A very common topic amongst travelers, especially in the U.S., is on tipping; namely who to tip, how much and when. You would think this would be an easy topic. Stay in room for a night, leave a certain amount of money as a housekeeping tip. But simple it isn’t! Ask a hundred different people on their tipping practice and get a hundred different answers – until today.
I queried lots of travelers from all walks of life (business travelers, hoteliers, etiquette leaders and more) on the topic of tipping housekeepers. I got a lot of varying answers. Through it all I could see a pattern emerging.
Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in corporate etiquette training. She agrees that tipping is a huge issue for everyone – it’s very confusing! She recommends travelers to bring extra white envelopes, write “Housekeeping” on the outside, and place the envelope on the pillow or someplace you are sure they will see it. Tip daily. (If you need envelopes, the hotel’s Front Desk can usually supply them.)
Barbara Williamson of bestfriends.org feels that the maids who take pride in their job and give you a sparkling room to stay in deserve a tip. She tries to learn the names of the maids and calls them by their name when she sees them again. When she does know their name, she writes their name on an envelope that contains a tip.
Jan Cullinane, co-author, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life says that she used to be sporadic about tipping maids at hotels. But after reading Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, she always tips. Ehrenreich’s searing account of working as a hotel maid changed Jan’s haphazard tipping practices permanently. I’ve read this book, as well. It’s an eye-opener on minimum wage jobs and very well worth the read.
Constance Hoffman, Coach, Speaker and Owner of Social & Business Graces has authored “Tips on Tipping.” She recommends $3-5 per day considering you are not the messy type, and to always leave the cash, no change, on the desk or television stand along with a brief note of a simple “Thank You”. Never leave the money on the night stand nor on the pillow/bed where it can be confusing as to whether it’s for the maid or not. If someone makes a special trip just for your request, it is appropriate to tip them. (I do not usually tip the maid if they have forgotten to supply my room with towels, coffee or tissue.)
Gail S. Leicht of skinnyguide.com noticed that if she didn’t leave a note or something, the maid wouldn’t necessarily take the money. So she’s gotten into the habit of writing a “Thanks” note and leaving this with the money.
Cathy Svacina follows a similar practice of leaving a daily minimum of $2.00 or more if her husband is traveling with her. She tips the very first morning of her stay, and writes a note thanking them for her clean room. She gets excellent service from then on out and she continues to tip each day. Cathy always put the money specifically on the table with a note so they have no questions that it is for them, along with a smiley face that translates across all languages!
Mary Federico, a domestic and international business travel for 30 years, used to leave her tip at the end of her stay until a colleague pointed out that the same person doesn’t necessarily do the same room every day, and might have a day off on the last day of Mary’s stay. So now she tips every day, usually $3-5, depending on the room.
Another long-time business traveler didn’t know if cash tips were allowed to go on her expense report so she generally did not tip. This is another confusing area and corporate travel departments should be clear to document their policy on cash tips.
Randy Morris from the Middlebury Inn in Middlebury, Vermont has experience as a housekeeper, server, room service attendant and Food & Beverage Manager. Randy points out that that over the years tipping has dramatically decreased. 75% of the time, people no longer tip for luggage, room service or housekeeping. What many people don’t realize, Randy says, is that the people in these positions are usually paid minimum wage with the expectation that the guest will help make up the rest in tips. He said that housekeepers are the hardest working and least appreciated employees of a hotel in particular. They get to clean up our garbage, dirty towels, bathtub, stained sheets, and even worse things, too disgusting to mention, from some guests.
Randy suggests that $2 a day is a good minimum but he usually tries to leave $5. If you have kids or know you really made a mess of the room, leave a little more (similar to what should be done in a restaurant setting), and he tips daily. With his experience in the hotel business, he says that most housekeepers take care of a maximum of 10 rooms. If you break it down to $2 a day, they will receive a tip of $20 per 7 hour shift – not really much when you consider how hard they have to work for this.
Bruce Claver, CRDE (certified rooms division executive) at The Union League Club of Chicago is a hotel professional with 20+ years in hospitality who concurs with Randy Morris. Bruce adds that if you would like to leave the tip at the end of your stay, ask the room attendant ahead of time if it will be his or her day off on your departure date (or contact the Executive Housekeeper). Also, realize that there are males who service rooms.
After watching the television show “Undercover Boss” with the CEO of Choice Hotels, I definitely have a more realistic picture of what housekeepers deal with each day. If you haven’t seen this show, here’s a link to the full episode: CBS Undercover Boss with Choice Hotels. Watch it before the video expires.
So to sum up the answers, tips for housekeepers are suggested to be $2 to $5 each day, tipped daily, in an envelope or with a handwritten note of thanks, in a clear area where the housekeeper understands that it’s for them. Simple and clear!
Now I can rest easier. My accounting mindset just couldn’t deal with squishy guidelines and inexact rules. Enough of you have responded with consistent answers that I now feel I’m doing the right, or at least the most common, thing when it comes to tipping a hotel maid.
For even easier hotel tipping (or should I say ‘no-tipping?’), you may want to stay at The Elysian Hotel, a luxury property in Chicago. The Elysian has adopted a no-tipping policy, a move that breaks with standard practices across the high-end- and luxury-hotel market. So just when you think you finally know how to tip, you don’t have to!
P.S. One final thought directed at hoteliers: One of the reasons why guests may not tip the maid is that they do not have small bills to do so. You may want to have a sign at the Front Desk prompting guests to ask for small denominations if needed. I’ve asked at many a hotel and found that change for a $20 bill was not available, in which case my maid went untipped. Just a thought.