Hilton’s CEO Doesn’t Tip Hotel Housekeepers, and That’s Probably a Good Thing

Melanie Lieberman writes that Hilton Hotels CEO Christopher Nassetta told Andrew Ross Sorkin during a panel for the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference that he does not tip hotel housekeepers. He said “I typically do not leave a tip.”

The truth is that tipping is a terrible way to pay housekeepers.

  • When you leave a tip it gets picked up by someone that may not have been the one cleaning your room during most of your stay.

  • Some guests tip, others don’t, pay for work becomes more dependent on luck than anything else.

  • And housekeepers doing the most work, or the most disgusting work, aren’t necessarily the ones receiving the greatest compensation.

More importantly tipping does not ultimately increase hotel housekeeper pay overall. Housekeepers are willing to work for a certain wage. Hotels need to pay the minimum necessary to attract the workers they need to run the property. When some of the money is paid directly by the guest, hotels are able to pay their housekeepers less. When housekeepers expect a certain amount on average in tips that’s factored into their willingness to work.

Marriott, for instance, doesn’t pay their housekeeping staff enough, so they want you to top off their wages with tips.

The more guests tip, the less hotels have to pay in wages to secure the housekeepers necessary to clean their rooms.

Just as with mandatory resort fees, the cost of cleaning a room should be included in the room rate. Now, to the extend that it isn’t I grudgingly pay the resort fee. And the last person I want to ‘stiff’ is the employee that cleans up after me in my room.

Hilton toiletries

So I’m not suggesting any individual guest protest tipping by not tipping — the way that Hilton’s CEO says he does — but I am saying that we’re faced with a collective action problem. If nobody tipped hotels would have to pay higher wages. But as long as those wages aren’t yet being paid, it’s hard not to tip housekeepers, even if a bit grudgingly over the practice.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Tipping just subsidizes business that pay their employees too little!
    The best tip is to tell the service worker “organize” to get higher pay. Maybe a union maybe not.
    A case can be made for giving away money to anyone even the guy on the street with the sign “I don’t want work. I just want a beer”. It is your money, give it away if you like but please don’t try to put some guilt trip on others.
    Do some service workers deserve more pay? YES, i think so. Giving a tip is like feeding them for one day when if you really care, teach them to fish.

  2. On one of our trips we watched in horror as a supervisor at an high-end hotel went from room to room scooping up the cleaning staff’s tips when we returned to our room to pick up something we forgot and saw that the tip we left 10 minutes earlier was gone, but our room was otherwise untouched.

    After that, we made it a point to look for the cleaning person at an adjacent room to hand them the tip directly to better prevent their sticky fingered supervisor from stealing their employees’ cash.

    But, it was still jarring to watch the supervisor enter and exit other rooms during our stay on a regular basis with that unrepentant thief acting as if stealing from others is perfectly acceptable and normal.

    To this day, whenever possible we prefer to tip the cleaning person directly instead of leaving a tip behind in the room.

    However, and more often than not, our schedule does not allow for us to be around when the cleaning person is near enough to our room to be confident they’re the person who will tidy up ours, so we take our chances and leave a tip with a note of thanks on the desk (or dresser by the tv) – yet the image of that supervisor repeatedly seen racing from room to room searching for tips looms large, and we always wonder if the tip we left is received by the person who’s actually doing the dirty work – or if they were cheated by a sleazy and dishonest boss?

  3. I wouldn’t automatically assume that the person that gets the tip keeps it all. In many establishments, tips are pooled. In a restaurant, waiters share tips with busboys.

  4. @Howard Miller, this is standard hotel practice. So when I leave a tip, I don’t leave it conspicuously somewhere. I leave it somewhere where it won’t be visible, yet it will have to be found when cleaning the room. I make sure I leave it somewhere where it will HAVE to be found. One of my usual methods is to just grab a pillow from the bed or a towel from the bathroom and toss it on a chair or on a couch, or on a corner somewhere, where I know it will have to be lifted. I then hide the money with a note under that pillow. I can’t imagine a supervisor would go on scavenger hunt mode all over the room, unless he/she wants to pick up my dirty towel.

  5. @Howard Miller I know of this practice because my dad used to work at maintenance at hotels. So he would do the opposite. He would look for people checking out with their bags and then immediately go to their room, retrieve the tips and give them to housekeeping. He couldn’t stand room supervisors going in before housekeeping and stealing their tips.

  6. Tipping in hotels will never catch on unless there’s some personal interaction (pressure) to induce the tip. “”Nobody” sees the maid and, as you note, it’s not necessarily the same person who actually cleaned your room. Hotels just need to accept this reality and move on. Maids should be paid by their employers directly, and tipping should not be expected. Anyone running their hotel in a different fashion is foolish.

  7. Tipping is not a BAD thing to do. Unfortunately in the US housekeeping isn’t going to be able to be organized in the current climate, so tipping is the only and best way we have to pay it forward. I wish there was a better way, but as of now someone being paid $8/hour to clean up after me isn’t enough.

  8. Agree with Gary’s take (tipping allows Hotel management to get away with paying less) but I’m surprised there’s nothing here about what a d!ck Hilton’s CEO is. The guy who could ensure that cleaning staff is paid sufficiently without the need for tips (but ISN’T) is free-riding on the tipping of others. This is not at all the same thing as you or I not tipping.

  9. Marriott’s gauche tip envelopes further reinforce my opinion that Marriott=CHEAP. They’re like junk mail soliciting donations, and I don’t like seeing them in my room.

  10. I like the idea of hotels offering a bonus for no clean ups during your stay for several days. However, I still tip at the end of my stay, just not as much. So, I save some money and be a little environmentally friendly.

  11. @Gary: So tell us about your alternative to tipping that compensates housekeepers based on performance.

  12. I agree with everything you said, but until the issue is resolved in a better way, I continue to tip. I do so on a daily basis rather than at the end of the stay because that is more likely to go to the person actually cleaning my room than tipping for several days at the end of the trip.

  13. @ Joelfreak, what is there about “today’s climate” that makes organizing more difficult?

  14. Why do I have to tip? No one tips me for the work I do? Does anyone who responded above tip the sales clerk at Walmart when they buy the cheap crap there? They are paid minimum wage and get no benefits. But you do not tip them for touching your stuff and putting it into a bag while standing in the same spot for 8 hours a day. They you go to McDonalds and get a Big Mac from the high school kid who is saving his money for vapes (and beer) and you do not tip him and he has to deal with crappy customers every day along with crappy food too.

    People tip because they feel guilty about it. If there were NO tip envelopes then there would be no tips., If there are no tip Jars there will be no tips.

  15. @TomRI: Whoever told you that Walmart pays minimum wage. Tell them they are hopelessly out of date. Especially after the week of Walmart’s AGM, where the narrative got so much attention.

    Likewise on the “no-benefits” mantra.

    Someone is treating you like an uncritical dope. Always research overarching claims like that before you regurgitate them.

  16. I am a housekeeping manager for a Marriott property. And we don’t do the tip envelopes at all. But the horror I see on a daily basis that people leave or do to these rooms and don’t tip is beyond me. Especially these people know someone has to clean what they have done. At least every other day we will come across a room that the person never used a trash can at all but the room had trash all over in the bed floor every flat surface. I could go on and on. But people have to know that the housekeeping staff has to clean every room in a set amount of time no matter how bad it is. I have cleaned 35 rooms with 1 housekeeper and out of those 35 rooms 3 tipped at a total of $12. And these are Marriott members that have stayed at our properties to get high status. Then they are the same members who flip out and expect a discount from the hotel and a written letter of apology because there was a tiny piece of paper under the couch or bed. So if you want the hotel to pay people more so you don’t have to tip then don’t complain about some petty stuff and have a tiny bit of compassion and understanding that this underpaid over worked human who is most likely not cleaning up people’s nasty mess because they love to clean, that this is how they put food on their table, and we are all human and we all can forget something. That also goes the other way as well just be kind and don’t trash a room unless u tip and say so sorry bout the mess. All comes down to respecting humans that’s all.

  17. I read 2 dollars a day is a guideline for a single hotel room but the tip increases with really good service, or if your leaving left unusual demands on staff.. And we always add more direct tips for door to door delivered services.
    If you dont want to tip, go camping or cook for yourself. Cheap is cheap, and karma has a way of coming right back at you.
    Where certain cultures fail go tip, tip charges should be added to room, notices to all guests. This gives one the opportunity to challenge if poor service.
    This is the hospitality industry and tipping recognizes a job well done.

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