One Marriott Makes Tipping Mandatory By Charging Extra for Housekeeping

Did you know that it’s possible to pay Marriott a room rate that doesn’t include housekeeping? It’s worse than an airline’s Basic Economy where you can pay for a ticket without advance seat assignment or carry on bag, because housekeeping is still provided it’s just charged separately.

This isn’t like Starwood’s “Make a Green Choice” where you give up daily housekeeping in exchange for points. Your rate includes housekeeping but you can save the hotel money and receive a portion of the savings back. Instead you just pay more.

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

Generally speaking though this is voluntary but it does create awkwardness and confusion, how much should you leave? where should you leave it? should you tip daily or at the end of your stay? and what if you don’t have cash?

Dennis L. shares that the Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort in Costa Rica is charging him a separate fee for housekeeping in addition to the room rate, a resort fee, and a mandatory bellman fee.

To me this is absurd. How can the room rate at a full service hotel not include housekeeping?

The website only discloses a resort fee. And Dennis is there for an event, I’ve often seen bellman charges as part of event contracts (really, it’s a junk fee to up the total revenue in the contract). Besides $2 seems quite low for housekeeping costs even with Costa Rican wage rates. So I thought it might be event-specific even though he says the hotel tells him “it is charged to all rates, special or public.”

I reached out to Marriott and they confirmed this hotel adds the fee to group business, and it’s essentially a mandatory tip.

A housekeeping fee is added to most bookings of group contracts, which make up about 20% of this hotel’s business. The fee covers gratuities and the money goes directly to the housekeepers. Meeting organizers typically communicate directly to the travelers in their group about the fee. The fee does not apply to individual travelers.

Resort fees are bunk, any charge which is not optional is a part of the room rate and any hotel charging mandatory fees on top of the rate is engaging in a deceptive practice.

Still I understand why they persist. Any hotel that folds their resort fee into the room rate looks more expensive than competitor properties (in this case it would be $25 more expensive). Hotels deceive their guests with resort fees because everybody does it and no one wants to unilaterally disarm.

However a hotel that charges a room rate and a resort fee and still charges extra separately for housekeeping — even if it’s only charged to 20% of guests? That strikes me as a little much.

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. Americans the world over are expected to tip, and they do. So feel free to blame your fellow countrymen for the monster they have created!

  2. The issue here is not the tipping, but the fact that it’s a mandatory fee which really should be part of the room rate. Marriott is simultaneously screwing over their workers and their customers by doing this.

  3. @ray
    It becomes mandatory because some stupid culture deemed tipping as compulsory for any service rendered. And by chance, those stupid culture also tend to act (everywhere they go) as the sole best cultured society in the world.

    Its normal for corporation like Marriot to use stupidity of a certain culture to get more dollars into its pocket.

  4. Hotels should required to include all fees in their base room rate, much as airlines are. If they must add extra fees, those fees must be clearly displayed at the point you select your room. As it is, this is becoming a joke, requiring you to read all of the fine print before making a booking and I am getting really tired to this. Push back at the hotel at checkout, hard. Negative feedback is surely the only way they will change their ways, as gov’t seems reluctant to legislate on this.

  5. While TripAdvisor is of mediocre value, make a point to go there because a lot of people do, give the property a low rating, and explain, “The property is deceptive in its practices. You never know what the cost will actually be because they hide all kinds of mandatory fees in fine print. Their lack of honesty in pricing puts customers in a situation of distrust and is unworthy of your business..”

    They don’t care about blog posts. They do care about being highly rated. If they see enough people dragging down their rating because of this, maybe, just maybe, they’ll take note.

    Push back every time. Unfortunately the FTC has dragged its feet in the U.S. on requiring honesty in pricing, and comparable agencies in other countries often seem ineffective as well.

  6. @dave s. Except Trip Advisor doesn’t want this stuff published so when I’ve posted negative reviews they sometimes disappear or are never published at all. That’s why Trip Advisor is a fraud too.

  7. Hotels, much like airlines should be forced to include all non-optional fees in the published price. This is just another extension of BS “resort fees” I get we can’t force a third world country to do this but Marriott should crack down on this where the USA can’t. Us readers of this blog can usually figure out these fees ahead of time but it really can be downright misleading to the average consumer.

  8. ~Ludicrous! Pay your employees and include all fees in your rate. Don’t make it embarrassing for yourself to show that you are a low-paying hotel.
    The American attitude towards tipping is ridiculous and the result of guilty feelings about service. Service staff are professionals around the world, except in America where the vast majority engage in these functions without any prospect of a career in the industry. THAT MENTALITY needs to change in America!
    I will refuse to pay these mandatory tips/gratuities if it showed up in my bill.

  9. Marriott doesnt own all its hotels to say Marriott doesnt pay its house keeping staff enough. House keepers in Marriott in NYC make $30 bucks an hour. You have no idea what you are talking about.

  10. @Ana Rod – Marriott owns a few, manages a lot, franchises some. Owned and managed they’re setting pay, it’s only the franchised hotels where they aren’t, therefore *you* have no idea what you are talking about. In any case even franchised hotels have to meet brand standards.

  11. Let’s not forget how the cruise lines have taken the “nickel and dime” approach of tipping to the infinity level of nausea. They even pass out envelopes with a “suggestive” price per person per day.

    Try getting out of a taxi at a hotel to fight with the doorman to roll your own luggage on wheels; or, after checking in, to fight another doorman not to grab your luggage as you will wheel it yourself to the room. Ironically, the more expensive and classier the hotel, the higher the internet fees are, as compared to other brands that do not even charge for internet! For what these fancy hotels charge in their bar, you would think everybody had to be selling drugs to afford the drink!

    The trick to securing the most optimal seat on Amtrak’s “Acela” when boarding in Washington, New York, or Boston, is to grab a redcap who can board you early, with the understanding you are paying a meaningful tip per bag for the privilege of beating the crowd.

    Amazing how travel and vacation have become such a hassle. It was never like this when taking the “Super Chief”…

  12. Gary,

    I think the important part, in this case per the hotel, is that its for groups (though I share your outrage on resort fees and general fee creep).

    My current company – when booking out large hotels for work conferences – arranges tips “behind the scenes” so each individual person does not have to (unfortunately in most cases, I think folks would not tip at all).

    I’ve asked multiple staff and they refused tips generally with “thank you sir, but it’s taken care of by your company.” A couple have even commented that the company was very generous. One difference from your example is that I have never seen it as a line item on the final invoice.

  13. Stupid culture? We’ll show you culture. Please respond with your precise latitude and longitude.
    We need some practice.

  14. I seem to remember that there was a Class Action lawsuit against Hilton regarding the ‘mandatory resort fee’ tacked on to every bill. Hilton lost that suit but I still see it regularly. Its irritating and can sometimes be argued out.
    As to the cruise lines, I detest the so called suggested tipping scales and I also hate the nickel and diming that they practice. I love cruising and as a result of the tipping issue I only cruise on Silversea which has a no-tipping practice. I am well aware that nothing is free but, this practice on their part , including no charge for alcohol, is classy and not at all offensive to me.

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