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Hotels - How to Tip During Your Hotel Stay

Updated on October 24, 2015

Travel is exciting and fun. Meeting new people, seeing new sights, doing new things. The adventures are simply never ending. In my lifetime, I have been fortunate to have traveled to 3 continents, stayed at great hotels including a few five star hotels and yet I have never been formally trained on how to appropriately tip during my stays. During one of my moves,I worked at a hotel for 7 months. After having been in management for decades, I learned allot about the service industry.

The subject of gratuities may appear dry and boring but since it is an important subject, I have spiced it up a bit with three famous movies. Can you guess which three?

Let me share with you these exceptional movies along with some important insights about the service industry and how we can become a savvy traveler and tip appropriately and set the stage for great service for your next hotel stay.

"No Tipping Expected" Policies

European hotels are different than American hotels, in one vary important fashion - gratuities. When traveling beyond the borders of the United States, ask what is customary for their country. The rule "When in Rome do as the Romans do" may sound trite but is very true. It is critical to be a courteous traveler and not an "ugly American." Other examples of "no tipping expected" policies exist among some cruise ships. When booking a cruise, do ask the policy of the particular ship you are taking - each one varies.

Vary Your Gratuity or Tip Dependent Upon the Level of Service

The only way gratuities work and are supposed to work is if the tip varies. Gratuities must vary by the level of service provided. Everyday requests such as directions (given verbally) or restaurant recommendations, no tipping is deemed necessary. If a map is given to you, if the front desk agent or concierge arranges the reservation or event tickets, a tip of $2-$5 is recommended. If exceptional service such as obtaining highly sought after tickets or dinner reservations at a trendy restaurant, a tip of $10-$20 might be more appropriate.

First Rule of Tipping

First rule is very simple, service personnel in the United States live on their tips.

"Not to tip" is a sign of very poor manners and undermines the basic operations of this industry - service.

Gratuities or tips are an important tool in the service industry as it is a method for reward - it is truly the ultimate merit system.

As a savvy consumer, savvy traveler, we must recognize the service industry does not pay a living wage - tips are the mainstay of most jobs in the hotel/hospitality/service industry. This is a critical point to fully understand.

Knowing how and when and what to tip is a necessary skill for a savvy traveler.

Understanding why you are tipping and the fact that this is method that these people are making a living is important.

Tipping Guidelines

While the level of service determined whether or not a tip is warranted, in general, in the hospitality industry, these positions are eligible for tipping:

  • Concierge

  • Front Desk Agent

  • Bell Person

  • Maid

  • Car Valet

  • Tour Guide

Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone Fame

Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone Fame
Macaulay Culkin of Home Alone Fame | Source

Who Must Know How to Tip?

Who must know how to tip? Everyone. Men, females and children alike. If you watched any of the Home Alone movies, you will have noted that Kevin played by MacCaulay Culkin is savvy traveler and even knows to tip to the bellhop. I don't know IF that is really indicative of children today but it is a world away from the 1960 movie with Jerry Lewis where he played the bumbling bellhop in the movie aptly named The Bellboy .

Women too must know the proper tipping rules. Women - while you may always travel with your husband, there are business trips and many instances during your vacation where you are making travel arrangements when your spouse is not around.

Who Should Be Tipped?

Tipping is a method of payment for services. On a general basis, if the service is outstanding, there should be an appropriate reward. Some items are simply part of the job and no tip is deemed necessary. The level of service varies from job to job. While the need varies, the type of job that demands a tip is very simple - all personal services in the hospitality industry.

Remembering you are buying service and it is your duty to pay full price for that service. Tipping is the industry's way of assuring continued good or great service.

The blurred lines for the hospitality industry have only occurred with the advent of the fast food restaurants - simple, quick and fast is the standard of service - no tipping is required.

The key item to remember is the industry has set the wages so that tipping is intended to be a substantial part of that worker's pay.

This is an important part of world commerce and a key element that ensures a high standard of excellence for this service industry.

Home Alone Lost in New York

Tipping the Bell Boy and Room Service

Bell Boy Doll in Red Uniform
Bell Boy Doll in Red Uniform | Source

Sesame Street - Bellhop #14 Funny Video

The Bell Boy Tries to Take the Tip - Four Rooms with Madonna

Bellhop Bellboy Bell Captain Baggage Porter

The names change but the service is the same, the person helping you with your luggage. Called by various names such as bellhop, bellboy, bell captain and even baggage porter.

The etymology of the term bellhop or bellboy is said to be originated with a ship's bell-ringer. I imagine with the advent of overnight lodging the career transitions provided a new level of service, helping with finding rooms and transporting guests luggage. Ship travel went away, was replaced by the airplane and the hotel's service needs grew.

For a little levity check out the humorous videos on bellhops.

Gratuities Guide for Bell Staff

  • Doorman/Porter -- $1-$2 per bag they help you with (more if it is very heavy). Tipping is not required for just opening a door (a smile and thank you is always appreciated).
  • Bellhop -- $1-$2 per bag if they bring the bags to your room.

The Bellboy with Jerry Lewis - Acting Directing and Producing

Jerry Lewis The Bell Boy
Jerry Lewis The Bell Boy | Source

Side Note About the Movie The Bell Boy

Speaking of bell boys, perhaps the most famous one of all for us American baby boomers was Jerry Lewis.  Jerry Lewis starred, directed and produced The Bell Boy under the Paramount Label.  While I never saw this show, of course, I knew Jerry Lewis.  A little back story about Jerry Lewis and the production of The Bell Boy.

What is fascinating and is a tribute to Jerry Lewis' genius in creativity during the filming of The Bell Boy is in addition to Jerry Lewis' acting and directing responsibilities, he also invented the very first "video assist" - a method to see the scene through the eyes of the audience.

The video assist was needed because Jerry starred and directed in this film. Jerry came up with the idea of using a video monitor to view the scene immediately.

Mr. Lewis holds a patent for this invention.

How to Tip a Hotel / Motel Maid / Chambermaid

Hotel Maid in Uniform and Carrying a Stack of Towels
Hotel Maid in Uniform and Carrying a Stack of Towels | Source

Gratuity Guidelines on How to Tip a Hotel Maid

Formerly called the "chamber maid" probably from the estates of Great Britain and maids maintaining chambers. Maids perform a valuable service and much like housewives, their job is hard and under appreciated. A couple of do's to help you appropriately show your appreciation for a job well done:

  • Do tip daily. Staff changes frequently. Remember, hotels are open 365 days a year and run 24/7.
  • Do enclose your tip in a sheet of paper or best yet an envelope.
  • Do mark your envelop clearly so there are no misunderstandings.
  • Do tip only with currency, no change.
  • Do leave the envelop with the tip in an obvious place. If the television set is in a cabinet, my second choice is the desk and third is the bathroom counter.
  • Do tip more for a luxury hotel ($3-$5), otherwise $1-$2 per night.

Most Famous Hotel Maid of All - Jennifer Lopez in Maid in Manhattan

Jennifer Lozez - The Most Famous Hotel Maid of All
Jennifer Lozez - The Most Famous Hotel Maid of All | Source
Jennifer Lozez - The Most Famous Hotel Maid of All
Jennifer Lozez - The Most Famous Hotel Maid of All | Source

The Tipping Controversy for Maids

Sadly, there is a lack of consistency for tipping maids in America. Many think that tipping a maid doesn't make sense, you are "paying for a clean room". Yet, if anyone who has ever done cleaning knows, cleaning can look good but not be clean. Sadly we don't tip a maid because IF the service is done well the service is simply not seen, "out of sight - out of mind" but that should not be our standard. Tipping cleaning staff in the hospitality industry, recognizing their hard work is really a necessity for a savvy traveler.


Maid in Manhattan

Maid in Manhattan is perhaps the most delightful presentation of hotel maids. In the movie released in 2008, a dashing politician Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) mistakes a lovely hotel maid for an influential socialite, the lovely hotel maid is played by Jennifer Lopez.who plays Marisa Ventura in the movie.

Sadly this great little movie did not fair as well as other movies by director Wayne Wang who you probably know for his huge hit with The Joy Luck Club. Maid in Manhattan is a delightful movie and includes some brilliant one liners and a superb supporting cast.



Maids / Hotel Housekeeping / Gratuity Guidelines


Gratuity Guide for Maids/Housekeeping Staff

  • Generally plan from $1-$5 per night (luxury hotel $3-$5, all others $1-$2 per night).
  • Always tip daily. Staff changes on a regular basis, remember they are a 365 day a year operation demanding 24/7 coverage. My rule is to leave the tip as you depart for the day, that way when you return you see the fruits of your gratuity - time the time with the service as close as you can.
  • If additional towels are brought or other additional hotel amenities, show your appreciation in your gratuity amount given.

Tipping Etiquette General Guidelines

Tipping etiquette for general guidelines:

  • Currency Only, No Change (waitstaff is the exception)
  • Tip Daily (especially for maids - their shift changes)
  • Tip As Close to the Time of Service As Possible
  • Tip as Directly as Possible
  • Poor Service Means No Tip
  • Don't Ask for Change
  • A Higher Tip IS Warranted for Extra Service (more towels, etc...)
  • A Late Tip is Much Better Than No Tip

Possible Tipping Exceptions

In the hospitality industry most of the staff members are earning their living based upon tips. On a general basis, the follow positions are already paid a living wage and tips are not generally expected:

  • Room Service (already included in your bill)
  • Maintenance Staff
  • Managers/Supervisors
  • Fitness Room/Pool Attendants
  • B & B Owners (note maids still need to be tipped)

All of these exceptions are general in nature. If the staff member of the hotel provided extra amenities such as towels or ice, ect.... then a tip would be appropriate.

United States Guidelines

The general guidelines given above are only for the United States.  When traveling to foreign countries, ask about the policies and proper etiquette for tipping.

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    • CelebrateUSA profile image
      Author

      Ken Kline 4 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Hi apartmentsinminsk,

      You are a savvy traveler - thank you for contributing. This is an important part of the travel industry. Good work needs to be rewarded.

    • apartmentsinminsk profile image

      Nata Eberhart 4 years ago from Minsk, Belarus

      love travel and do tips in hotels evrytime..

    • Sharyn's Slant profile image

      Sharon Smith 6 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

      Hello GmaGoldie,

      I was interested in writing a hub on Tipping Etiquette and did a search first to see what was out there on HP. Well, I think I'll forget it and move on to something else.

      You've done an excellent job covering the subject. Your hub is so well written, very informative and entertaining. I just had to let you know :)

      Sharyn

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Karanda,

      You shared an important point. That is one of the items that I love about Hub Pages, we find out almost instantly what other country's culture is like. Very helpful. I am dying to revisit Australia - what a wonderful trip my two girlfriends and I had several years ago.

    • Karanda profile image

      Karen Wilton 6 years ago from Australia

      Most informative hub GmaGoldie. For Australians tipping is not a normal practice except where the waiter has given exceptional service so it is good to know what is required or considered etiquette in other countries.