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Time to start tipping taxi drivers in Japan? Cab company now gives passengers option in Tokyo

28 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Taxi operator Sanwa Kotsu is always looking for new ways to innovate. Among the services they’ve offered are ninja drivers and, in honor of the Tokyo Olympics, drivers outfitted in fencing gear.

As of this month, though, Sanwa Kotsu is doing something that’s arguably even more unusual for a Japanese cab company by introducing a system by which passengers can tip their driver.

Japan is famously a country where tipping isn’t done, whether you’re dining in a restaurant, getting a haircut, or taking a taxi. A lot of cultural guidebooks go so far as to say that Japanese society would consider it rude to offer a tip, but it’s more accurate to say that it would be considered weird, like if you tried to offer a tip to a, say, a cashier at a department store in a tipping culture such as the U.S.

But starting July 15, Sanwa Kotsu, through a partnership with digital tip service Respo, has built a framework through which passengers can give their driver a gratuity. The company is currently conducting a customer service survey, and at the bottom of the card customers are asked to fill out is a QR code they can access with their smartphone’s camera, then select the amount they want to tip.

▼ The survey and QR code, circled in red

TT-2.jpg

Surprisingly, Sanwa Kotsu says that there have been instances in the past where passengers have tipped the company’s drivers, and that its partnership with Respo provides an official “easy and casual way to say ‘thank you,’” to quote Respo’s mission statement.

It’ll be interesting to see how many people volunteer to pay above and beyond what the meter reads at the end of their ride, though. Sanwa Kotsu’s drivers’ encounters with a certain number of outliers aside, tipping taxi drivers is very much not the norm in Japan. Also worth considering is that, while some drivers might have smoother vehicle control or more polished conversation skills than others, the vast majority of Japanese cabbies are already satisfactorily skilled and polite.

Especially for short jaunts around town, it’s hard to imagine what’s going to convince the average passenger that a ride warrants payment above and beyond the pricing structure for safe, courteous driving that’s been in place in Japanese society for pretty much as long as taxis have been a thing.

For now, Sanwa Kotsu, which is based in Yokohama and also operates cabs in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, says the optional tip system is only in place for its cabs running in Tokyo’s Fuchu district on a test basis, and the company will be deciding whether or not to expand it to other areas at a later date.

Source: Sanwa Kotsu via IT Media

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- En garde! Fencer Taxi begins in Tokyo, Saitama, and Kanagawa

-- Tokyo’s new pre-fixed taxi fare smartphone service reduces the guess work of travelling by cab

-- No mask, no ride – Japanese government allows taxis to refuse to pick up maskless passengers

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
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Bad idea. Very bad idea. Tipping is a remnant of serfs and royalty. It's a nightmare for in the US, and insulting to the worker who has to accept the tip. It make the worker into a beggar of sorts, rather than someone providing a service for an agree-upon wage. It causes stress to customers and stress to service providers, who will start to discriminate against people who they feel won't tip well.

This is a short term way for the taxi company to get around higher fares. Long-term, it will spell disaster. The lack of tipping is one of the things that makes Japan a civilized place to live.

22 ( +26 / -4 )

Please don’t do this tipping stuff. One of the worse things about America.

19 ( +21 / -2 )

Tipping is fine when it is an actual tip. But everyone knows, in America, it's pretty much compulsory for almost everything. At that point, it's basically a tax.

I strongly hope this is a failure and the company responsible for this thin-end-of-the-wedge idea humbly apologises and promises never to do it again.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

It's one thing I used to hate about visiting America - the tipping. I just want the price to be the price.

The pandemic kind of made that complaint irrelevant though, I won't be going to the states for at least another year I don't expect, and I'm guessing it will be more like 4-5 years.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I would happily pay extra to a taxi driver if, for instance, I was in a hurry and he got me to my destination with time to spare through intelligent driving and correct selection of roads, etc.

However, my experience with cab drivers in Japan hasn't been that great. Several times I've given them a precise location, in Japanese, and they've given me this look as if to say "where's that? Never heard of it".

Half the time I end up guiding them using the navigation on my smartphone.

In contrast, a British acquaintance of mine told me about the training that cab drivers in London go through, and the test they have to take. Brutal. But apparently they really know their areas inside out and upside down.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

We don't want to start that here. Pay the drivers a living wage.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

@Sven - by tipping you are encouraging Uber Eats to exploit their drivers. They should pay an adequate amount - after all they take delivery fee and service fee from us AND a fee from the restaurant, which is why the prices are marked up compared to restaurants. All in all they are getting 25+ of the order price on average.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

No, no and no.

Pay the drivers what they are worth without having to revert to this archaic practice.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This company is giving such a false motive. They want their drivers to get tips so they can either take a cut of it or pay their drivers less.

I’ve seen multiple businesses try this in Japan and it just comes off as cheap and an awkward customer experience.

This is not innovative, just a lazy attempt at doing something “new”.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Generally speaking taxi drivers are amongst those I would least consider giving a tip to other than "Drive better", "Clean your cab more often" and "try using the maps app on your phone for a more direct route". Having said that I've found the experience of catching a taxi in Japan to be quite pleasant and even had one driver who dropped us in the wrong district in Osaka one evening come back minutes later, get out of his cab, come running up the street we were in, bow, apologise and take us to the correct spot free of charge. Still, I would dislike it if tipping became in any way culturally acceptable in Japan even though I have no idea whether they make a "fare" income or not.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tips are usually an excuse for a low wage. I'd like to see the RotW flip to the Japanese model - no tips and proper wages. Not just taxi drivers but hospitality staff too.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

No tipping in Japan, it is a digusting habit and causes the companies to pay less salary to their employees.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tokyo Taxi fare is already high enough.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

NO.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

25%+

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Whenever the subject of tipping comes up, the US is immediately mentioned. It doesn't have to be. Tipping can be done, for example, as in many European countries.

This is not to say that tipping should or should not be introduced here in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hope this tipping service won't go to the restaurant field in Japan.

In UK, it's disaster for some employees. A customer tips a girl. She puts in the tipping box. When it's time to open and share, the tips mostly goes to those who never got tips. And the same such employees who rarely gets tips just puts in her own pocket.

Usually a supervisor and the only one of the employee who is sexually closed to the supervisor gets about 90% of the tips each and the rest will walk home unhappily that day, maybe most of the days.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Seldom take taxis but always tell the driver to keep the change. He's usually reluctant to accept it, but if he's done a good job, I feel it's only fair (not fare).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If I ride one of these taxis, I'm going to ask the driver to tip ME, considering I was a model passenger and made his job very easy. Surely he would want to show his appreciation for my polite behavior!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To be quite frank, i do tip sometimes by telling the driver to keep the change, if service is above and beyond

Sometimes just hailing a taxi is difficult, being a person of color and partially handicapped

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I always give a tip to the Uber eats delivery people. Maybe it’s culturally seen a bit rude, but I am quite sure it is also very much welcomed within those precarious employed and exploited guys, often from countries where tipping is usually done. They are even bullied by other road drivers or in the news, although they really struggle for themselves to survive and the people who are supplied with a lunch they only can order this way. Sometimes they even take some small things out and eat it, what shows how dramatic their exploitation is. Those are not tipped of course, but tipping in general might reduce their need to steal or do their delivery job hastily without care.

UberEats delivery people are not struggling to survive, as far as I can tell. Whenever it’s raining, there are zero UberEats delivery people available in my area, zero. If they can’t handle a bit of rain, then they are definitely not depending on UberEats money to survive. It’s more of a side hustle for them and they do it whenever they feel like it. So no, no tipping.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

MatJuly 25  09:18 am JST

Tipping is fine when it is an actual tip. But everyone knows, in America, it's pretty much compulsory for almost everything. At that point, it's basically a tax.

It's done in other countries too, like Canada. Besides, if you're a gaijin in a city as large as Tokyo, finding your way thru a labrynth like that takes some doing! What's wrong with rewarding a driver like that for a job well done? it's just being cool and nice.

Cabdriving can be a stressful occupation. They have to take a lot of crap from passengers and other drivers. Once in the tolerant city of San Francisco the driver of a cab I was in had to take some racist lip from a truck driver on a CB. I tipped the driver off good after he dropped me off. Nobody said it was easy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bad idea. Very bad idea. Tipping is a remnant of serfs and royalty. It's a nightmare for in the US, and insulting to the worker who has to accept the tip. It make the worker into a beggar of sorts, rather than someone providing a service for an agree-upon wage. It causes stress to customers and stress to service providers, who will start to discriminate against people who they feel won't tip well.

This is a short term way for the taxi company to get around higher fares. Long-term, it will spell disaster. The lack of tipping is one of the things that makes Japan a civilized place to live.

True. If tipping is coming to Japan, this means the economic situations deteriorate worse than we thought as employers now can't afford to pay the workers a living wage in the country.

This also means the Americanization of the Japanese economy is almost complete.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tipping should be compulsory in the Eikaiwa business.

I'm tired of bland cookies from motorway service stations - just give me the cash.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I always tip the taxi drivers. Albeit just a little. Usually just tell em to keep the change.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I always give a tip to the Uber eats delivery people. Maybe it’s culturally seen a bit rude, but I am quite sure it is also very much welcomed within those precarious employed and exploited guys, often from countries where tipping is usually done. They are even bullied by other road drivers or in the news, although they really struggle for themselves to survive and the people who are supplied with a lunch they only can order this way. Sometimes they even take some small things out and eat it, what shows how dramatic their exploitation is. Those are not tipped of course, but tipping in general might reduce their need to steal or do their delivery job hastily without care.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Good way.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

I would tip if they go through a yellow light for me and not tip if they take their sweet old time when it's green or "blue."

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

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