Marriott Wants to Push You Into Tipping Housekeeping

Travel Update reports that Marriott wants you to tip housekeeping.

[A]s many as 1,000 hotels in the Marriott system – Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Residence Inn, JW Marriott – are going to leave a special tip-reminder envelope for guests to encourage them to leave money for the housekeeper.

..Envelopes that contain the name of the person (usually a woman) will be left in some 160,000 hotel rooms in the USA and Canada, according to the AP’s story. The campaign is called “The Envelope Please.”

Now, tipping at hotels is one way to get an upgrade. (Here’s how to ask for – and get – upgrades.)

Tipping hotel housekeeping won’t get you much, maybe a cleaner room or extra toileteries. It’s about giving something to the people cleaning your room, rather than giving something to yourself.

In general I hate tipping. I’d rather pay a room rate that allowed hotels to pay their staff at a level where they weren’t dependent on tips. In many parts of the US they actually do, although not in all cases, and being implored to tip isn’t differentiated based on the pay given to housekeepers which isn’t disclosed.

Even though I don’t like tipping, I’m an American and I travel a good bit in the U.S., so I tip — primarily to people doing tough jobs for what I presume are modest wages. Housekeeping certainly qualifies. If someone helps me with my luggage that qualifies, too, although I don’t love being pestered for help with my one rollaboard.

Still, I’m not sure I like the nudge. No doubt putting a specific woman’s name on an envelope in the room is going to work, guests who don’t use it are going to feel like jerks. I suppose that’s the point.

The campaign teams up with Maria Shriver who “believes plenty of guests don’t know the custom of tipping the housekeeper.”

An interesting experiment would be to compare average amounts left in the envelope with tips if those envelopes contained suggested amounts. If guests “don’t know the custom” is it really a custom? And if they don’t know to tip, do they know how much to tip? Tip each day or at the end of the stay?

Perhaps more tips for housekeeping is good, on a micro level (the individual housekeepers) it probably is but systemically I’m not so sure.

  • If customers systematically tip more, raising the wages of housekeeping, what will that do to actual wages hotels pay? I’m not sure those will actually rise on net over time. Hotels may be able to pay workers less precisely because guests will make up the difference.

  • I also wonder how Marriott will handle the tips — I’d guess that they will be pooled rather than being given to the individual named on the envelope… who may or may not wind up being the person who actually cleans your room.

Do you tip housekeeping? Do you favor Marriott telling you that you should?

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, 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. As someone who has worked in housekeeping, there was no greater pleasure than having a do not disturb room. I put on the sign as soon as I check in and only take it off when I check out. I don’t have someone come make my room everyday at home and don’t need someone to do it while I am traveling.

    For the comments comparing this situation with food service, servers get a much lower wage that they are expected to supplement with tips (not that I agree with that either). Housekeepers are not subject to this and should not be treated the same way. Businesses need to pay people a living wage, treat them with respect no matter their station in life and then price their product accordingly.

  2. It’s my understanding that Marriott does not own most of the 4000+ Marriott brand hotels, they only manage them for investors and run the loyalty program. I doubt that Marriott Corp has any sway about a franchised hotels wages levels.

    Perhaps those mostly local hotel investors are the ones that are in need of the low wage rage. Just sayin’

  3. I don’t tip the maids unless they have gone above and beyond. I understand some may not make a lot of money, but I also don’t tip cashiers at stores (who also don’t make much money). Why should I tip the maids? We tip food servers based on their service and they normally make less than minimum wage and make up the rest in tips. Anyone making minimum wage I do not feel obligated to tip. Everywhere I go there seems to be a tip jar! I don’t believe you have to get a tip for doing your job. Starbucks, ice cream counters…no tip unless I get extra-ordinary treatment.

  4. I’m really shocked at these “no tipping” responses. I hate the envelope idea, but everyone I know tips hotel maids. The only discussion I have ever heard or had is “is $1/day still enough, or is it now $2?” I usually tip $2/day, unless the service has been sub-par. Same logic as the few “pro-tipping” commenters above: it’s an awful, difficult job and I make a lot more doing less physically difficult work. I can afford to make a material change in someone else’s life, and that is a privilege for which I am really grateful.

  5. I see the maids. They do the grimy work to make my room nice and clean for me after I’ve had a long, hard working day. I always tip them. I will never miss the few dollars I leave but those few dollars will mean a lot to the maids.

  6. I usually tip my housekeeper. Why? I used to be one (college job). It is a hard job. On average they spend 20-30 minutes working on each room. Compared to other service jobs, housekeeping is much more hands-on and labor intensive. I never expected a tip when I was a maid but I sure did appreciate them.

    Leaving a tip is my way of acknowledging their service and saying thank you. I consider it a tip in advance and if it buys me extra tea or toiletries or amenities, or an extra bottle of water – even better.

  7. @mbh: I think the whole point of the “no tipping” responses is just that:

    Tips should be a nice bonus for someone who already earns a fair wage, but still goes out of his way to provide exceptional service. Like a bonus for a more-than-expected productive employee. It shouldn’t be automatic in any way, and certainly not a way to supplements a systematic unfair wage from a multi-billion $ business. I think most of us will agree on this.

  8. A JicV (post 28). Agree with everything… and last paragraph is hilarious. In Quebec (Canada), suggested tip at restaurant is clearly 15%. The nice thing is… our taxes are exactly that, 15%… so it’s pretty easy for everyone. Waiters have to declare and pay taxes on the first 8%, wether or not they receive tips (even if a few cheepos/unsatisfied clients don’t tip at all, the average will be close to 15% anyways). We have the same “lower minimum wage” for tip-earning jobs. Don’t know for sure about rest of Canada, but I would think the culture is 15% as well. 20% is something I’ve only seen in the US… Makes me wonder… what’s next? 25% anyone?

  9. By tipping you’re lowering future wages.

    Wages are low because people tip, not the other way around.

    In most of the US the minimum wage (guaranteed pay) is lower for certain occupations because they’re tipped:

    Personally, I believe that hefty contributions to certain charities is much more effective on poverty than perpetuating a system that lowers the guaranteed wages of the less fortunate. Of course, it’s not as personally rewarding, but doing the right thing often isn’t.

  10. @46 I agree with your summary:the true gripe here is that Marriott is uncouthly shaking its guests down so they can avoid “socially responsible” wages as their own baseline.

  11. First of all, many have taken on the assumption that Marriott will lower wages now. But there is no proof of that; what we do know is that Maria Shriver has gotten Marriott Hotels to participate in International Housekeepers Week/Month. She probably was just trying to help raise awareness, but in most of you, she has raised bitterness.

    Now some of you are perturbed at the bellman, or the hotel restaurant, or the rate the hotel charges, or the custom of tipping itself – and so you punish the housekeeper.

    Some of you believe that, as a minimum wage job, it’s by definition only meant to be temporary. But that belief ignores the fact that in this economy many adults are trapped in low to minimum wage jobs permanently. I mean, even if it is at SeaTac, and your housekeeper gets $15/hour, that’s only $600/week if they let him/her work full-time (they may be trying to skirt Obamacare). Or if there’s a union in NYC and they make $800/week – Believe me that’s not enough to live on in NYC.

    You are free to choose to tip or not to tip, but please don’t be angry with your housekeeper, or for that matter with Marriott – over this simple campaign to raise awareness for the people who clean your room.

  12. @Scott T–I am certainly not annoyed with housekeepers but am certainly annoyed with Marriott. There are a tremendous number of staff around the hotel who contribute to a pleasant stay for a guest. Most of them get no awareness or appreciation from guests. In your life there are plenty of people who do hard jobs that improve your quality of life who do not earn much at all. The solution is not to have a hundred different envelopes in a guest room and dropped off at your house so you can recognize each of these people. The solution is to pay people a living wage to do a hard job. However, every time the topic of increasing the minimum wage comes up, it exactly corporations like Marriott that fight tooth and nail against it. It is not good for society to have an underclass of people dependent on hand outs to have a decent standard of life.

  13. Of course you tip the housekeeping staff who cleaned your room! If you don’t–then don’t tip your hairdresser (some pay the owner of the shop a portion of their fees), coffee shop barista (they make at least minimum wage), newspaper delivery person, etc. The staff that cleans all your mess up in hotel/motel/inn rooms do NOT make serious money. They, like many other low-wage earners depend upon tips. (In Mass. wait staff at restaurants make just $2.63/hour–the rest of their wages depend upon tips!!) Hubby and I used to put out one tip at the end of our stay–OOPS! Didn’t realize that the housekeeper may not be the same person each day for the room we stay in. So, now we leave out a few dollars each day before we leave the room to go explore the city we are in.

  14. At this point in 2014 I think we all need to accept that the tipping “culture” is here to stay in the US. As they say, it is what it is. You may think you’re subsidizing the pay of a service industry worker by tipping when it should be the company’s duty, but… aren’t the French subsidizing 8+ weeks of paid vacation for their workers via their tax burden? 6 of one, half dozen of the other…

    But if the tipping culture isn’t going anywhere, perhaps it’s best not to gripe about it constantly. It’s really getting old.

    You can tip your housekeeper or not. It’s a nice thing to do and a custom, even if not adhered to by everybody. And if Marriott’s envelopes serve as a reminder and you’re otherwise inclined to tip, great. The tip money generally goes to hard-working women who need it.

  15. First things first: Housekeeping staff generally work hard for low wages. Those hotels that compensate them better than others, provide reasonable benefits packages, and treat them fairly in other ways, deserve commendation.
    Second: @Gaurav eloquently describes the problems with this Marriott gimmick — and that’s what it is.
    If Marriott really cares about its housekeepers, it has the ability to provide what it considers reasonable compensation to them.
    In addition, it could, if it wished to assist customers who are disposed to leave a tip for a housekeeper, leave an envelope on the desk or in the desk drawer for that purpose — without fanfare.
    Marriott’s URGING its customers to tip the housekeeping staff essentially is a confession by Marriott that it knows its housekeepers are not sufficiently compensated, and it is depending on guilt-tripping customers to reduce the gap.
    Man-up, Marriott!!! If your help is paid too little for your comfort, pay them more!
    This is in many ways analogous to what Spirit Airlines does in the sky. Rather than transparently offering a fare that covers the full cost of moving a passenger and a suitcase from one place to another, Spirit nickles and dimes its customers to death. Now Marriott is, in essence, telling its customers: Our room rates don’t cover the full cost of providing lodging to you including reasonable compensation for our staff. So pay the room rate, and ALSO supplement the pay we give to the housekeepers — it’s really an obligation rather than a tip. (What’s next? Two or three more envelopes — for laundry workers, grounds keepers, on-site engineers, front desk staff, etc., etc.?)
    I just returned from Singapore. Tipping the housekeepers is not “the custom” there. The hotel takes the responsibility for compensating its housekeepers. Net effect: if a customer provides a tip to a housekeeper, it is TRULY a TIP.
    Bottom line: Tipping housekeepers is a nice thing to do. If Marriott wants to make that voluntary gesture easier, great. But this smacks of a huge and profitable corporation trying to shift the burden of adequate compensation of employees to customers. That doesn’t qualify as responsible corporate action. If Marriott believes housekeepers’ compensation is insufficient (and in MANY cases it unquestionably is), it could pay more. If it’s concerned about retaining a level playing field among hospitality providers, it could (and should) support a higher minimum wage.
    A regimented tipping regime cannot be a substitute for paying workers a living wage.

  16. Tipping only encourages people to stay in a dead-end entry level job. I avoid tipping whenever possible, and have never tipped housekeeping. The envelope certainly won’t change my practice.

  17. Easy for me, I hang out the DND sign and don’t take it off until I check out. I don’t want anyone doing anything in my room while I’m out. Hanging up towels and straightening the bed takes at least 2.5 minutes every day. If housekeeping leaves a bag of fresh towels, I’ll leave a tip for that extra service.

  18. I’m perturbed at the UberEats delivery driver who texted me : “Learn to tip asshole”
    Maybe he should have handed me an envelope with that message inside. Now, that would have been funny.

    I would have tipped if he didn’t stop for 15 minutes along the way.
    Now I won’t accept food from this guy ever again because I have no idea what he might do to it.

    The “asshole” part didn’t offend me since that’s in my email address. It’s the notion if he’s so stupid as to text that, what else might he do?

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