Why Businesses Can’t Stop Asking for Tips | Kanebridge News
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,526,212 (+1.41%)       Melbourne $950,600 (-0.81%)       Brisbane $848,079 (+0.39%)       Adelaide $783,680 (+0.69%)       Perth $722,301 (+0.42%)       Hobart $727,777 (-0.40%)       Darwin $644,340 (-0.88%)       Canberra $873,193 (-2.75%)       National $960,316 (+0.31%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $711,149 (+0.79%)       Melbourne $480,050 (-0.07%)       Brisbane $471,869 (+1.52%)       Adelaide $395,455 (-0.79%)       Perth $396,215 (+0.44%)       Hobart $535,914 (-1.67%)       Darwin $365,715 (+0.11%)       Canberra $487,485 (+1.06%)       National $502,310 (+0.25%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,985 (+170)       Melbourne 11,869 (-124)       Brisbane 8,074 (+47)       Adelaide 2,298 (-22)       Perth 6,070 (+20)       Hobart 993 (+24)       Darwin 282 (-4)       Canberra 809 (+43)       National 39,380 (+154)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 7,927 (+125)       Melbourne 6,997 (+50)       Brisbane 1,822 (+3)       Adelaide 488 (+5)       Perth 1,915 (-1)       Hobart 151 (+3)       Darwin 391 (-9)       Canberra 680 (+5)       National 20,371 (+181)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $750 (-$20)       Melbourne $580 ($0)       Brisbane $590 (+$10)       Adelaide $570 (-$5)       Perth $600 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $700 (+$5)       Canberra $670 (+$10)       National $633 (-$1)                    UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $700 (-$20)       Melbourne $558 (+$8)       Brisbane $590 ($0)       Adelaide $458 (-$3)       Perth $550 ($0)       Hobart $450 ($0)       Darwin $550 ($0)       Canberra $540 (-$10)       National $559 (-$4)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,224 (-134)       Melbourne 5,097 (+90)       Brisbane 3,713 (-84)       Adelaide 1,027 (-3)       Perth 1,568 (-46)       Hobart 471 (-3)       Darwin 127 (+13)       Canberra 658 (-32)       National 17,885 (-199)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,171 (-343)       Melbourne 5,447 (-170)       Brisbane 1,682 (-22)       Adelaide 329 (+3)       Perth 561 (-11)       Hobart 159 (-6)       Darwin 176 (+16)       Canberra 597 (-12)       National 17,122 (-545)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 2.56% (↓)       Melbourne 3.17% (↓)     Brisbane 3.62% (↑)        Adelaide 3.78% (↓)       Perth 4.32% (↓)     Hobart 3.93% (↑)      Darwin 5.65% (↑)      Canberra 3.99% (↑)        National 3.43% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 5.12% (↓)       Melbourne 6.04% (↓)       Brisbane 6.50% (↓)     Adelaide 6.02% (↑)        Perth 7.22% (↓)     Hobart 4.37% (↑)      Darwin 7.82% (↑)        Canberra 5.76% (↓)       National 5.79% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 1.0% (↑)      Melbourne 0.7% (↑)      Brisbane 0.8% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)        Perth 0.4% (↓)       Hobart 1.2% (↓)     Darwin 0.5% (↑)      Canberra 1.5% (↑)      National 0.8% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND         Sydney 1.3% (↓)     Melbourne 1.6% (↑)      Brisbane 0.9% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 0.7% (↑)      Hobart 2.2% 2.0% (↑)      Darwin 1.0% (↑)        Canberra 1.7% (↓)     National 1.3% (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND       Sydney 27.0 (↑)        Melbourne 28.3 (↓)     Brisbane 32.3 (↑)      Adelaide 26.3 (↑)      Perth 34.9 (↑)        Hobart 33.4 (↓)     Darwin 48.7 (↑)        Canberra 27.6 (↓)     National 32.3 (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 27.0 (↓)       Melbourne 29.0 (↓)     Brisbane 33.0 (↑)        Adelaide 27.5 (↓)     Perth 38.2 (↑)      Hobart 33.4 (↑)      Darwin 48.3 (↑)      Canberra 33.2 (↑)      National 33.7 (↑)            
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Why Businesses Can’t Stop Asking for Tips

Employers far beyond restaurants rely on the practice to avoid paying higher wages; testing customer limits

Mon, Jul 24, 2023 8:39amGrey Clock 5 min

American businesses have gotten hooked on tipping.

Tip requests have spread far beyond the restaurants and bars that have long relied on them to supplement employee wages. Juice shops, appliance-repair firms and even plant stores are among the service businesses now asking customers to hand over some extra money to their workers.

“The U.S. economy is more tip-reliant than it’s ever been,” said Scheherezade Rehman, an economist and professor of international finance at George Washington University. “But there’s a growing sense that these requests are getting out of control and that corporate America is dumping the responsibility for employee pay onto the customer.”

Some businesses that are new to tipping said they have turned to the practice to try to retain workers in a competitive job market while also keeping their prices low. Asking for tips allows them to increase worker pay without raising their wages.

Consumers seeing tip prompts at every turn say they are overwhelmed—and that worker wages should be business owners’ responsibility, not theirs.

Sixteen percent of the 517 small businesses surveyed by employee-management software company Homebase for The Wall Street Journal ask customers to leave a tip at checkout, up from 6.2% in 2019.

Payroll company Paychex, which provides software for thousands of businesses in leisure, hospitality, retail and other service industries, said more employees are receiving tips as a portion of their pay than at any time since the company started tracking tipping in 2010. As of May, 6.3% of workers whose employers used the software earned tips, compared with 5.6% in 2020. The number remained relatively flat between 2016 and 2020.

As of June, service-sector workers in non-restaurant leisure and hospitality jobs made $1.35 an hour in tips, on average, up 30% from the $1.04 an hour they made in 2019, according to an analysis of 300,000 small and midsize businesses by payroll provider Gusto.

Tips now increase wages for service workers by an average of 25%, compared with 20% between 2019 and 2020, according to Gusto. In May, the average hourly service-industry worker earned $16.64 an hour in base wages and $4.23 an hour in tips.

During pandemic lockdowns, customers of many service businesses began tipping to acknowledge workers who put themselves at risk. Rehman said that made businesses reliant on the practice. Employers with already tight margins say there’s no going back.

“With businesses still preparing for the possibility of a recession, they don’t want to lock into higher wages,” said Jonathan Morduch, a professor of public policy and economics at New York University. “Tipping gives them more flexibility.” He said the practice pushes the financial risk that employers would ordinarily shoulder onto workers.

“Businesses are happy to let workers earn more from tips, especially when there’s no pressure to raise the tipped minimum,” he said, referring to the $2.13 an hour plus tips many bar and restaurant workers across the country earn.

Holding on to workers has been especially difficult in the services sector, particularly since the pandemic. Lodging and food service have had the highest quit rate for workers since July 2021, consistently above 4.9% per three months, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a May 2023 report. The quit rate for the retail trade industry isn’t far behind, around 3.3% so far in 2023. In May 2023, the overall quit rate for workers was 2.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dan Moreno, founder of Miami-based Flamingo Appliance Service, decided in 2020 to add an option for customers to tip his employees, reasoning that his home-repair technicians were taking health risks by entering customers’ homes during the pandemic.

About one-third of customers now leave a tip of between 10% and 20%, Moreno said. The requests add an average of $650 a year to his 182 technicians’ salaries, about 1% of their total yearly income.

Rising costs, he said, persuaded him to retain the option after the pandemic abated.

“You wouldn’t believe the margins we operate with,” he said. Competition for workers is fierce. Were he to eliminate the gratuity prompt, he said, he would have to raise prices beyond the 18% he already has, on average, since 2019—likely costing him clients.

He knows the requests might turn off some customers, but as the son of a repair technician and a former technician himself, he said, he tries to do as much as he can for his workers.

Within the food-service industry, tips as a share of compensation are rising faster at limited-service establishments such as bakeries and coffee shops than at full-service ones, according to Gusto.

At the Main Squeeze Juice Co. in Mandeville, La., tips add $3 to $5 to workers’ hourly pay, which starts at $10. Owner Zachary Cheaney said he added the option when he opened the location in 2020.

“We can’t just say, ‘Oh, we’re going to charge $2 extra’ instead of having tips, because we have a duty to our customers to have a very fair price point,” said Cheaney, who also consults for Main Squeeze’s corporate office. If customers think the price is too high, he said, they won’t return. Asking them to tip, he said, is different because it’s optional.

“If customers completely stopped tipping, we would be forced to pay employees more, and it would be hard on us as business operators in this crazy environment of rising costs,” he said.

The juice bar’s general manager, Tiffany Naquin, said tips make up about one-tenth of her $46,000 annual pay. Workers like tips, she said, “in all industries. It’s that little extra.” Knowing a customer will see a gratuity screen at the end motivates employees, she said. “If you give employees incentives, they are going to give you better work,” she said.

Checkouts that include a tip screen are more awkward for customers than for workers, she said. She understands if someone declines to tip, she said, and she wouldn’t let that affect the quality of service.

Morduch, the New York University economics professor, said that while most people tend to think of tips as steady income, many businesses fluctuate seasonally—which means employee pay goes up and down. Service workers who receive tips, he added, are often lower income and struggle to deal with such volatility.

Saru Jayaraman, a labor advocate and director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, said that boosting tips without increasing base pay is bad for workers. If customers stop tipping, she said, worker pay effectively declines, which it wouldn’t if employees got a raise.

“Employers think they’re being smart by using tipping instead of raising wages,” she said. “But really they’re risking losing staff, because it’s pissing consumers off and the employees are the ones who have to deal with it.”

A May survey of about 2,400 Americans by financial services company Bankrate found that consumers are tipping less often than they did at the height of the pandemic. Forty-one percent of respondents said businesses should pay their employees better rather than rely so much on tips. Roughly a third said tipping culture is out of hand.

Denver retiree Mary Medley, though, said she sees being a generous tipper as part of her economic responsibility. For her, it isn’t about how difficult a task was, but whether she can lighten someone else’s financial burden, even a little.

“It’s not my job to figure out where it goes or how it gets distributed,” she said. “But if they’re giving me the opportunity to participate in supporting a business in a tangible way, I’ll do so.”


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Now the bad: Office attendance in big cities is still barely half of what it was in 2019, and company get-tough measures are proving largely ineffective at boosting that rate much higher.

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More than before, chief executives at blue-chip companies are stepping up efforts to fill their workspace. Facebook parent Meta Platforms, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase are among the companies that have recently vowed to get tougher on employees who don’t show upIn August, Meta told employees they could face disciplinary action if they regularly violate new workplace rules.

But these actions haven’t yet moved the national return rate needle much, and a majority of companies remain content to allow employees to work at least part-time remotely despite the tough talk.

Most employees go into offices during the middle of the week, but floors are sparsely populated on Mondays and Fridays. In Chicago, some September days had a return rate of over 66%. But it was below 30% on Fridays. In New York, it ranges from about 25% to 65%, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks security-card swipes.

Overall, the average return rate in the 10 U.S. cities tracked by Kastle Systems matched the recent high of 50.4% of 2019 levels for the week ended Sept. 20, though it slid a little below half the following week.

The disappointing return rates are another blow to office owners who are struggling with vacancy rates near record highs. The national office average vacancy rose to 19.2% last quarter, just below the historical peak of 19.3% in 1991, according to Moody’s Analytics preliminary third-quarter data.

Business leaders in New York, Detroit, Seattle, Atlanta and Houston interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said they have seen only slight improvements in sidewalk activity and attendance in office buildings since Labor Day.

“It feels a little fuller but at the margins,” said Sandy Baruah, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business group.

Lax enforcement of return-to-office rules is one reason employees feel they can still work from home. At a roundtable business discussion in Houston last week, only one of the 12 companies that attended said it would enforce a return-to-office policy in performance reviews.

“It was clearly a minority opinion that the others shook their heads at,” said Kris Larson, chief executive of Central Houston Inc., a group that promotes business in the city and sponsored the meeting.

Making matters worse, business leaders and city officials say they see more forces at work that could slow the return to office than those that could accelerate it.

Covid-19 cases are up and will likely increase further in the fall and winter months. “If we have to go back to distancing and mask protocols, that really breaks the office culture,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the business group Partnership for New York City.

Many cities are contending with an increase in homelessness and crime. San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which are struggling with these problems, are among the lowest return-to-office cities in the Kastle System index.

About 90% of members surveyed by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said that the city couldn’t recover until homelessness and public safety problems were addressed, said Rachel Smith, chief executive. That is taken into account as companies make decisions about returning to the office and how much space they need, she added.

Cuts in government services and transportation are also taking a toll. Wait times for buses run by Houston’s Park & Ride system, one of the most widely used commuter services, have increased partly because of labor shortages, according to Larson of Central Houston.

The commute “is the remaining most significant barrier” to improving return to office, Larson said.

Some landlords say that businesses will have more leverage in enforcing return-to-office mandates if the economy weakens. There are already signs of such a shift in cities that depend heavily on the technology sector, which has been seeing slowing growth and layoffs.

But a full-fledged recession could hurt office returns if it results in widespread layoffs. “Maybe you get some relief in more employees coming back,” said Dylan Burzinski, an analyst with real-estate analytics firm Green Street. “But if there are fewer of those employees, it’s still a net negative for office.”

The sluggish return-to-office rate is leading many city and business leaders to ask the federal government for help. A group from the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition recently met with elected officials in Washington, D.C., lobbying for incentives for businesses that make commitments to U.S. downtowns.

Baruah, from the Detroit chamber, was among the group. He said the chances of such legislation being passed were low. “We might have to reach crisis proportions first,” he said. “But we’re trying to lay the groundwork now.”


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