plan to drive 20 hours a week.

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