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Miss Conduct

Advice: Is it true I don’t need to tip my Uber driver?

Plus, she can’t stop complaining about her “evil” daughter-in-law.

Perhaps you can help me, and many other people, with my Uber dilemma. Some people have told me there’s no need to tip, and don’t, while others say they tip. What is generally expected in this situation? Should the Uber driver be tipped if he provides good to excellent service?

J.M. / Boston

There’s no excuse for the hash Uber has made of tipping. According to the company policy, riders are “not obligated” to tip, though drivers may accept tips, and are allowed to post signs soliciting them. You can’t tip in the app, which means riders must carry cash. In other words, the actual policy is “You don’t have to but you can but we’re not going to make it easy for you.” It’s like a wedding invitation that reads, “No gifts, please! But we’re registered at Restoration Hardware!”

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No wonder you’re confused! Since there’s no correct answer, I say tip a few bucks, especially if the driver was particularly helpful. The annoyances of the gig economy are not the fault of the people who work in it, so why not be kind? If your heart is gold but your wallet paperless, shift to Lyft, which allows in-app tipping.

Don’t argue with your friends about Uber tipping. The policy is so nonsensical you may as well argue over whether that dress on the Internet was white and gold or blue and black. Of course if you and your friends enjoy a good bout of naysaying and contradictions, ignore me and argue away. If you entertain yourself this way in a hired car and call in your driver to settle arguments, though, such umpire service really ought to receive a monetary reward.

I love my sister-in-law of 40-plus years as if she were my own sister. But she complains incessantly about her poor relationship with one daughter-in-law and raves about the other, even calling them her “good” and “evil” DILs. She starts up conversations with strangers about it. She recently spent a week with us and every day was a challenge for me to listen to her tirades. We have a family wedding coming up, and I don’t want my trip ruined by her complaining. Please help!

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C.V. / Boston

Talk to her. You know it’s the only way. Don’t begin the conversation preemptively, but when Kvetching Karen starts on her Favorite Topic, interrupt her: “Karen, I know you have had your problems with [daughter-in-law], but I can’t listen to any more about her. It’s no good for our relationship. So what do you think of [juicy topic related to wedding, or sportsball, or anything really]?” If Karen starts explaining why she has to complain, say: “Karen, that’s exactly what I was talking about. I’m not available for this line of conversation.” Change the topic yet again. If Karen tries one more time: “OK, I’m going to go talk to Kvelling Katie for a while. Catch you at the buffet!” Repeat as necessary.

Don’t apologize for setting limits, rehash her past behavior, or mention that she bugs other people too. Don’t get involved in arguments about whether her daughters-in-law are “really” one way or the other, or offer her advice. The only relevant topic is the fact that you are no longer willing to listen to her conversations about either of her daughters-in-law. You will probably feel awkward and maybe a little guilty, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing the right thing.

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Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.


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