To Go Tip-Less or Not?

Recently staying in various hotels throughout Europe and the Far East, I have gotten out of the habit of leaving a daily tip for the hotel maid. It is not typical in the countries I have been in (UK, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Hong Kong, Singapore) to leave a tip to the housekeepers unless a special request is made. Many of the hotels I have been staying in also have not had porters, so there were no tips for taking care of my luggage either. Because of this, it was fairly easy to live without much cash since I use my credit cards for meals, taxis and most everything else.

Back in a U.S. hotel this past week, I realized too late that I had forgotten to leave the maid a tip since I haven’t been doing this for several months. I usually leave a few dollars on the pillow each morning (or at least I do if I remember!) in a domestic hotel. I felt bad that I had forgotten, though not bad enough to double up the tip upon check-out.

I could easily get used to a no-tipping mentality here in the U.S., beginning with hotels. One hotel in downtown Chicago (The Elysian) adopted a no-tipping policy a couple of years ago, though it is now a Waldorf Astoria so I’m sure the no-tipping policy is gone.

Stats reflect that somewhere between a third and one-half of hotel guests leave a tip for housekeeping. For hotels to have a no-tipping mentality because their rates reflect higher staff wages isn’t the answer to satisfy everyone either, especially those who decline housekeeping services.

How about an option to tip the maid and include the amount on my bill when checking out (similar to adding a gratuity to a room service or restaurant charge)? No need to carry lots of small bills and tips are only added if desired. For those on expense reports, this makes it easier to track the total hotel cost and is easier than remembering to add these small daily expenditures.

For hoteliers, this would necessitate a change to their billing software. For employees, this may mean more taxing of their wages – though if more guests were likely to leave tips if the process was easier, their net income could very well be higher.

There is no right-or-wrong, yes-or-no answer on tipping hotel maids in the U.S., so maybe I just get over my guilt of not leaving a tip and adopt the customs of the countries that go tip-less.


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  1. I agree that it would be much easier to leave a tip bus checkout as you suggest – but I am afraid that the hotel would either spread it over all employees – valet, door guy, housekeeping, etc., such that the residual amount would be very little or even worse, the hotel would institute a ‘service charge’ like they do in some Eurpoean restaurants and the hotel would take their ‘cut’ from that pool . . . I think the best way to ensure the housekeeping staff gets the cash you wish to leave them would be to keep on leaving cash tips . . . btw, isn’t that what some of the ‘resort fee’ you pay at resort hotels supposed to cover . . ?

  2. I am very surprised that there are that many people that tip maids. I usually tip valet, waiters, people that help with luggage, but never maids. Not that I don’t want to, but it didn’t really cross my mind. I dont really like my room to be cleaned and try to keep them out by hanging a door tag on the door. I don’t know if I have come back too often when they are trying to finish the room or am paranoid about my stuff being taken.Now I feel bad, but I am prob doing them a favor if thy get to skip my room all together.

  3. @Jamison: By your logic, if the hotel tries to charge you $3 for a minibar bottle of water, they’d have “to take out a credit card processing fee out of that… and not much will be left”. Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no additional transaction fee since the hotel will only incur the same single credit card transaction fee as it would otherwise. As for the percentage taken out, even if you’re a little business that has tiny volume and no negotiation leverage, you can get a Square device and pay less than 3%. Hotels, especially large chains, surely do better than that with their commercial merchant account agreements. I think there are plenty of barriers to US-based hospitality companies doing what Carol is musing about here, but credit card fees aren’t to blame.

  4. Yes, go tip-less! This whole thing tipping housekeeping is ridiculous in developed countries.

  5. Getting over one’s individual guilt can always be rationalized on the logistics, but it doesn’t pay the bills for hard-working housekeeping staff, whose depressingly low compensation, like waitstaff, figures in that third- to half of customers who tip, Would one forego restaurant tips so easily? I always start a trip with about $50 in $1s and $5s in an inside pocket of my carry-on, and restock it regularly. My employer diesn’t reimburse me – it’s just the right thing to do. And I do double up if I forget…

  6. Interesting post.

    Some hotels do let you leave a tip for housekeeping at check-out. They will usually tell you they don’t, but if you are a decent customer, they can find a way to make it happen. The real reason why it’s not good for the housekeepers is that the credit card tip money goes into their paycheck, which then is docked for Social Security, Medicare, and income tax witholding. It’s also not immediately available.

    If I’m only staying one night, and I do not cause a mess, take room service, or ask for anything special, I don’t usually tip, especially if it is not a top quality hotel and I did not receive turndown service.

    If I am staying for a longer period of time, I leave a tip each time housekeeping comes through. The first time housekeeping comes, I leave a five dollar tip, and each subsequent time, I do $2-3. This strategy backfired on me at the Hilton Bentley South Beach, as I found myself getting 30-45 minute housekeeping visits! I had to explain that it was excessive.

  7. Thanks for the input Preston. I often do just the opposite when it comes to the amount left each day. I usually do $2-3 on all nights but the last. I leave $5 on the final day since I figure that’s when the most effort and time is required when changing all the bedding upon my departure.

    As for leaving a tip upon check-out, I may do this in cash as a lump sum if I don’t have smaller bills during each day of my stay. I have inquired to front desks at hotels where I am a frequent-stayer and have always been told that it’s not possible to add the tips to my folio for payment via credit card. My inquiring mind continues to say “there must be a better way …”

  8. Hi JM — As for you or any employer not reimbursing for tipping, I have not seen any language in travel policies from my previous Fortune 500 companies on tipping. They’re always silent in this regard. I’m checking with several corporate travel folks to see what they say on this. I’m sure more tips would be left for maids if reimbursement occurred.

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