Leading Butler in SF Weighs in on Hotel Tipping

Posted in America, North America, On the Ground

This is why I love running Fly&Dine! Earlier today I posted a story about tipping at hotels and, lo and behold, one of San Francisco’s top butlers took the time to weigh in with his perspective and it’s amazing. Instead of leaving it in the comments of the other post, I wanted everyone to see it here:

As the Lead Butler in one of the most luxurious (and expensive) hotels in San Francisco, I also see some flaws in this tip-down, but not the same ones you point out. First I will start off with wages that these workers earn…


Doorman – $15/hr
Usually a friendly face you see throughout your stay, they help coordinate the mess that is valet, check-in/out and the first impression. When they hold your car up front instead of parking it, saving you time, and costing them a valuable space up front, tips are common. Otherwise, a buck or two here or there for taxis is cool, but not necessary, they are doing there job.


Bellman -$13/hr
They work hard, and if you can’t be assed to grab your bags yourself, even when they put them on the bell art, then pay up. A few bucks is fine, but when a family of 6 dumps 6 large cases, 6 backpacks laptops and endless various items that they end up having to pack for you (food urgh) then help them out! They are the least paid people at the hotel, by a long shot. Valet is the same, they run their asses off!


Concierge – $21/hr
If they get you everything you want, a good room, deal with problems during your stay, etc. then they deserve a tip, but realize they make the most after managers. They also get kickbacks with their dinner reservations (OT concierge, sometimes $100/week or more!) car services, etc. if you are handing out $ willy nilly, they should be last in line. Not to say their job isn’t hard, because it is being the middle man between management and lower staff, as well as the smiling face and voice on the phone, but they get paid good money to do so.


Housekeeping – $19/hr
If you keep your room tidy, don’t accept turndown, and make no mess, tips are not required at all. If you are leaving them with more than a sheet change and Hoover, then expect to give them a little, after all your mother taught you to clean up after yourself, and if you can’t do that, then the maid will. Some of the party rooms I have seen look disgusting, smell, and are loaded with trash – and the housekeeper has the same amount of time to turn that room around for the next guest as the easy tidy one. Please, if you make a mess, realize that the person cleaning up has to do this to a massive number of rooms each day, and take care of them.


My work is a blend of Bellman, Valet, Room Service, Chauffeur, and concierge. I also help with troubleshooting problems with the room, dealing with unruly/drunk people, directions, etc. On a good day I can make up to $300 cash, but most days come in at $50-100, which supplements my measly $13/hr here in San Francisco, the most expensive city to live in the states (eat it NY) We work hard to ensure the stay goes above and beyond expectations, and are very appreciative of any and all tips, foreign currency and change as well! I do not avoid good service because of tight wads, but I certainly offer preference to the tippers when I have multiple things on my plate, so if you want it done now and done well, a tip almost guarantees that. After all, time is money.


Also, most places do have the employees ‘pool’ tips, but some people cannot be trusted, so it’s almost always better to ask if they do, or just break up your tip and spread the same amount to more people. (Instead of giving the doorman $20 on checkout, give $5 to the bellman, $5 to the valet, and $10 to the doorman)


Ok, end rant, and back to enjoying my day off!


Mr. Butler, sir. Thank you so much for enlightening us. It’s always fantastic to get an insiders’ perspective.

You can check out my original post here.

Stereotypical Butler Photo:

Attribution Some rights reserved by www.audio-luci-store.it


  1. This is an interesting discussion and thanks for sharing.

    As a Starwood Platinum and Hyatt Diamond I get plenty of free breakfasts. What do you tip there?

    I have done four stays this year at St Regis properties in Thailand and Bali that varied from 4-7 nights. It never seems like I have the right amount of local currency for tipping so at the end of each stay I have written a nice note to management and included US $100
    and asked that it be distributed among the proper service staffs.

    • Thanks for reading! Free breakfast is a tough call and entirely up to you. If it’s a free buffet, I don’t think any tip is needed (buffet tipping is a whole other ball of wax). If it’s a regular sit-down breakfast, I would tip as you normally would. The server is doing the same amount of work as they would if you were paying full price. I end up eating lots of a free meals as a food writer and I always leave a tip unless I’m dining with a publicist (in which case I think the onus is on them).

      As for the luxury stays in Thailand and Bali, I think $100 USD is REALLY generous and possibly equivalent to what some of their staff makes in a few weeks or an entire month. I always whether or not I can trust that the money I leave in a lump sum at the end of a trip will get distributed. You may be better off converting that $100 into local currency and tipping the specific people who made your stay special.

  2. 4 of us were on Amtrak last summer – round trip Los Angeles – New Orleans. All meals were included in the price. We each tipped several dollars at each meal. Needless to say, the staff loved us. Some of them were even fighting to get us seated at thei table.

  3. this whole stupid tipping thing makes life so much more difficult.
    can’t we just get on without anybody tipping?

  4. I agree with YJ
    While a thoughtful article it reinforces the complexity, insanity and inequity in the current Rube Goldberg system. If you are traveling things should be simple.
    Whether business or a personal trip I do not want to spend time thinking and worrying about a country’s tipping policy. I want to focus on what I am there for and not calculating and feeling awkward about giving to much or to little.
    The Pritzker’s and other hotel magnates are extremely rich and make fortunes off their hotel empires. How in hell did the onus and guilt get shifted away from them compensating, rewarding and managing their employees like every other business.
    Nevertheless I find myself tipping generously and not differentiating enough for great service.
    I admire properties who have no tipping policies.
    Finally for really exceptional service I try to get an employees name and commend them as I would in any business.

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