When I received the receipt this morning, it showed a $5 Housekeeping Gratuity and $0.42 in Sales Tax [on a one night stay].
I’m not particularly amused. I typically tip housekeeping, even on a one night stay… but not usually that much… and I don’t add taxes to it.
According to the hotel they add it automatically for people that use the mobile app to check in. If you check in at the desk, they’ll ask whether you agree to let them to do it. If you leave the hotel without reviewing your bill or visiting the front desk, and you used mobile check-in, you’ll be charged more than you expect. But even if you’re told about the fee in person, you’ll be made to feel a jerk for not wanting to tip generously (plus tax!) at a limited service Hampton Inn. They did take it off the bill when this guest asked.
Hampton Inn & Suites Las Vegas-Henderson, Credit: Hilton
Automatic pre-commitment to tipping seems to defeat the purpose of tipping. You aren’t supposed to be covering a portion of the wage (although in practice that’s what’s going on). You’re supposed to be ‘rewarding good service’. If the tip is set up front, it’s not a reward for service after the fact, nor is it an incentive. People who tip daily on longer stays set up that expectation for staff, even if it’s not the same person cleaning the room each day (staff talk).
And – to be clear – picking your pocket with surprise fees isn’t hospitality. Nor is adding things to your bill that a hotel doesn’t even tell you about.
I don’t like tipping, but I do it because it’s expected and how ‘the system’ works in the U.S. But rather than an opt-out or pressure sell, it seems like something that would boost tipping and increase guest convenience would be to add it as a feature of the chain’s app, so you don’t have to carry cash.
However there’s no reason to think that your tip even goes to the person who cleaned your room when it’s done that way. If you tip in cash in your room at the end of your stay it might not, either, if a different person cleans that day they get the whole amount rather than smaller tips parceled out each day.
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 CEO of a large hotel ownership group with Marriotts, Hiltons, IHG and Hyatt properties in its portfolio is working on ways to ensure customers tip more so they don’t have to pay higher wages. The truth is that tipping is a terrible way to pay housekeepers. It doesn’t actually raise their wages. Housekeepers have to be offered a certain amount of money to work. The more guests tip, the less hotels can pay to attract them. That’s what this hotel chain CEO is saying.
And Hilton’s CEO is trying to keep Covid-19 pandemic cuts in place to hold the line on cost and boost hotel margins. So expect to see more of this. Ironically of course Hilton’s CEO admitted he doesn’t actually tip housekeeping on his own stays.