Should You Tip Hotel Cleaning Staff Employees?

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tip hotel cleaning staff

I stay at Marriott Hotels over 50 nights a year. I was surprised to learn that with the help of Maria Shriver, Marriott Hotels recently started a formal program to encourage guests to tip employees that clean their hotel rooms.

The campaign, called “The Envelope Please,” places envelopes in 160,000 rooms in the U.S. and Canada to solicit tipping by guests:

“The name of the person who cleans the room will be written on the envelope along with a message: ‘Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts.'”

One of the motivations behind this campaign is that these employees want an increase in their compensation. The company’s assumption is that this increase should come from tips, the same way other hotel employees accomplish this. This is a surprise coming from a company like Marriott that has $13 billion a year in revenue, and $626 million in profits. Arne Sorenson, the CEO who suggests you leave $1 or $5 a night – makes $7 million a year.

Is This Fair to Guests?

Is this fair to the guest after paying hundreds of dollars a night? Should a small business support the tipping of employees through various solicitations like signs and tip jars?

Unlike the rest of the world, restaurant tipping is a large part of employees’ compensation. It allows employers to pay less than minimum wage in some states. Expected tipping is a terrible custom. It allows the employer to pay low wages and puts that burden on the customer.

For example in Chicago, a meal costs 30 percent more when tax and tip are added in. Pricing on the menu almost amounts to false advertising.

People that argue for tips will improve service. In fact, TIP stands for “to improve performance”. But evidence suggests something else.

Brian Palmer of Slate writes that:

“Tipping does not incentivize hard work. The factors that correlate most strongly to tip size have virtually nothing to do with the quality of service. Credit card tips are larger than cash tips. Large parties with sizable bills leave disproportionately small tips. We tip servers more if they tell us their names, touch us on the arm, or draw smiley faces on our checks. Quality of service has a laughably small impact on tip size.”

Encouraging Tips for Employees

Small business owners should not encourage tips for employees. This sends a strong message that they value their employees and pay them fairly. It states that they do not ask customers for more money beyond what is charged for the service.

If a customer wants to leave an extra tip for exceptional service then let them. But the company should not expect customers to supplement employees’ wages.

When I stay at a Marriott, I expect a clean room – and I shouldn’t have to pay more to get one.

Hotel Photo via Shutterstock

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Barry Moltz Barry Moltz gets small business owners unstuck. With decades of entrepreneurial ventures as well as consulting with countless other entrepreneurs, he has discovered the formula to get business owners marching forward. His newest book, BAM! shows how in a social media world, customer service is the new marketing.

7 Reactions
  1. TIPS is actually the acronym for “To Insure Proper Service.” The roots of this practice were a means for employers to do just that. In businesses where constant supervision is not only impractical, but close to impossible, there are two means of insuring proper service for their customers; a commission structure or tips. To accuse business owners of using tips to allow poor salaries is a superficial understanding of running a successful business. If you have 100% confidence that every employee has an excellent work ethic 100% of the time, then your argument holds.

  2. I stand corrected, you are right on what TIPS Stands for – my mistake

  3. There have been times I’ve wanted to tip cleaning staff, but I haven’t known whether it was OK to do that. However, it should have little to do with what they get paid. Marriott, in this case, needs to give them a raise.

  4. I think you should tip anyone who goes another mile to help you. I only don’t tip when the person obviously disrespects you and doesn’t do a good service. Other than that, I tip.

    • We don’t have as ingrained a tipping culture over here in the UK as in the US. What it means though, is that people show their appreciation in various ways, including money.

      I agree. No one deserves a tip for disrespectful service, or else you’d be enabling their behaviour.

  5. It’s a difficult decision on whether to tip housekeeping staff or not. In some hotels, they pay their housekeeping staff on the number of rooms they clean per day. So if you request no cleaning, they make less money. To me, that seems like the more they can clean in a day the more they make. But does the same level of “clean” happen in that situation?
    As to Marriott, I think their ideas about tipping is similar to the wage debate with Walmart. The staff that hold these positions are minimum wage. So is it fair to keep them at that level when a bartender gets “face time” and has the means and the ability to improve his/her tip?
    In retail, those staff members that interact with customers are on salary/with commission or commission only. This seems fair when compared to the staff that run the back of the house, like stock, merchandising, display or shipping.
    This is an age old problem- and is not simply solved. Sales staff has always gotten the higher wage vs any other member of a company.
    For me, I tip because I know the situation. Marriott should not depend on that if they want the best employees who have a good reason to deliver excellent customer service, regardless of their position.

  6. Thanks Lisa

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