man in car in tears explaining uber pay and customer tips


Viral TikTok highlights the exploitation of gig economy workers

'This is one thing that has to change.'


Siobhan Ball

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 19, 2021   Updated on Feb 19, 2021, 5:09 pm CST

A viral Tiktok exposing the reality of life for the delivery drivers working for gig economy companies like Uber Eats has gone viral, sparking a debate on Twitter and a call for those companies to appropriately pay their workers.

TikToker Riley Eliot (@livefreestudios) wasn’t expecting to go viral when he made his video this week detailing the last eight months of sleeplessness, food insecurity, and repeated homelessness working as a delivery driver for Uber Eats and DoorDash. With only 9 followers—all real-life friends—the chances of anyone seeing his TikTok video were slim. Nonetheless, at the end of a 45-minute order which landed him only a dollar in earnings, Elliot sat in his car and made a tearful plea for customers to properly tip their drivers.

Most were instantly on his side, saying that if you can’t afford to tip your drivers you have no right to be using their labor to bring you food.

If you do not tip your delivery driver there is a very special place in hell for your lazy ass that could not be bothered to get your food. Also these services should require a minimum tip of 15% especially during this time.
as a Doordash driver, this is my daily struggle, honestly. The amount of times I have started crying on the job because of how little I get paid to do shit that is not in my job description,, just to barely scrape by. Pls tip yr drivers well and try not to waste our time.
This is awful! I always tip 20%. If I can’t, I don’t order out! DoorDash & Grubhub are no better-paying these guys less than minimum wage. They also have to use their own cars & get no maintenance allowance! If you can afford to order out, you can afford to TIP YOUR DRIVERS!!!

But some took exception to his blaming the customers, placing the blame solely on the companies for forcing the drivers to rely off tips.

Or hear me out, cooperations could pay people a livable wage. They can afford it after all
Y’all don’t realize people ordering food are also broke too After paying 10 extra dollars on fees for a meal . blame the companies not the mfs that’s tipping . I ALMOST felt bad for him .
I’ll be honest, the most frustrating part of this is his misplaced rage at the lack of tip being the reason he can’t afford his rent. He should be PAID more. It shouldn’t be on the customer to make these people’s wages acceptable, it should be on the company that they work for!

Many, however, pointed out that it’s entirely possible to do both. While we should be holding these companies accountable and pushing for change, until that happens, it’s on the people using the service to make sure they pay the actual provider, via the medium of tips, instead of just the company.

This is heartbreaking. Uber’s business model is reliant on essentially free labor. This should be a crime. While I do believe people should tip, I think Billion dollar companies need to pay workers a living wage so they don’t need to survive off of tips.
We can be mad that we have to tip because employers should be paying fair wages, but if you’re going to use a service that requires tipping, you should absolutely tip. There are systemic failures here, but that doesn’t justify treating service or gig workers like crap.
Always tip 20% or more but this is proof that tipping shouldn’t ever be income. Companies need to pay their people what they deserve. Tips need to be extra. I’m sick of rich ass companies being cheap ass. I’m so angry.
It’s very nice that people are trying to help this man, but the real problem is - why is he getting paid only $2.50 from Ubereats? What sort of crazy wage is that?!!? People shouldn’t have to go out there and BEG for tips in order to survive. We need fair pay!

Elliot later posted an update video to “take back” laying all the blame on the customers for not tipping, or not tipping enough. In the video, he specified that the companies who choose not to pay their drivers and other servers or gig workers a living wage hold the lion’s share of the blame. He went on to say that this is a product of the culture around service work in America, and that the expectation that service workers make most of their money off tips has to change.

As for Elliot himself, since his video took off, he’s been flooded with donations from people wanting to help out. Enough donations have come in that he and his partner have been able to secure housing, pay off some of their bills, and help out a friend in similarly dire financial straights. They then used the extra money to buy blankets and food for the local homeless population.

It’s the kind of story that often ends up being written up as a feel-good piece, and both Elliot and the people donating to him have done undeniably good things. However, given that none of this would have been necessary if Elliot had simply been paid a living wage to begin with, it’s just yet another example of ordinary people having to step up to fill the gaps in a broken system.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Elliot and will update this article if he responds.

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*First Published: Feb 19, 2021, 5:08 pm CST