“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.

BSG Report Reveals the Importance of “Psychological Safety” for Employees

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a notable goal for employers in 2024 is helping employees to feel safe in expressing their thoughts and taking risks. The BCG survey, Psychological Safety Levels the Playing Field for Employees, was conducted across 16 countries and involved 28,000 employees. The results revealed that employees who felt safe expressing their thoughts, also called, “psychological safety,” are 2.1 times more motivated, 2.7 times happier, and 3.3 times more empowered at work. Empathetic leadership, exemplified by respecting team members’ perspectives, emotions, and life situations, is as a key driver of psychological safety. While 12% of employees with low psychological safety express intentions to quit within a year, this number drops to only 3% when psychological safety is high.

Psychological safety is especially critical for diverse groups. When effectively established, it results in retention increases of over four times for women and BIPOC employees, five times for people with disabilities, and six times for LGBTQ+ employees, compared to their counterparts in less inclusive environments.

Nadjia Yousif, Chief Diversity Officer at BCG, emphasizes the pivotal role leaders play in fostering psychological safety: “Collective buy-in from the team is important, but leaders have an outsize impact when it comes to building psychological safety. They set the tone by being role models and signaling what behaviors will be rewarded and what won’t be tolerated. Psychological safety can flourish only if it’s driven from the top.”

The report also advises employers on how to cultivate psychological safety. Recommendations include setting aside time at the beginning of meetings for interaction and engagement and presenting opportunities for team members to reflect and discuss. Additionally, the report suggests critiquing ideas rather than people, as well as transparency and openness from leaders. Creating a space of psychological safety may take some work, but the benefits from doing so are
worthwhile.

Writers Guild Strike Reaches Tentative Deal

On June 4, the Writers Guild of America announced that they reached a tentative deal on a three-year contract with the Hollywood studios. 11,500 screenwriters joined the writers’ strike, which began on May 2, 2023, claiming a rise in television production that has led to deterioration of working conditions and stagnation in wages.

The growing popularity of streaming has also affected writers, as streaming shows have 8-12 episodes per season, whereas traditional television seasons feature over 20 episodes. Writers are also fighting for better residual pay, which has been affected by streaming, as well. Writers also voiced concerns over the future use of AI, and how that may threaten their jobs.

As the strike began, Seth Meyers said that the strike would not only affect the writers, but would extend to production support, including drivers, caterers, costume cleaners, and set carpenters. During the 2007 writers’ strike, which lasted 100 days, the LA economy lost an estimated $2.1 billion.

Service 2.0: Congress Passes New Retirement Regulations

US President Joe Biden is expected to sign on a new spending package, Secure 2.0. This package will both enable Americans to more easily save for retirement and lower the costs of withdrawing retirement savings.

Highlighted below are some of the new provisions of Secure 2.0, as per the breakdown of the Senate Finance Committee:

  1. A provision set to go into effect after December 31, 2024, and requires employers to set a minimum default rate of 3% (maximum 10%) for each employee. In addition, employers will be required to set an automatic yearly contribution of 1% up to a maximum contribution rate of at least 10% and no more than 15%. The provision requires many employers who initiate a new workplace retirement savings plan to enroll their employees in Secure 2.0.
  2. Another provision set to go into effect after December 31, 2023 allows employers to match a contribution to the employee’s retirement plan based on the employee’s qualified student loan payments. This will enable the employee to save for retirement while simultaneously paying down student debt.
  3. A third provision, set to go into effect after December 31, 2024, shortens the service time for part-time workers who work at least 500 hours a year to join a workplace retirement plan. Currently, the required service time is three years, and under Secure 2.0, it will be two years; this will ease part-time workers’ ability to save.

Female-secured Patents Could Boost Economy by $1 trillion

Small businesses and startup entrepreneurs are known to rely on funding from government agencies like the Small Business Administration; minority-owned businesses might turn to the Minority Business Development Agency. Kathi Vidal is pushing to have entrepreneurs consider applying for patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office alongside their application(s) for funding.

Vidal, who is currently serving as USPTO director, is an experienced intellectual property lawyer. A primary platform of her work in the USPTO, since her appointment by President Biden in April 2022, has been the diversification of those applying for and receiving patents. To date, only 13% of U.S. patents have been issued to women. When offered free legal guidance for the patent-application process, women-led filings increased by 41%. Vidal believes that the inclusion of women in the patenting system at equal rates as men could boost the U.S. economy by as much as $1 trillion.

According to Vidal, legal support is not the only barrier to female inclusion. The patenting system is inherently confusing and excluding. While the government views rejections as an opportunity for re-application, most applicants don’t understand. Vidal is introducing a cover letter to patent decisions, assigning an examiner who will be available for consultations and be the human face of an otherwise amorphous and overwhelming process.

Patents are a tangible way of supporting the economy and expanding business competition, particularly in growing fields like artificial intelligence and technologies. Similarly, Vidal explains that patents facilitate partnership and cooperation. Without patents, companies are resistant to sharing their ideas.

The Business of Bringing Back Businesses

Fashion Fair, the beloved cosmetics company, went bankrupt in 2018. But in June 2022, the firm, which Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage said “represented Black beauty, it represented sophistication, and it was the first makeup that I ever tried on in the mirror,” was resurrected. This is part of a current economic trend in which Black businesswomen opt to revive a legacy brand rather than start a new company from scratch. In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are launching companies based on known white-owned firms that unfairly used images of Black people as part of their branding and merchandising.

Like Fashion Fair, Madam (originally known as Madam C.J. Walker), the Black hair care brand, revamped both the external elements of their products, like packaging and advertising, as well as the actual production processes. Even with these changes, Fashion Fair and Madam still focus on the shared historic mission of each company: bringing wealth, access, and prestige to Black communities, particularly women.

McKinsey study found that Black-founded and Black-owned beauty brands comprised 2.5 percent of 2021 revenue in that industry; Black consumers spent 11.1 percent, the equivalent of $6.6 billion, on beauty products. While spurred mostly by need, as a way of ensuring the employment and safety of Black Americans in the dark era of Jim Crow laws, Black-owned businesses are a historic and iconic representation of pride. Historian Juliet E.K. Walker describes the time as the “Golden Age of Black Business,” when Black-owned businesses grew across the U.S.

The newest iterations of the company are also updated for today’s consumer interests. The Madam formula, for example, has been revised to substitute petroleum, which is derived from crude oil, from the products’ hair and scalp treatment recipes.

In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are redressing historic wrongs of white-owned companies that feature images of Black domestic workers in their logos and images. Rapper and entrepreneur Percy Miller, known as Master P, restarted his Uncle P’s line of pancake mixes and rice in response to this trend. He recalls how his grandmother used to favor brands featuring Black people, but as he grew he came to realize “that Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were models, and none of the proceeds from these brands went back to helping the community and their families; it was just pure mockery.” In an attempt to remedy these historical injustices, Miller sources rice for his products from Ghana; some profits are earmarked for programs serving low-income children and the elderly in New Orleans and St. Louis. A picture of Miller himself, in sunglasses, is affixed on Uncle P’s products.

Remote Workers Resign to a Renters Crisis

Pandemic restrictions are lifting and most bosses and companies are accepting that remote work is here to stay. And as employees continue to enjoy the benefits of working from home, they are also looking for homes to work in. The rental market is fierce these days, with prime interest in Florida and across the Northeast region of the U.S.

A review of recent real estate data released in June by RentCafe, a subdivision of Yardi real estate software, indicates that Miami-Dade County, with its 20+ miles of beaches, had the most competitive rental market during the first third of 2022. Orlando and other parts of Southwest Florida are also in the top-ten list of cities, as are Harrisburg, Pa., North and Central Jersey, Grand Rapids, Mich., Rochester, N.Y., and Milwaukee.

What these cities all have in common is their excellent school systems, tranquil lifestyles, and family-friendly communities. The demand for rental properties is driven by high housing prices that have not budged in years and climbing mortgage rates prompting buyers to delay their purchase and seek a rental lease. While some cities are accommodating the increased demand, like Miami-Dade County where additional units were released to the rental market, other cities are not as quick to meet the need: Harrisburg, PA did not add any new apartments in the last four-month period, causing most tenants to renew their leases instead of moving out.

Chattanooga: the newest Hub of Tech, VC talent

Chattanooga at night

Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of the first American cities to have installed fiber optic cables with gigabit speeds across the entire city. While this upgrade was completed a little over 10 years ago, Mayor Tim Kelly says the pandemic brought a surge of new residents all looking for comfortable remote working spaces and quality of life.

Kelly, himself a former businessman and startup founder, credited the 2010 EPB investment in fiber optics as a forward-thinking move by previous leaders. He notes that while Chattanooga doesn’t offer financial incentives for relocation like other places, it does cultivate a vibrant cultural life and family-friendly ethos.

As a result- and specifically since the pandemic- Chattanooga has seen a new balance of tech companies and those working for them; once concentrated in major coastal cities, firms are now widely dispersed in more rural areas across the country. The Brookings Institution found that tech jobs in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles had slowed or disappeared, while regions like St. Louis, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Nashville showed an unprecedented uptick.

Brickyard, for example, is a newly established venture fund based in Chattanooga. Cameron Doody, the co-founder, explains that as workers from traditional tech hubs swamped cities like Atlanta and Austin, residents of those cities moved to places like Chattanooga for quiet, comfort, and quality of life. Brickyard invests in international tech companies. The founders then come to headquarters in Chattanooga to rigorously expand their product and enjoy the benefits of amenities like a sauna, a gym, and a steam room.

Uber and Flywheel Riding Toward a New Partnership

Flywheel Technologies and Uber are putting the final touches on a partnership agreement to fully transform transportation in San Francisco.

While the cooperation is similar to an agreement Uber penned with taxi companies in New York City, it is a noteworthy shift from years of ferocious battling between the two transportation groups. Uber, which is headquartered in San Francisco, was once sued by a local taxi company in federal court for rapacious pricing schemes. Some taxi drivers have expressed concern that the partnership would mean lower earnings and make it harder for taxi riders to afford a drive. Uber and other companies that rely on gig workers (i.e. Lyft and DoorDash) supported California’s Proposition 22. The bill gave the workers limited benefits but also made it impossible for them to be considered full employees of these companies. The measure passed in 2020, even though most voters opposed it; a judge dismissed it in 2021. This partnership expands Uber’s driver pool substantially. The app’s driver base shrunk rapidly during the height of the pandemic, and many drivers voiced discontent with their low earnings. Rising gas prices have also pushed many drivers away. According to the Municipal Transportation Agency, taxi drivers will benefit too, by leveraging Uber’s ridership toward the city’s taxis.

The agreement, part of Uber’s long-term strategy to increase taxi representation on its app, will allow Uber passengers in San Francisco to hail a cab virtually. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors still has to approve the pilot, and Jeffrey Tumlin, the city’s director of transportation needs to authorize it, but the partnership is slated to begin as early as May 2022.

Google Buys Mandiant

Global tech giant Google has announced its acquisition of Mandiant, the cybersecurity company. In a $5.4 billion deal, Google will expand its services to provide businesses with strategic planning assistance for and in response to cyberattacks.

Google Mandiant

The purchase comes as Google tries to distinguish itself and its cloud computing platforms from those offered by Amazon and Microsoft.

Organizations around the world are facing unprecedented cybersecurity challenges as the sophistication and severity of attacks that were previously used to target major governments are now being used to target companies in every industry.

Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud

Based in Virginia, Mandiant has over 2,300 employees, making it Google’s second-biggest purchase ever. The biggest was Google’s 2011 buy of Motorola for $12.5 billion.