MONEY salary

The Real Reason Wal-Mart is Giving Workers a Raise

Walmart exterior
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Wal-Mart is no altruist on pay.

Wal-Mart WAL-MART STORES INC. WMT 0.28% made big headlines when it announced pay boosts for its lowest-paid employees. Some investors may be appalled by this “altruistic” news, but don’t worry: it makes perfect business sense, and Wal-Mart’s smart to do it.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based megaretailer has made waves by announcing that it’s raising its minimum salary; soon, its lowest paid employees will make $9 per hour and by next year, the level will go up to $10, well above the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Some people aren’t jazzed about Wal-Mart’s decision. The stock dropped on the news Thursday, and some analysts have issued downgrades. Those are short-sighted responses, though. Wal-Mart’s doing the smart thing by working on the most controversial element of its business, and the one that makes many consumers believe its low-priced merchandise just isn’t worth the cost to many Americans’ personal bottom lines.

The move is going to cost Wal-Mart about a billion dollars, and Wal-Mart’s CEO Doug McMillon talked up the morale-boosting element of the strategy, as well as the idea of giving employees “opportunity” and a career path. People may feel cynical about his statements, but the spirit there is right on. Employees who are treated well are more engaged, and are more likely to provide a positive customer experience.

Wal-Mart gets a lot more attention for worker strikes than for its customer service, and that’s a problem that’s long overdue for a fix.

Take this job and shove it

As it stands now, Wal-Mart’s rating on job reviews site Glassdoor.com is a dismal 2.8, with only 44% of reviewers willing to recommend working there to a friend. Compare that to Costco (3.9, 80% would recommend to a friend), Whole Foods (3.6, 73% would recommend to a friend), and Starbucks (3.7, 76% would recommend to a friend). We can throw McDonald’s in for good measure, since it often shares the hot seat with Wal-Mart — its rating is 3.0, with just 50% willing to recommend a job there to a pal.

There’s been increasing attention to severe income equality and the fact that many people working for companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s MCDONALD'S CORP. MCD 0.86% are making poverty wages (and are reliant on public subsidization, which of course means we all lose). Those in the ivory towers may say the recession’s over, but there are still a lot of people out there who haven’t seen their wages rise much if at all as the economy supposedly “recovered.”

On the other hand, companies like Costco COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION COST -0.56% , Whole Foods Market WHOLE FOODS MARKET INC. WFM -0.28% , and Starbucks STARBUCKS CORPORATION SBUX 0.31% , all treat their employees well — making them anomalies in the modern retail industry. (Starbucks, in fact, began rolling out a round of pay raises to baristas earlier this year.) They haven’t been subject to nearly the same amount of scathing scrutiny on the worker front as Wal-Mart has been.

Even more pointedly, they have managed to do so while being highly profitable, successful companies, and they have done what well-run capitalistic companies should do: they built employee care into their business missions without waiting for a law forcing them to.

Dollars and cents, not heart and soul

There are plenty of pins we can poke into the happy bubble of Wal-Mart’s announcement, not least of which is the fact that we’re still not talking about a heck of a lot of money even with the new wage floors. Wal-Mart’s wages would still leave some subsisting along the poverty line. Many activists have been rallying for what they peg as a more reasonable $15 per hour “living wage.”

Wal-Mart’s also not turning into a big softie. MarketWatch pointed out that the company’s press release not only included the news about the pay increase, but also a one-time $0.05 per share charge related to a “wage and litigation matter.” We all know that Wal-Mart’s been in the hot seat for years, but that is a good reminder that it’s facing dollars and cents risks on many fronts, including in court.

And of course, the specter of the possibility of a federal minimum wage hike hangs over it all as well. The truth is, should the minimum wage increase, companies like Wal-Mart that have already started dealing with it will be in a far better competitive and even financial position than those who haven’t. They — and you, if you’re a shareholder — will have a whole lot of peace of mind as the laggards struggle to adjust their businesses.

Positive reinforcement for positive business

All in all, though, maybe even the most critical among us should probably give Wal-Mart some credit for being on the right track. Business can be a force for positive change, and Wal-Mart’s high-profile move might help catalyze a little more of a voluntary “race to the top” regarding many Americans’ wages instead of the race to the bottom behavior that has been all too common in too many pockets of our economy.

And even the investors who are appalled at Wal-Mart’s doling out raises should think twice. Anyone who cares about capitalism and free markets should have always considered the idea that companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s actually weren’t doing any of us any favors by squeezing profits out of people and hardly budging over what the government demanded by law — resulting in a state in which so many citizens’ pay was so pathetically low that they have had to rely on public assistance.

Wal-Mart’s no altruist — it’s doing what it has to do, and it certainly seems like it could do more. Given Wal-Mart’s massive scale, though, this move will hopefully nudge more corporate managements to see the risk of not moving on this front. Not to mention highlighting to corporate American the importance of investing in its own employees. That would be a win for all of us.

TIME Executives

Starbucks CEO: Giuliani’s Obama Remarks ‘Vicious’

Howard Schultz
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz participates in a forum in Washington on Nov. 10, 2014.

The outspoken chief executive responded forcefully to the former New York mayor's comments

Though he recently told TIME he has no personal political ambitions, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hasn’t stopped stepping into the political fray.

On Friday, Schultz issued a statement lambasting former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Giuliani’s recent declaration that President Obama doesn’t love America. The comments were “vicious” and “profoundly offensive,” Schultz said.

Politico reported that on Wednesday, Giuliani was speaking at a private dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker when he said: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Schultz issued the following statement: “As an American, I find Rudy Giuliani’s vicious comments about President Obama ‘not loving America’ to be profoundly offensive to both the President and the Office.”

A Starbucks spokesperson on Friday morning said: “We are not providing any additional commentary around it.”

Schultz doesn’t hesitate to weigh in on political issues. In December, he raised some eyebrows when he addressed the shootings of black suspects by police offers. During an Open Forum at the Starbucks Support center in Seattle, he encouraged employees to talk about their own experiences with racism He released a video of that event, and, in a letter sent exclusively to TIME, he expressed his dismay over the situation. “I’m deeply saddened by what I have seen, and all too aware of the ripple effect,” he wrote.

Schultz has often decried the political gridlock in Washington. He has also addressed the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 an hour. On that issue, he tends to be circumspect. Starbucks pays more than the minimum wage and offers healthy benefits packages. Schultz supports raising the federal minimum, but he has said that raising it by too much—say, to $15 an hour, as some activists have demanded—would put a crimp on businesses, and lead to lower benefits and layoffs.

 

TIME Food & Drink

Starbucks Says Kenny G Helped Give Rise to the Frappuccino

Musician Kenny G visits the SiriusXM Studios on Jan. 28, 2015 in New York City.
Astrid Stawiarz — Getty Images Musician Kenny G visits the SiriusXM Studios on Jan. 28, 2015 in New York City.

The Grammy-winning musician claimed that he played a part in bringing about the delicious Starbucks beverage

When Kenny G revealed he had a hand in bringing about the Frappuccino, we thought a great piece of pop culture trivia had been unearthed.

During the promotion of his new album, Brazilian Nights, the Grammy-winner recounted how he had helped introduce the famous beverage to the Starbucks menu.

“Well, at the beginning, Starbucks didn’t have anything but coffee, and there was another company, Coffee Bean, that had something called blended … it was a sweet drink, and people were lined up around the block,” the sax star told Bloomberg.

So, Kenny G and coffee — who knew? And according to the Starbucks fact sheet, it looks like the Frappuccino has enjoyed a very rich — and delicious — history since it first debuted in 1995.

So what does Starbucks think of Kenny G’s comments?

“Kenny is a dear friend of Starbucks and an early investor in the company,” a spokesperson for Starbucks tells PEOPLE … “He did provide feedback on the creation of Frappuccino. That’s true … We are very appreciative of everyone, including Kenny, who’ve been a part of the success of Frappuccino.”

This article originally appeared on People.com.

MONEY home prices

The Surprising Thing That Will Boost Your Home’s Value

Starbucks coffee shop, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
John Greim—LightRocket via Getty Images

New research finds that a Starbucks opening in the neighborhood helps local property values.

When searching for a new home, buyers usually consider the usual suspects: square footage, number of bedrooms, amount of sunlight.

Vanessa Pappas had another factor in mind as well: coffee shop proximity.

When Pappas and partner C.C. Hirsch recently closed on a three-bedroom property in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, it didn’t hurt that her favorite macchiato place was only a half-block away.

“Coffee is important,” says Pappas, 36, global head of audience development for YouTube. “It’s our daily ritual, and we always go to see our friends who work there. It makes us feel like part of the neighborhood.”

It turns out that easy access to quality java has broader implications. Call it the Starbucks Effect: Proximity to a local coffee shop has a very real, and positive, effect on home values, new data shows.

“We looked for certain markers for where homes appreciated faster than others,” says Stan Humphries, chief economist at real estate marketplace Zillow and co-author (with chief executive Spencer Rascoff) of the book The New Rules of Real Estate.

“Coffee houses emerged early on as a big predictor of future home value. Within a quarter mile, close enough to smell the coffee brewing, that ring appreciates faster than rings further out,” Humphries says.

How much faster? Over 17 years tabulated by Zillow, leading up to 2014, homes adjacent to the local Starbucks almost doubled in value, up by 96%. Those further out appreciated by 65% over the same period.

And apparently not all coffee shops are created equal. Zillow researchers compared homes near Starbucks locations to those near Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts-adjacent properties also outperformed the wider market, rising 80% over 17 years, but they lagged those in the shadow of Starbucks.

Of course, there is a chicken-or-egg question here: Are coffee shops causing a boost in home values, or are the popular chains merely locating in promising neighborhoods that are already on the upswing?

Humphries’ discovery: Within the first few years of opening, Starbucks locations are actively helping local home values. After that, the outperformance of the broader market tends to diminish.

Whole Foods Effect

The coffee shop is hardly the only symbol of neighborhood gentrification. Researchers have found other amenities can have an even more powerful effect on home values.

Nearby specialty grocers, for instance, can lead to a 17.5% home-price premium, according to Portland, Oregon-based real estate consultancy Johnson Economics. That compares to a more modest 4.5% for coffee shops.

In that sense the Starbucks Effect might be more accurately be termed the Whole Foods Effect, according to the firm’s principal, Jerry Johnson, referring to the natural food supermarket chain.

Also significantly affecting nearby home prices, according to the Johnson Economics study: cinemas, wine shops, and garden stores.

Given Starbucks’ massive resources, it is perhaps not surprising that the Seattle-based chain is adept at picking out promising spots. After all, the company employs entire teams of professionals devoted to pinpointing optimal locations.

“Where we choose to locate our stores is as important as how we design them,” says Michael Malanga, Starbucks’ senior vice president of store development.

For potential homebuyers, it’s like heading into an exam with the answer key. Assuming that significant market research has gone into every store opening, buyers can piggyback on those positive conclusions.

“There are substantial resources spent by Starbucks headquarters to figure this stuff out and find where the best locations are going to be,” says Zillow’s Humphries. “So for homebuyers, you can essentially draft off the work that Starbucks has already done for you.”

As for YouTube’s Pappas, she’s not a fan of Starbucks. She prefers her local Brooklyn spot—Krupa Grocery. But she isn’t surprised that coffee shops turn out to be a reliable predictor of home-price appreciation.

“Especially in New York City, you want to be able to walk to everything,” says Pappas. “Having a coffee shop within eyesight is a big plus.”

TIME Starbucks

Howard Schultz Has a Radical Plan for Starbucks—And America

Photograph by Ian Allen for TIME

The outspoken Starbucks CEO tells TIME about his plans to transform his business

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has big plans for the future of his coffee empire. In a new cover story, the 61-year-old executive gives TIME’s Rana Foroohar a preview of the company’s transformation, much of it designed to cope with a rapidly changing American middle class. In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview Schultz describes the firm’s strategy to move up market, delving into the personal history that has shaped his beliefs on issues ranging from the working poor to race relations.

Just as fashion brands have haute ­couture and mass-market lines, Starbucks this year will start opening a series of luxury Reserve stores, where customers can get a more rarefied and expensive assortment of coffee. (Some may experiment with selling wine.) Expect many more specialized formats designed for specific places, like express stores coming to New York City or mobile trucks currently on college campuses. Over the next five years, Schultz will be busy retooling the Starbucks experience, in large part by experimenting with ways to draw in ever-more-fickle ­consumers.

To read the full story, please subscribe to TIME. More from the story:

On whether he will run for President in 2016, Schultz insists to TIME that he’s not interested in running for office at the moment, saying, “I don’t think that is a solution. I don’t think it ends well.” For now, Schultz says he’s content to, “see what Hillary does.”

On Starbucks’ coffee-­sales figures from nearly 12,000 stores nationwide, Schultz says: “We have a lens on almost every community in America…. At 4:30 in the morning, I wake up and see the numbers of basically every store from yesterday.” Over the past few years, says Schultz, they’ve pointed to a “fractured level of trust and confidence” that he attributes in large part to a sense that government is no longer functional and that no one is looking out for the welfare of the middle and working classes.

On how businesses should operate in America: “I think the private sector simply has to take a larger role than they have in the past. Our responsibility goes beyond the P&L and our stock price…. If half the country or at least a third of the country doesn’t have the same opportunities as the rest going forward, then the country won’t survive. That’s not socialism.”

On growing up while struggling with poverty in the housing projects of Canarsie, Brooklyn: “When you say you went to Canarsie High School, you get a whole new level of street cred!”

Grover Norquist talks to TIME about how Starbucks can act as a model for a kind of business federalism in which the private sector does things better and faster than government, saying: “Howard isn’t saying, Hey, I’ll give you a check. He’s saying, I want your skills, [at the same time] that he’s changing the cost of education by revolutionizing education itself. He’s backing into the reform of public education.”

His friend David Geffen says: “I first told Howard he should run back in 2008. We were having a very intense conversation about things that were happening in the country, and Howard had a strong point of view about various things…. We both felt there was a lot of corruption in government and a lack of conviction to put things right.

Read next: Starbucks For America

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Food & Drink

Starbucks Is Making a Special Seahawks Frappuccino for the Super Bowl

Starbucks The Seahawks Frappuccino debuts Friday in honor of the team playing in the Super Bowl.

The beverage is blue and green in honor of the team's colors

Seahawks fans in Washington and Oregon now have one more high-calorie way to cheer on their team at the Super Bowl this weekend: with a Seahawks-themed Frappuccino.

Seattle-based Starbucks announced that the beverage was invented by an employee in Kent, Wash., who added blueberries to a vanilla bean crème Frappuccino, then topped it with green tea matcha-infused whip cream, reflecting the team’s colors.

Fans can get the drink at participating stores in those two states from Friday through Monday. But should the Seahawks lose the game, it’s hard to imagine the drink will be too popular on Monday morning.

MONEY Fast Food

5 Problems That’ll Challenge McDonald’s No Matter Who’s CEO

A McDonald's restaurant in Encinitas, California.
Mike Blake—Reuters

The McDonald's McFamily will have a new head honcho in early 2015, and he has his work cut out for him.

Amid slumping sales and years of losing customers to Chipotle and other fast casual contenders, McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson announced this week that he would be retiring in March. “It’s tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything,” Thompson said in a press release.

His replacement, current chief brand officer Steve Easterbrook, will take over a McFamily with many problems to address—problems that, given McDonald’s muddled sense of mission of late and overarching changes in demographics and the marketplace, have seemed difficult if not impossible to solve. Among the issues that need attention:

Millennials
Generally speaking, millennials love food and dining out, and yet their preferences—customizable options, transparency, and fare that’s healthier, more sustainable, and altogether superior compared to any cheap cookie-cutter fast food joint—are the exact opposite of what McDonald’s is known for. McDonald’s has made some moves clearly aimed at winning over millennials, including ventures into personalized, make-your-own burgers and potentially adding brunch menu items (brunch is a Gen Y obsession). McDonald’s has also dramatically expanded the menu over the years with the hopes of drawing in more young customers. Yet many of these initiatives have proven to be costly, and they’ve failed to make McDonald’s a top choice among millennials—who tend to favor Starbucks, Chipotle, and other more upscale fast casual contenders over McDonald’s or any old-fashioned fast food establishment.

No Hot New Product
Around this time last year, business reporters were proclaiming that McDonald’s desperately needed to add a “miracle” product to the menu like Wendy’s did with its Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. That once-limited-time-only burger proved such a hit that Wendy’s added it to the permanent menu last summer. Other recent monumental successes in the fast food world include Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos line of tacos.

Of course, McDonald’s has regularly rolled out plenty of new menu items with the hope of them breaking out as phenomenal best-sellers. But new contenders like fish nuggets and habanero Quarter Pounders have come up way short of being runaway successes, and another recent menu addition, overpriced chicken wings, was a huge flop. The Wall Street Journal has reported that McDonald’s most recent “bona fide blockbuster” new product, which stayed on the menu and impacted sales in a significant way, was the McGriddle pancake breakfast sandwich, introduced back in 2003.

Pricing
McDonald’s decades-long value pitch is that it’s a quick and inexpensive place to eat, and that reputation has hurt the fast food giant lately in two ways: 1) It’s difficult to raise prices and offer “premium” items like the doomed Angus burger because the customer base, accustomed to cheaper prices, won’t pay up; and 2) because McDonald’s food is fast and cheap, the assumption is that the quality must be low. As one fast food franchise consultant told the Associated Press, “It’s the whole perception people get when you sell something cheaply.”

McDonald’s needs its coffee giveaways and low-price value menu to pull in diners even though these items result in little to no profits. Yet to increase profits and better compete with the likes of Starbucks, Panera Bread, and Chipotle, McDonald’s is constantly trying to entice customers into spending more on “gourmet” and “premium” options like espressos and McWraps. As a result, service has slowed, lowering the value proposition at the same time, and McDonald’s pricing doesn’t make sense to many customers. When there are a bunch of burgers for under $2 in the Dollar Menu & More section, it’s puzzling why anyone would pay $5 or so for what seems like a very similar burger on the regular menu.

Focus
This problem is closely related to how McDonald’s pricing is all over the map. That, along with the fact that the McDonald’s menu has expanded to the point of being unwieldy and slowing down operations, has left franchisee owners angry and deeply concerned that the company has lost its sense of focus. McDonald’s recently announced intentions to scale back the menu and put some items on the chopping block. But such a measure could create its own problems. After all, some of the items likely to be downsized or cut, including espressos and McWraps, were added to menus to woo millennials and consumers who otherwise probably wouldn’t dine at McDonald’s.

Haters
During the Golden Globes, McDonald’s aired a “Signs” commercial campaign showing how different restaurant locations posted messages in support of local causes, the troops, and 9/11. Loads of people took to social media to say how much they hated the ad. Last year, McDonald’s introduced a new Happy Meal mascot and Ronald McDonald got a makeover. Both efforts were declared “terrifying,” while the former was also categorized as “nightmarish” and the latter was described as the face of the “saddest place on Earth.”

Heck, even when McDonald’s launches a broad “transparency” campaign answering questions about where its food comes from and how it is processed, the company is bashed for admitting to unhealthy practices and because of skepticism about other things still being hid.

The point is: People love to hate McDonald’s. In a story I wrote about the reaction on social media to the new Happy Meal mascot, Steve Connelly, of the Boston ad agency Connelly Partners, put things in perspective by explaining there are legions of opinionated consumers out there who consider McDonald’s “a piñata” rather than simply just another brand or place to eat. Many people will “keep bashing the hell out of them every chance you get because they stand for evil and are making the nation fat. Sometimes I think if McDonald’s came up with a cure for cancer they would get bashed for it.”

Surely, McDonald’s hates how much hate it attracts. And it’s up to the new leadership to figure out how to change perceptions that have built up over generations in the U.S. and abroad. They have to find a way to convince the haters to stop hating.

TIME

The 1 Weird Reason You’re Tipping More

TIME.com stock photos Money Dollar Bills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

These tricks businesses use could make you more likely to tip

If you buy a cup of coffee or lunch and your server pulls out an iPad, pay attention: You could wind up leaving a higher tip without even realizing it.

When software research company Software Advice surveyed consumers who use iPads or similar devices to buy food and drink, it found that the use of iPads increases the amount many people tip when they pay. More than four in 10 consumers say being in close proximity to their server at the time of the transaction can prompt them to leave a tip when they otherwise might not have.

What’s more, nearly 30% of respondents say they would be more likely to tip if they had to tap a button that says “no tip,” a feature many establishments use.

“This is especially more prevalent at places like coffee shops or at food trucks where the person taking your card is standing right in front of you,” says Justin Guinn, retail market researcher at Software Advice. “People might feel awkward pressing a ‘no tip’ button with the server or cashier looking right at them, waiting for them to make a choice. There’s an undeniable guilty feeling,” he says.

Others also have observed this phenomenon in restaurants that use digital tipping, and even in taxi fleets that have been converted to accept credit cards via touch screens in the back seat.

“I think there’s some kind of a casino effect,” Manny Pena, owner of a New York City cafe. tells Bon Appetit magazine. “You don’t comprehend that it’s real money.”

And in some cases, establishments take advantage of the addition of iPads to tweak the standard tip — rather than offer customers a range with 15% at the midpoint, 15% or even 18% might be the starting point. Reflexively hitting the center option without thinking about it could lead to paying a few percentage points more.

When coffee giant Starbucks added the ability for a customer to leave a tip to their barista using the payment function on their mobile app, they included dollar amounts up to $2 — which adds up to a whopping 50% tip even if you’re paying $4 for your caffeine fix.

It could be guilt at work, or it could be the convenience of paying with a couple of taps, according to Guinn.

“Whether or not patrons are ‘feeling the pressure’ to tip more because the server is standing next to them certainly seems to be a factor in the amount they’re leaving,” he says. “However, since the iPad is streamlining the ordering and paying process overall, it could be the convenience of the iPad itself.”

 

 

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