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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tips on Tipping

I’ve read many articles on tipping at hotels, but today’s USA Today article is one of the best summaries I’ve seen. Even I, the experienced travel expert, learned a tip or two.

To wit, I’ve always been confused about when and how much to tip the parking valet at a hotel. Here’s the deal, according to the six etiquette and hospitality industry experts polled in the article. When a valet opens the car door for you--no tip. When said valet takes your car to park it, no tip necessary (although half the experts say one could tip about $2). However, when said valet returns the car to you from the parking lot, our experts say you owe $2 to $5. I imagine if you have a clunker, $2 is acceptable, while Porsche owners should pony up $5. (Although perhaps there should be a reverse correlation between compensation and the value of the car. After all, the experience of propelling a Porsche is priceless, while prodding a Pacer is not so valuable to the valet).

But we digress. Back to tipping, this time inside the house.

The rules of tipping housekeepers are rather blurry. Many people don’t realize that maids are part of the tipping landscape. Most of the experts in the USA Today survey say $1 to $2 a night is fine, with higher daily amounts for luxury hotels. Instead of leaving one tip at the end of the stay, tip every day to ensure the person who is doing the work gets the reward. Plus, since one interpretation of the word “tip” is “to insure prompt service” (although methinks insure should be replaced with ensure or assure), a daily tip may result in a cleaner room or an extra bottle of skin lotion.

Most of the other basics are well-known: A bellman gets a buck or two per bag; the concierge is only tipped for special services (hard-to-get reservations at restaurants or the theater; filling out-of-the-ordinary requests); waiters get 15% to 20% of the pre-tip bill (unless they are working a buffet, when only 10% to 15% is necessary).

Who doesn’t get a tip? Generally, the front desk staff, the room service deliverer (assuming service is included in the bill), and the Maytag repairman. After all, if something is wrong with a guestroom, the occupant should hardly be required to compensate Mr. Fix-It.

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