Tipping Hotel Housekeeping Is A Bad Practice That You Should Do Anyway
Hotels want guests to give tips to workers, so they can pay lower wages. The CEO of one hotel ownership group actually said the quiet part out loud.
- A worker might accept employment with an expectation of making $20 per hour. It doesn’t matter if that’s $20 from the employer, or $15 from the employer and $5 (on average) from guests. The lack of certainty in tipping might mean they’d need $6 or $7 from guests to consider it break-even.
- If hotels can convince guests to tip more, they’re able to attract workers at lower wages.
Your tipping, therefore, contributes to lower base wages for housekeepers. In most cases what housekeepers are paid is a function on the wage at which hotels can recruit them as staff. The higher the expected tip, the lower the wage needed to recruit workers.
It may seem ironic that hotels have gotten aggressive pushing guests to pay up more for housekeeping at the same time they’re offering less housekeeping (at the same or higher room rate). But it makes more sense when you realize this isn’t actually a thanks for service, or meant to benefit the worker.
Marriott, of course, started to encourage tipping years ago by putting envelopes in guest rooms. Marriott was explicitly telling guests that their hotels underpaid workers and that their compensation needed to be topped off.
Tipping hotel housekeeping hasn’t traditionally been part of standard practice. As recently as June 2019 the CEO of Hilton said that he “typically do[es] not leave a tip” for housekeepers. That was an embarrassing admission, and he walked it back, but it underscores how this is a completely new invention… intended to get guests to pay more for their stay, and help hotels lower their costs.
We’ve seen hotels add tips to your bill automatically so you can go to the front desk and tell them you don’t want to tip, or if that’s embarrassing you just pay more.
One Mile at a Time says he will “try to leave $5 or so per day for some of the hardest working people in a hotel…but the issue is that I sometimes don’t have any cash on me, which can make it hard to tip.”
He rightly reminds that if you’re going to leave a tip, it makes sense to leave it daily and not at the end of your stay.
- It may be someone different cleaning your room each day. A tip at the end of a long stay might be over-reward one person and the expense of everyone else that cleaned your room.
- And even if everyone tipped at the end of the stay it wouldn’t likely even out, since guests disproportionately check out on the same days and housekeepers working those days would benefit at the expense of those who aren’t able to.
We face a collective action problem. Increasingly, tipping is expected. If nobody tipped, hotels would have to pay higher wages. Those would potentially be reflected in room rates (dependent on demand for the fixed asset of rooms), but that’s as it should be. But since there’s a new tipping expectation, your decision to leave a tip or not does affect what housekeepers take own, and they build in an expectation of receiving some tips into their planning. Hotels have put us in an awkward position, but I’m not so sure we should fight back.
It’s at least better than when Hyatt’s Motif hotel in Seattle asked guests to tip the Hong Kong-based investment group that owns the property. And it’s most definitely better than the online travel agency website that solicits tips for themselves after you make a reservation and those don’t even go to a worker – just straight to the company’s bottom line.
At the end of the day it’s the hotels that are skeezy here, not any individual guest who does not tip.
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