“Tipping Tips:” Adjusting to the New Norms of Tipping

In an ever-evolving economic landscape, the norms surrounding tipping are undergoing a significant transformation, challenging the traditional etiquette we’ve long adhered to. At the heart of this shift is an expanded expectation for gratuities, extending beyond the usual restaurants and taxis to include places like grocery stores, self-service kiosks, and even fast-food counters. This widespread change prompts a pivotal question: What are the modern rules of tipping?

Sylvia Allegretto, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, sheds light on the confusion surrounding tipping practices. Her research underscores tipping’s critical role in compensating workers, especially in sectors where wages fall short of living standards. Despite the confusion, understanding the rationale behind tipping is crucial for navigating these new expectations.

A recent Pew Research survey reveals a palpable shift, with 72% of nearly 12,000 respondents noting an increase in tipping requests. This trend is partly attributed to the pandemic’s impact, where tipping emerged as a means to support essential workers during unprecedented times. Furthermore, technological advancements, such as digital payment platforms like Square, have made tipping more accessible, inadvertently influencing the culture around it.

This cultural shift is also a workaround for businesses to enhance employee earnings without directly increasing wages, a strategy particularly relevant in the hospitality sector. According to Sean Jung, a professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, this approach allows for higher worker compensation while maintaining competitive pricing.

Understanding America’s unique tipping landscape requires acknowledging the two-tier wage system: the standard minimum wage and a subminimum wage for tipped employees. The disparity in these wages across states makes the act of tipping even more consequential. For instance, the significance of a tip can vary dramatically between a server in Washington state, where the minimum wage exceeds $16 an hour without a subminimum wage, and one in Tennessee, where the subminimum wage is a mere $2.13.

Given the complexity of wage variations, the Economic Policy Institute offers a wage tracker to help patrons make informed tipping decisions based on local wage standards. However, the ambiguity around who earns these wages can leave customers uncertain about tipping practices.

In light of these uncertainties, engaging with service providers can offer clarity. Asking direct questions about wage structures and tip distributions can ensure that gratuities reach their intended recipients effectively, especially in settings where tips are shared or deducted by payment processing systems.

The emergence of tipping requests in unexpected venues poses a dilemma for consumers. While the decision to tip remains personal, opting for a modest 10% gratuity can be a thoughtful gesture towards workers potentially earning below minimum wage.

Lastly, the phenomenon of “screen pressure” in digital payment scenarios, where preset tipping options can exceed 20%, illustrates the subtler nuances of modern tipping etiquette. In such instances, taking a moment to customize the tip amount can mitigate the impulse to conform to suggested gratuities, ensuring that the act of tipping remains a reflection of personal appreciation for service received.

As the landscape of tipping continues to evolve, navigating these changes with understanding and empathy becomes paramount, ensuring that our gestures of gratitude meaningfully support those who serve us in various capacities.

Large Projected Growth for CBD Products in 2024

CBD (cannabidiol) consumer health products are gaining popularity globally. The market has reported astounding growth in the sale, distribution, and consumption among their products designed for health and wellness. In 2022, the market size was valued at approximately $9.31 billion. It experienced growth to $10.77 billion in 2023 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.78%, reaching around $30.07 billion by 2030.

The products are known for managing pain, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving sleep quality. This surge in popularity is attributed to growing awareness of CBD’s therapeutic benefits and the easing of regulations surrounding hemp cultivation and production. These developments have facilitated increased production and availability of CBD health products globally.

Despite challenges in the market, such as high product cost and inconsistency with regulation, the ongoing clinical research into CBD’s efficacy in treating various conditions, coupled with investments from both private and public sectors in the CBD trade, signals promising growth prospects for the market.

In the Americas, specifically, there is reported rapid growth in this market, propelled by the legalization of cannabis, advancements in CBD health products, and heightened consumer awareness of CBD’s health benefits. In Canada, regulatory adjustments by Health Canada to ease access to cannabis-infused products reflect a growing consumer interest in CBD for wellness.

The EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region is also seeing an expansion in the CBD health market, driven by increased clinical research on CBD for treating conditions like anxiety, pain, and sleep disorders. Meanwhile, the Asia-Pacific region is emerging as a significant market, buoyed by the booming nutraceutical and skincare industries and growing investments in oncology-focused CBD research.

Is Recycling an Economical Solution?

For decades, the plastics industry has touted recycling as a solution to the growing problem of waste, convincing both consumers and policymakers that it could prevent plastic from filling landfills and polluting the environment. However, a recent report by the Center for Climate Integrity reveals that industry insiders, including major oil and gas companies, have long doubted recycling’s viability as a waste management strategy.

This revelation comes from documents dating back to the inception of the recycling movement. At a 1989 conference, the head of the Vinyl Institute openly admitted that recycling was not an infinite solution nor an answer to the solid waste dilemma. It seems that recycling often costs more than producing new plastic, rendering it financially unfeasible.

Despite these economic hurdles, the plastics industry has continued to promote recycling, primarily for its public relations benefits. A note from a 1994 meeting between an Exxon Chemical vice president and the American Plastics Council staff demonstrates the commitment to recycling activities without a genuine commitment to achieving environmental goals.

In response to the report, Ross Eisenberg, president of America’s Plastic Makers, criticized its reliance on outdated information and accused it of undermining the industry’s efforts toward sustainability. He emphasized the industry’s target for all U.S. plastic packaging to be reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040, portraying a forward-looking stance on plastic waste management.

The report, titled “The Fraud of Plastic Recycling,” builds on previous investigations that have highlighted the industry’s promotion of recycling despite skepticism about its effectiveness. Less than 10% of global plastic waste is recycled, with the vast majority continuing to contribute to environmental pollution. Critics argue that the recycling narrative has been a tactic to boost plastic sales while avoiding regulations.

As the world grapples with the plastic waste crisis, the United Nations is preparing for negotiations on a global plastics treaty, aiming for a comprehensive approach to plastic pollution. However, there are concerns that the plastics and fossil fuel industries may influence the treaty’s focus, pushing for waste management solutions over reductions in plastic production.

Industry efforts, such as ExxonMobil’s investment in advanced recycling technologies, are presented as solutions to the plastic waste problem. Yet, skeptics question the effectiveness and environmental impact of these technologies, pointing out that the fundamental economics of plastic recycling remain unchanged.

The controversy surrounding plastic recycling underscores a broader debate on environmental responsibility and the need for accountability in addressing the plastic waste crisis.

Nicer Uses AI to Revolutionize the Travel Industry

Nicer, an innovative travel planning and booking platform, has successfully secured $2 million in seed funding to enhance its AI-powered service for travel advisors. The investment round was led by Trip Ventures, alongside notable figures from the travel industry. This financial boost aims to expand Nicer’s technology capabilities, allowing travel advisors to serve clients more efficiently.

Through AI-integration, Nicer seeks to revolutionize the travel industry. It enhances the expertise of travel advisors by combining their invaluable personal insights and access to exclusive benefits with cutting-edge AI. This synergy aims to increase capacity, improve profitability, and offer personalized travel experiences unmatched in the market.

Ragan Stone, Nicer’s CEO and a seasoned travel advisor, highlighted the challenges that Nicer aims to eliminate. “Travel is a trillion-dollar industry plagued by inefficiencies that cost time and money. Nicer solves this problem by harnessing the power of AI to craft highly customized experiences while preserving the personalization and insights of travel advisors.” Stone stated. The company’s vision of enhancing the role of travel advisors through technology has garnered strong support from its investors.

A recent survey indicated a positive reception of AI among travel advisors, with 60% viewing it favorably and nearly half eager to incorporate it into their operations. Nicer is positioned at the forefront of technological innovation in travel, according to Shane O’Flaherty of Microsoft, who also serves on Nicer’s board.

Angie Licea, President of Global Travel Collection, expressed excitement about the partnership with Nicer, recognizing its potential to redefine the blend of technology and personal service in travel. This collaboration promises to empower travel advisors and enrich the experiences of travelers worldwide.

New York Girl Scout Cookie Prices Rise

Inflation’s impact has extended to a beloved staple of American consumerism: Girl Scout cookies. This year, the price for a box of favorites such as Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs has risen to $7 in New York, marking a $2 increase from the previous year. Meridith Maskara, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, notes that this is the first price hike in six years, driven by unavoidable economic pressures affecting the organization’s 25,000 members across New York City’s boroughs.

This price increase is part of a national trend, with varying hikes across the 111 Girl Scout councils in the U.S., each operating independently and negotiating their own contracts with cookie manufacturers. While some areas like New Jersey have seen prices go up to $6 a box, others have maintained or slightly adjusted their pricing.

The Girl Scout organization emphasizes that their focus is on empowering young girls, not cookie sales. The cookie program is a means to funding broader educational goals. Despite concerns that higher prices may affect sales and, consequently, the funding for troop activities and programs, the Girl Scouts remain optimistic. They emphasize the importance of their sales in supporting educational and recreational opportunities for members. For example, the North Carolina troop uses its cookie proceeds for coding and robotics programs. Leaders and troops adapt to these changes, hoping that the community’s loyalty and support for the Girl Scouts’ mission will continue to drive cookie sales, even at higher prices.

US Treasury Department to Expand Tax Credit Eligibility for Electric Vehicle (EV) Chargers

The Biden administration recently released guidelines to expand eligibility for tax credits aimed at reducing the costs of installing electric vehicle (EV) chargers. This move is part of a broader effort to make EV chargers more accessible and affordable for Americans, supporting the administration’s goal of electric vehicles comprising 50% of new car sales by 2030.

Due to uncertainty over which locations would qualify for tax credit, as the chargers were required to be in non-urban or low-income areas, the new guidelines broadened eligibility. The Treasury Department will now cover areas where about two-thirds of the U.S. population resides, primarily outside major cities.

Businesses and consumers who install chargers for either public or private use, will receive a tax credit covering up to 30% of the installation cost. Clean energy supporters project that this will boost the installation of chargers, particularly in communities needing them the most. While EV sales have risen faster than other major car category, they have still not met the expected demand. Some car manufacturers have therefore reduced production. In an effort to broaden the adoption of EVs, these tax credits will increase the number of chargers available across the country.  

The federal government is not only offering up to $7,500 in tax credits for each electric vehicle but is also investing billions in developing a national network of high-speed chargers. The rollout of this network has been slower than expected.

Experts like Luke Tonachel of the Natural Resources Defense Council believe the new guidance will accelerate the deployment of charging infrastructure. Albert Gore III of the Zero Emission Transportation Association also views this as a positive step towards attracting investments in rural and lower-income communities, significantly enhancing public charging availability.

Stanley’s “Quencher” Tumbler Becomes Status Symbol

In the ever-evolving world of trendy water bottles, the Stanley brand has taken center stage with its “Quencher” model, with growing popularity amongst a younger and predominantly female audience. The Stanley Quencher features double-wall stainless steel, which is able to keep liquids hot or cold for extended periods of time. With a 64-ounce capacity, the Quencher is heavy. Its tapered bottom is designed to fit into a car’s cup holder, and it is renowned for its durability after a Quencher not only survived a car fire but still contained ice.

The Quencher has become a social media sensation with the #stanleybrand hashtag boasting 65.3 million views on TikTok and #stanleytumbler with 1 billion views. Recently, the “Stanley + Starbucks” collaboration caused people to camp outside Target stores overnight to be first in line to purchase the limited edition. Listed at an average of $45 a tumbler, resellers are seizing the opportunity to list these exclusive items on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

Not limited to functionality, the Quencher is available in various color options and design accessibility. According to Cassandra Gagnon of WGSN, the Quencher is perceived as more than a water bottle; it embodies a lifestyle, wellness, and health item.

While Stanley was originally crafted for outdoorsmen and even used by pilots in WWII, their more recent marketing strategies, and the production of the Quencher with its different color options, enabled them to branch into a new target market, beginning with working mothers. Once Generation Z discovered the tumbler, the brand’s popularity skyrocketed, with projected annual sales exceeding $750 million in 2023.

As the Quencher continues to dominate social media feeds and fly off shelves, the long-term trajectory of Stanley’s success remains to be seen, with questions arising about its sustainability in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

Nike and Tiger Woods Announce End of 27-Year Collaboration

On Monday, golf legend Tiger Woods announced the end of his 27-year collaboration with Nike, marking the conclusion of a longstanding partnership with the world’s largest sportswear company. Expressing gratitude for the iconic brand’s support, Woods hinted at an upcoming chapter in his career. Nike bid farewell to the golf legend on Instagram, acknowledging his transformative impact on the sport and expressing gratitude for the challenges he posed.

Despite facing setbacks, including a notable sex scandal that cost him millions in sponsorships, Woods maintained his association with Nike. From his professional debut in 1996 to his Masters win in 2019, Nike and Woods shared a significant history. Over the years, Woods signed lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, including a groundbreaking $85 million contract in 2000, making it the richest in sports history at the time.

Speculation arose about Woods potentially joining ON Running, but the Swiss sneaker brand’s CEO, Marc Maurer, dismissed the rumors at the ICR retailing Conference, stating that they were not partnering with Woods. Industry experts speculated that Nike’s separation from Woods might be linked to the company’s shift away from golf-related products.

Notwithstanding the decline in positive public opinions, Woods remains a prominent figure in sports, with his enduring popularity among fans. Analysts like Eric Smallwood suggested that Nike’s decision might be strategic, potentially reflecting a broader move by the company away from golf. Observers noted that Woods, being a shrewd businessperson, could leverage this separation to explore opportunities with brands targeting a younger and more diverse audience within the evolving landscape of golf apparel. Overall, Woods’ departure from Nike represents a significant shift, offering him new possibilities and signaling changes in the golf industry.

Study Reveals Tax on Sugary Drinks Leads to Decline in Sales

Boulder, Colorado, Oakland, California, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Francisco recently joined over 50 countries who raised the price of sugary beverages, including coffee, tea, energy, sports, fruit drinks and sodas. Scott Kaplan, an assistant professor of economics at the US Naval Academy, conducted a study to examine how customers’ consumption habits adjust according to price changes. Kaplan discovered that the price hike of sugar-sweetened drinks led to a 31% reduction in consumer purchases.

Kaplan’s study also revealed a direct correlation between every 1% increase in price and 1% decrease in purchases. This decline in consumer purchases was an immediate result of implementing taxes, and remained consistent over the entire three years of the study.

A 2020 study demonstrated that just one daily serving of a sugary soft drink was linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and these calorie-laden drinks contribute to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke. Researchers from Tufts University discovered that a reduction in sugary beverage consumption by 15-20% could lead to significant savings in healthcare costs, as much as $45 billion.

Kaplan’s study did not directly survey the health impact of the decline of sugary drink sales, though he did surmise that a 33% drop in consumer purchases could lead to a similar positive affect on healthcare costs. His analysis was published in JAMA Health Forum, and explored the possibility of a broader scale of implementation beyond the five original cities. Kaplan suggested implementing taxes from the federal level.

A New Phone Plan for the New Year

With the new year approaching, consider a more cost-effective cell phone plan. According to the New York Times, a growing trend among wireless plans promises customers significantly lower monthly rates. Budget carriers leasing wireless services from the larger companies offer phone bills at around $25 per month, undercutting the well-known providers whose monthly plans range from $60 to $200 a month.

While a budget carrier may not be able to offer the same network speed performance, download speeds with 5G and 4G technology remain quite fast and users will most likely not notice a difference between the larger versus budget providers. Additionally, with the shift to a hybrid work-week cutting down on commute times, most employees rely more on Wi-Fi connections at home or at the office and less on their cellular network.

Many have reported that the transition to a budget carrier was not always smooth. Customers complained of eSIM activation fees, wireless services that did not activate right away, unhelpful customer service, and failure to send monthly receipts. However, those who have switched over, report savings of 50%, some around $1000 a year, a worthwhile tradeoff for the hiccups they encountered. The discount plans even allow users to buy a physical or eSIM, which can be purchased from their website or app, to test out the service without dropping their current provider. This way, consumers can choose the best option available without any hassle.

If you’re looking to cut your expenses in 2024, switching to a discount phone plan is easy and will not disrupt your lifestyle.