Tipping at Hotels

Posted in America, North America, On the Ground

I’m always relieved when I go to a foreign country that hasn’t established a tipping standard like the US. I don’t have to carry around that anxiety of “Should I tip that person? How much? Is that enough? Too much?” Back here in America, though, I do have that anxiety. Respect is a big issue to me and I don’t want to knowingly disrespect anyone by not tipping, but at the same time I think we go way overboard in the tipping department. Case in point: this article on The Huffington Post (via Where — full disclosure: I’ve written for Where LA in the past) that gives you tips for tipping in high-end hotels in big cities from a concierge at a “top Chicago hotel” [they don’t name the hotel].

UPDATE! After you get done reading this post, click over here to find out what one of San Francisco’s top butlers (and a Fly&Dine reader!) thinks of tipping in hotels.

I have a major problem with this concierge’s suggestions. Let’s break it down point-by-point, shall we?

The Valet: The concierge suggests $2-$5 every time the car is brought around. I suppose that’s fine, but in addition to the $50+ per night some of these luxury urban hotels are charging for parking, I rarely even touch my car after I check-in. I go with $2, although now that everyone offers you bottled water and other little amenities, I’ll occasionally bump it up a few more bucks.

The Porter/Bellman/Bellhop: Citing the labor-intensive nature of the gig, the concierge suggest $5 and up for anyone carrying your bags. This is one situation that I truly hate. It’s so cliche at this point that movies have been lampooning it for years, but that awkward moment when the bellhop drops off your bags and stands there asking if you need anything else makes my skin crawl. My solution? I’ll carry my own bags, thank you very much. I rarely travel with more than one anyway. My least favorite bellhop situation is when they’re SO overeager to take your bags that they actually pick them up before asking if you’d like them to. I get it, pal, you want a tip, but you need to ask me first before touching my stuff.

Front Desk Agents: “If you feel the agent has intrinsically connected with you and delivered you shining and exceptional customer service, a cash tip is certainly not out of place.” Oh, come on. This is what I mean by going over the top. You can’t tip everyone! The only time I tip a front desk clerk is if I’m in Vegas and the “tip” is a “bribe” in the form of the $20 trick (Gary of View from the Wing covers it here).

The Maids: The article suggests $5 a day to make sure everyone gets their share. I don’t know about this one and I’m guessing my opinion is going to be unpopular. I didn’t grow up in a family that tipped maids at hotels so I didn’t even know it was a thing until I saw someone doing it. I don’t really get it. Isn’t this an hourly job like most others at the hotel? Unless you’re seriously messy, this seems overboard to me. If I’ve been there a week and they’ve done a really good job (and that means leaving chocolates for me or something), then I’ll leave a tip. Otherwise? I don’t tip the cleaning staff.

Room Service: This is crazy. The concierge acknowledges that gratuity is included in most room service orders and then suggests you should be extra generous and tip more. No way. If I’m already tipping, why tip on top of the tip? That’s crazy.

Hotel Bars: Of course. It’s a bar. We tip in bars, whether they’re at hotels or elsewhere. This is a given.

At the Pool: File this one under “give me a break.” Tip for your towel. Tip the lifeguard. Seriously? This is the line I don’t want to cross. If I order a drink or food poolside, you bet I’m going to tip. Towels, however, should be a standard part of the experience that doesn’t require an extra two dollars every time I want to dry off.

The Concierge: It’s no surprise that this one seems the craziest to me. The concierge in the story says:

People have many different ways of tipping the concierge, and they are all acceptable, and definitely appreciated. Some guests choose to tip the concierge upon arrival, others at the end of their stay upon departure. Another very popular style utilized by many hotel guests is tipping at the time of service. If a concierge prints your boarding pass, $2 to $5 is usually commonplace for a tip. Procuring that hard to obtain, last-minute Friday reservation at a hot restaurant can be worthy of a heftier tip; $5 to $20 is definitely not out of place.

$2 to $5 for printing a boarding pass? Why? For pressing the “print” button? I understand tipping for a hard-to-get reservation as that’s above and beyond the call of duty, but tipping for part of their everyday job just doesn’t work for me. I’m not tipping for directions. I’m not tipping for advice on choosing a restaurant. If you arrange a special romantic meal on the rooftop with roses and a string quartet, though, you better believe I’m tipping handsomely.

We in the United States seem to tip more than any other society, so much so that it’s appalling to people from other nations that come to visit here. Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the employer to pay their employee? Putting the onus on the guest makes it feel like really slow extortion and, personally, sometimes I feel taken advantage of by the end of a visit. My rule of thumb is generally that I’ll tip you if you’ve gone out of your way to do something for me (or if you work in a restaurant/bar where tips are the bulk of your income). How do you feel about tipping?

If you didn’t check it out before, click over here to find out what one of San Francisco’s top butlers (and a Fly&Dine reader!) thinks of tipping in hotels.


Attribution Some rights reserved by StockMonkeys.com




  1. What’s the idea of tipping, if it’s expected? I’d rather pay more for the hotel instead of having to think about tipping everyone I say hello to.

    And yes, I will give you a tip – if you do something extraordinary. If you do the ordinary, I’ll give you a smile.

  2. I think it really depends on the type of hotel you’re staying at. If you’re staying at a budget hotel, I doubt tipping is even expected. At a luxury hotel, however, I’d think the concierge/bellhop/cleaning lady etc. would think you’re a tad bit selfish when you can’t spare a buck or two when you’re parading around with your Louis Vuitton luggage, Cartier jewellery, etc. 😉

    Overall, I agree with you that in the USA, tipping has gone crazy. I pretty much tip when an employee has gone above and beyond and when I know I’ll be going back there again (i.e. neighborhood bar, barber, etc.) To this day I still don’t understand the point of tipping at the bar for a beer (all they had to do was take the cap off!) Creating a cocktail or mixed drink, however, is a lot more complicated and probably warrants a tip.

  3. The cleaning staff is usually the go to tip receiver from me. And when I do, I find that my room is far more sparkling than when I do not. PS most if not all of these jobs are hourly in US hotels. Why does this impact your thinking?

    • Hi Heather — the hourly nature of certain jobs makes the difference to me for a very specific reason. In certain states (I know Illinois is one), workers in certain service positions — restaurant servers, for instance — make less than minimum wage because it’s assumed that their tips will bring their wages above minimum once the tips are figured in. It was about ten years ago, but when I was working as a waiter, I think my hourly was something laughable like $2.35/hour. That’s why it matters to me.

      • Definitely understood as to waitstaff positions (although employers are required to make up a certain difference if tips don’t exceed mini wage). For the rest, I think it’s just what you feel comfy with IMHO. I think cleaning staff has the opportunity to go above and beyond. Couple that with the fact that comparatively I think they make sh*t wages and I am happy to leave $3 bucks or so a day.

        • I totally hear you and yes, cleaning staff doesn’t make much at all. That said, I wish the hotels would up their wages instead of relying on the guests to make the job worthwhile. You’re absolutely right, though. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with.

  4. Thanks for the article – its nice to know that there is someone else other than me that doesnt typically tip housekeeping and doesnt tip the conceirge for telling me what time the next shuttle to the airport will leave.

    If someone has really helped me out with something – then absolutely!

  5. I can’t stand tipping at hotels. I would much rather pay a slightly higher price to permit the business to pay their employees. I go out of my way to avoid being in a situation where a tip is expected. I carry my own bags, I do not valet a car, I put the do not disturb sign on my hotel door.

  6. i hate the tipping culture in the u.s and wish it caught up with the rest of the world (love japan!). that being said, i always tip the housekeeping staff, who i feel more deservedly so than valet.

  7. I really like what The Inn at Spanish Bay does, which is incorporate tipping into the bill (like $25 a day?) which gets spread to everyone, alleviating the need to tip anywhere at all in the hotel. I think that takes care of any of that awkwardness in terms of normal interactions. But I think you can only do that at the highest end of hotels.

    • I would MUCH RATHER have this system in place than “a la carte tipping.” You’re right, though — $25 seems steep for anything but the upper echelon of accommodations.

  8. yeah tipping is crazy but encouraged so every one is not offended in this hypocritical politically correct society, even at the to-go order they want tips for taking your order, everywhere you turn there is a tip jar.

  9. @Nicki Lolk Soerensen: +1!!!! Sorry but add the tip to the daily rate. I am not supposed to be carrying a pig bank with lots of change to be tipping people all the time. My boss does not tip me when I do my work. It is expected that I do that. Same for hotels. When I book a hotel I agree with their rate and I expect that the valet park guy parks my car. I expect the housekeeper cleans my room. I expect the pool guy gives me a clean and dry towel. And so on. Thus, I hate tipping!!!!

  10. Jason, @ all you entitled whiners who complain when your upgrade doesn’t clear, stop being so cheap!
    I always tip housekeeping as they are the least @ hardest working, a bellman if he carries my bags, and never front desk or concierge unless they do something for me. If I have a car, & a valet brings it to me,
    I tip. In other countries, I STILL TIP! Anybody who ever worked for tips will feel the same way,
    It never ceases to amaze me how cheap most of you bloggers & some of your minions can be when it
    comes to a little thing like tipping, but will cry for a week when you miss a mistake fare!

  11. @Richard: I guess you missed the point here. It is not about tipping but about the expectation or “obligation” to tip. It should be entirely at my discretion if I want to tip and how much I want to tip. I hate when people do their job and expect to be tipped for that. Hello!!!! You are doing your job. Why should I tip you? I never forget when i once got a cab from JFK to Manhattan and when I opened the door of the taxi and asked how much would be to take me to my destination and the driver looked at me and said:”xx$, plus toll, plus tip”. WTF!!!!! I will tip you I i feel you deserve. Same when you drop your luggage at curbside on US airports. If you don’t tip a good amount you better pray for your luggage to make to your destination. Why is that? If the guy is working there he is an airline employee and he is doing the job he applied for. So, why should I tip him for placing my luggage on the belt? Sorry, but I come from a culture where you are surprised when you get a tip and that feels really good because it means you went above and beyond on what people expected from you. I hate the tipping culture in the US where people feel entitled to get a tip. I work for a multinational company and if I do the basic I get no bonus. To get a bonus i have to really surpass the expectations the company had for me. Same for tipping.

  12. Jason, my mistake, I meant to say “and” instead of @ . This doesn’t change the fact that a little
    Kindness & compassion goes a long way. Maybe the good karma will let you get an upgrade LOL
    As for Santastico, if you hate the US so much for its tipping culture, do us a favor and stay home!

  13. @Richard: I live here, my home is here, I pay my taxes here and only tip when I feel people deserve. If you love tipping so much I will invite you to come along on my next trip so you can tip in my name. Also, I will let you carry my bags and do not expect to get a tip for that because that is your job.

  14. @Santastico, Iwould love to carry your bags, & when you didn’t tip me, I would accidentally drop them on your feet, & then tell you what I think of you. By the way, what is your culture? I would never want to come from there!

    • Hey Richard, I love that you guys are getting into it over here, but can you keep the xenophobic bullying to a minimum? Thanks.

  15. @Jason: Don’t worry. I am not offended by his comments. My fault since I should have just ignored him. Keep up the great work on your blog. I read it everyday. Best!!!

  16. What about when you’re an American traveling to a foreign country and people expect you to tip them because you’re American and they know American’s tip? It happens to me all the time, but I digress…

    I really appreciate what you wrote here. I was ordering room service the other say and saw that a gratuity was already included and I felt pressured to leave something in addition to the 18% (plus additional delivery charge). As for housekeeping, I never know what to leave and was contemplating that last weekend. I always feel like I’m not being generous enough and I think that is because we’ve been groomed to tip in every situation, when it shouldn’t be that way. As far as tipping for towels at the pool, that is insane, don’t resort fees cover that?

  17. For the most part, I agree with most of these opinions. That said, I ALWAYS tip the housekeeper when I stay at a hotel. Housekeepers do not get paid hourly in most hotels, they get paid per room. Normally, this per room rate is not very high. Housekeepers depend on high occupancy rates. Housekeepers have a very disgusting, thankless job. I tip $5 per day (I don’t require my towels or linens to be changed daily) and then leave $10 on the last day along with a bottle of wine or chocolate, sometimes both.

  18. Growing up, my family never tipped housekeeping. We also only stayed at Super 8 type hotels so there is that…

    I recently started tipping housekeeping because we travel with our little ones and often require more towels and toiletry items. I try to keep the room as clean as I can but sometimes, that just isn’t enough.

    I’ve really struggled with our most recent hotel stay though (which we are currently on). We made our bookings in a unique way so the first day, no one came to service our room. The second day, I called and requested that someone bring new towels and take our trash so they came and did that (along with making our bed). The third day, we requested a cleaning because they hadn’t swept our floor the day before and it can get messy with little ones eating in the room and no broom or vacuum to clean up after them. We thought they were going to do a full cleaning that day as that was what we requested but it was pretty terrible. Up to this point, I hadn’t tipped because the service was pretty poor up to that point.

    Today, we were leaving our room as someone from housekeeping was in the hall and they asked if we wanted our room serviced. I said sure and the person who cleaned our room did an AMAZING job. I felt terrible about not leaving him a tip because of how well he had done. He had observed things in our room (like the fact that we had extra towels in our bathroom) and did things that were intuitive (like left 10 towels in the bathroom for us). I really appreciated it. So now, I don’t know exactly what to do…do I try to track him down and give him the tip?

    • Erica, I think that’s exactly what you should do. In my opinion, this is a great example of when to tip. This person went above and beyond what you had been experiencing. That definitely deserves a nice tip. More so, tracking him down and giving it to him personally not only rewards him for the specific effort, it also makes sure that he gets the tip instead of taking a chance on leaving it in the room and having it split by the inferior attendants you previously experienced. Hope you’re having a great trip!

  19. 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. This problem is compounded by the fact as suggested in another post that there are many shift employees and the guest finds oneself worrying about catching them.
    Nevertheless I find myself tipping generously and not differentiating enough for great service.
    I admire properties who have no tipping policies. The owner of the Inn at Spanish Bay is making a fortune off his hotel. He should charge a flat rate and not play games with automatic tipping fees. What a load of baloney.
    Finally for really exceptional service I try to get an employees name and commend them as I would in any business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *