The Tipping Point

I tweeted this article about tipping your housekeeper earlier this week, but I wanted to discuss it more.

Every hotel handles their tipping slightly differently, and this makes it extra confusing for guests whether they’re travel veterans or not. Some properties charge what’s called a flat “resort fee” to eliminate this issue, so that basically guests aren’t expected to tip their housekeeper, bellhop or valet. The article mentions some other tactics that hotels use to encourage tipping, but I can’t say that I’m a 100% fan of any of them. A resort fee is great, so long as your service is up to par, guests will begin to feel a little ripped off if they’re being charged a resort fee and the service they receive is less than stellar. Ways of “reminding” the guest to tip are probably fairly effective, but I wonder how many guests are insulted, or a bit put off but such reminders no matter how subtle.

When traveling I almost always tip housekeeping, and I try to educate my friends and family to do the same when traveling. As a whole I think housekeepers get under tipped in the industry, and I try not to be part of that problem. But I also make sure to have some cash for the valet, the bellhop, and the concierge if I utilize their services. That’s just something I budget for when I’m traveling and selecting the caliber of property that I’m staying at, and also what services I’ll use. I obviously don’t need to tip the bellhop if I carry my own bags to my room. I will say, on my previously blogged trip away to a friends’ wedding, we didn’t leave a tip because it was obvious the room hadn’t been cleaned that well before our arrival. In my opinion the tip is as much for the housekeeper cleaning your room after you leave as it is for the one that cleaned it before you got there. If you get to a hotel at 6 PM and your room isn’t ready, you can consider not leaving a housekeeping tip in my opinion. It might not be the housekeeper’s fault, but there’s a good chance it is in some way. If your meal comes out cooked wrong or cold, you’re likely to deduct from the tip of your server even if it could have been the kitchen’s fault.

At the Front Desk, I rarely got tipped and sometimes it was a little weird when I did. Sometimes the tip made perfect sense, I had done something exceptional for the guest, and they had decided to express their gratitude in an appropriate and appreciated way. Hugs are less appropriate and usually less appreciated, but that’s happened to. However, I also hated it when someone slipped me a tip to try an incentivize me to do something for them (like find them an upgrade), because it wasn’t always something within my control, and it felt more like a bribe then a gratuity since it came before the service was rendered or even certain. Then there were times where I did something exceptional and while a tip wasn’t necessarily required, it certainly would have been nice, but it never showed up. And of course, there were the really weird tips that I got and I didn’t even know why. I tried to take a lesson from that, that sometimes what seems like a very little thing to me, can make a startling difference for my guest.

At my job now, I do housekeeping inspections once or twice a week on average. We’re a small property and everyone wears many hats. Even our GM checks rooms once a week usually. My property pools the housekeeping tips as a solution to some of the questions stated in the article. So once or twice a week I see what the tips are in the actual rooms, and I can say first hand that the 30% average figure seems accurate for the number of guests. Especially when you take into account the guests that leave $20 for a one night stay in a not so messy room and then all the guests that leave nothing or very little. Did you know some people really just leave pocket change? How is that even close to appropriate? I don’t even clean the rooms, and now that we pool the tips our housekeepers don’t even see the coins left for them, but I’m offended on their behalf. If you’re that strapped for cash, maybe you shouldn’t be traveling at all. Or at least I’d rather you left nothing behind and did something small that actually helps the housekeepers, like stripping the sheets from your bed. I know you “shouldn’t have to” do something like that when you’re paying for a room, I’m just saying from the standpoint of curtsey if you’re financially too strapped to leave a gratuity. It kind of says “thanks”. If you don’t want to tip the bellhop, carry your own bags. If you don’t want to tip the valet, self park your car (assuming that’s an option). If you don’t want to pay the automatic 15-18% service fee, don’t order room service, leave your room to eat. BTW you don’t need to tip you above that 15-18% unless you want to tip them more. If you use the concierge and find that they gave you good advice and really made a pleasant impact on your stay, then leave them something at the end of your stay.

Housekeepers work hard every day, the ones that don’t work hard, usually don’t stick around long in the position. And most of them take pride in the rooms they leave behind them. Bellhops and valets are usually minimum wage positions that rely on healthy tipping. Good concierge are highly specialized and well-trained experts that can drastically alter the quality of your stay, but while they’re not usually considered a “tipped” position for tax purposes, many of them rely on tips. I know several concierge that keep themselves up to date on their area (restaurants and attractions) on their own time and on their own money, so some extra cash helps to make sure they have the ability to keep providing you and other guests with great service. It doesn’t have to me much, just don’t leave pocket change, and be genuine about it. What would you want to receive if you were in their shoes?

Lastly, if you’re not able to leave a tip, but you take advantage of some or all of these services, take a moment to fill out your comment card and give some praise to the people who gave you good or great service. Those cards get read by owners and managers usually (at any decent property) and shout outs for great service get acknowledged. If you can’t give them a few buts, give them that extra shout out to the people who make decisions. Usually word will get back to the person that helped you so much, I like to post really great guest comments where the employees can read them. Even better it can affect the management’s decisions about raises, bonuses, and maybe even overall employment. If you can’t tip, use that comment card. I even prefer a nice comment card over a guest stopping to speak with me personally (on the phone or in person), because people higher up than me will see that comment card and it to a certain extent reflects on my entire department.

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