Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Tipping points

New research from Austria suggests that playing either upbeat or sad music can increase the amount of tips serving staff receive.

Neutral piano music has no effect but “uplifting music makes people happy and the better mood someone is in the more they tip. Melancholic music nurtures people’s helping behaviour. The manipulated customers want to hep the serving staff with higher  tips than usual” says Annika Beer a psychologist at the University of Innsbruck.

The tipping effect applied particularly to older customers, perhaps because they listen to less music than younger people, or it could be that younger people have less disposable income.

The experiment was carried out in quite an upmarket restaurant where the average bill for two people was about £90 (the average tip was £3.50 more under the experimental condition).

There has been other research on tipping behaviour suggesting that waitresses who wear red lipstick do better and touching the customer’s hand as you give them the bill can increase tips.

There is also research that suggests that playing faster music will make customers finish their meals quicker – obviously an ideal in fast food restaurants.

American fast-food workers want a better deal

group_of_protesters_1600_wht_9442America is being put to the test by fast-food workers demanding better wages – almost doubling it to $15 an hour.

McDonald’s is only one of the companies affected. KFC, WEndy’s and even Victoria’s secret and Macey’s have felt the wrath of their underpaid workers who typically earn about $8 an hour, often less in restaurants where tips are expected to make it up to a reasonable level.

The wage at McDonald’s is a starvation wage ie about 30% below the official poverty budget. McDonald’s recently made the wrong kind of headlines when they published a guide budget for its employees which backfired  when it only proved that you needed a second job or had to live without food or heating!

The US stock market is at an historic high but the benefits are not being felt by the average worker. Unemployment is falling but mainly due to part-time jobs or jobs without benefits.

The five largest employers in the US including Walmart and McDonald’s pay minimum wage or close to it and it only works because the government provides food stamps and Medicare. It’s these workers, who are educated with families but find themselves in McJobs not students doing it for pocket money, who are leading the protests.

The government is considering raising the minimum wage to $10 over the next three years but that will hardly meet the demands of these workers.

The interesting thing is that these are not union-led protests (which Walmart wouldn’t entertain anyway) but social protests. The protestors see companies making big profits and getting tax breaks. Whether they can be successful or not is doubtful when he top companies are all minimum wage which means that many workers will fall into the poverty trap at some point in their lives.