Do You Have to Tip the Bathroom Attendants in the Charlotte Airport?

One of the rather stranger features of the Charlotte airport is bathroom attendants. There’s nothing as awkward in the world as a bathroom with an attendant, except a bathroom with an attendant who works for tips.

  • Bathroom attendant tipping induces confusion, and fear. Are you supposed to tip every time? How much? Does it depend what they do for you? Or what you’ve done in their ‘office’?

  • What if you only have $20s? You’d visit the ATM but ATMs usually only dispense $20s. Do you shrug and walk out? Ask for change?

  • What does it say about you that you’re being served… in the bathroom? Sometimes there are racial elements involved too, which foster guilt. And it’s awkward having someone there watching and monitoring at that most private of times, where even in a public restroom you may be looking to create a sense of anonymity.

While Charlotte airport decided to keep the bathroom attendants, they increased pay — from $3.29 an hour plus tips (although a guarantee of minimum wage if tipping didn’t get them there) to $10-$12 an hour — and eliminated tipping in July. Or did they?

I’ve heard from passengers that bathroom attendants still solicit tips. Here’s one mention I noticed on Facebook over the weekend:

[T]he guy is standing at the sinks, with a small bottle of cologne and a strategically held dollar bill in one hand

I decided to reach out to the airport to see what’s going on. Here’s what an airport spokesperson explained,

Charlotte Douglas International Airport began its restroom attendants’ no solicitation for tips policy on July 4. Tip jars were removed and signs were temporarily placed in restrooms informing passengers that tipping is no longer requested.

Additional housekeeping supervisors also were hired to ensure enforcement of the new policy. Any housekeeping employee who continues to solicit for tips does receive disciplinary action.

There were no tipping signs — but those were temporary. However attendants aren’t supposed to solicit tips, and they can get in trouble for doing so. There’s no expectation of tipping in the bathrooms at the Charlotte airport. Employee pay no longer assumes tipping, salaries have been raised, so one of the main arguments for tipping has been removed as well.

Besides, many people find the bathroom attendants creepy as it is (even if some passengers like free mints). Pressure to tip becomes, for some, a reason to prefer the aircraft lavatory over the airport restroom. And that’s just wrong.

The airport suggests the bathroom attendants are key to clean bathrooms, and that’s key to the airport’s reputation. In Kuala Lumpur bathroom screens take cleanliness ratings instead:

And in Sydney you can buy whatever you want from a machine instead of being handed it by a person who wants a tip:

If you transit Charlotte, probably on American Airlines, just be aware that the bathroom attendants are being paid a wage that assumes no tipping. Perhaps the airport should bring back the no tipping signs. And does one need to add that this is a change in bathroom policy in North Carolina that didn’t require the state legislature to get involved?

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. I applaud the bathroom attendant! And. Port him and his livelihood. He doesn’t everyone love a clean bathroom! I need some parts of the world. I would wish for a bathroom attendedant.

    It is gainful employment. Imagine what his life choices were to have to take that job!

    One shouldnt wish for the panhandler to get a job, and then still resent him if he/she does.

  2. Traveled to South Africa this past summer and in several of the airports (JNB, CPT & DUR) the attendants greet you with a warm smile and say “welcome to my office!” Funny, disarming and does not make you feel obligated.

  3. There is no way in hell am I tipping for using the restroom. These jobs need to be eliminated. CLT is a crappy airport, not a country club.

  4. This is north Carolina. You have to show him your Wanker or hooha and he makes sure you are allowed to use the restroom that you are in. Any doubts? He has a direct line to the governor and the legislature who check in their book of half truths (aka bible) to see what needs to be done.

  5. thanks for the tip, Gary.
    next time i transit through charlotte, i will make sure to bring an empty disposable 24 oz. coffee foam cup with me.

  6. This whole tipping discussion reminds me of Mel Brooks in the p1ssboy scene of ‘History of the World Part 1’ …classic!

  7. I don’t tip. Period!!!! Charge me more on the airport fee, on the price of the meals in a restaurant, etc… but do not expect me to tip. This is a bad habit that like using Fahrenheit and miles only people in the US like it. I hate the feeling that all services I am getting are fake because all the people serving are doing is try to get a tip.

    BTW, talk about awkward behavior in a public bathroom at AMS airport. You are there standing in front of the urinals and a female is cleaning the urinal next to you. WTH!!!!

  8. I travel from CLT weekly and have always hated the tipping expectation. I don’t mind an attendant when they are cleaning, but in my experience, they spend more time handing out paper towels or standing by their tip jar. Handing me paper towels is unnecessary and just feels like asking for a tip. I have not noticed any difference since the wages were raised. I haven’t seen tip containers removed and the tip-seeking continues. I don’t blame the attendants really. If it were my job, I would try to get as many tips as I could too and I would use guilt, charm, hints etc to get them. I just think the airport has put them in a position where they are going to do it. I have seen zero change in behavior since the policy has supposedly changed. I don’t think they really want it to change.

  9. Would you clean the restroom.? No. You would not you filthy slobs. I work there and the gentleman with the club foot I give him money evertime I can. I make 11$ for American Airlines. Just think what he needs to LIVE! I have been blessed to be able to live on my salary. You people are sick.

  10. yeah that’s why i went to college and got a job that requires more than a 4th grade education, john – so i wouldn’t have to work in a bathroom

  11. I will NEVER tip bathroom attendants! I walk out of there and don’t feel bad whatsoever. Tipping is getting out of control in this country. It’s the airport’s responsibility to make sure the bathrooms stay clean. Plus, who carries cash these days?

  12. I’m glad that Gary mentioned the racial element, because it plays a bigger role than people like to admit. Bathroom attendants (in CLT or elsewhere in the USA) are disproportionately black, and as a white customer, it feels like the attendant is a subservient charity case. There is no “right” action to take in this situation. Do I give him money and perpetuate the social construct? Or do I deny him money as if it’s better for him? It’s just awkward.

    The right solution is to admit that bathroom attendants are unwanted by the majority of customers.

  13. I was there a few weeks ago and all the attendant did was point people to the urinals (thanks, because I don’t know where to find the urinals in the bathroom) and I needed a stall, which I am also very capable of finding on my own. Also, handing me paper towels is not value added, I absolutely do not need help with that.

  14. So, CLT has employees doing something that is not needed anywhere else, getting a raise, and then the airport has to hire additional supervisors (at an even higher wage), to monitor their activities. Gee, sounds like a real economic winner.

    @Pafunco – Its not just AMS, the cleaning staff in Kuala Lumpur is also usually female as well – and that is in Malaysia, which is a very conservative country.

  15. My wife and I have traveled every continent except Antartica. One thing we’ve learned is that a clean public restroom is important, especially if you’re female. Neither of us mind giving a bathroom attendant 10 corunna in Prague, €.50 in Cadeques, or US$1 in Sihanoukville if the bathroom is reasonably clean and has a Western style commode. We’ve been in so many places where those don’t exist.

    And, we don’t mind tipping those who do their work (which we would not do) with pride, and support themselves and their families with this kind of job. The restroom attendant in the restroom when I was last changing planes at CLT was a veteran, who used this job to supplement his retirement. I support those who don’t want to be forever feeding at the government trough. And the restroom was clean. (Next time you’re at a urinal, look down and observe how many men have missed the target where you are standing.)

  16. I transit CLT often and I can tell you the bathrooms are cleaner there than at other airports. I’m amazed at how dismissive so many of you are towards people working HARD for a living, doing a dirty job that I’m sure you are glad gets done. Open your wallet once in awhile, clear out the cobwebs and leave the man a dollar!!

  17. The CLT bathrooms represent one of the most awkward customer service experiences I have ever encountered. For me, the awkwardness has nothing to do with money. I just don’t need anyone directing me to the toilet and paper towels. I don’t care to be “watched” while using the restroom.

  18. I live in CLT and think the bathroom attendants are creepy and they are still asking for tips. The bathrooms are not always particularly clean even with the attendant, but I guess they are cleaner than some other airports I have been to. It sure is odd!

  19. I thought I was the only one that found the bathroom attendants at CLT to be weird.

    I go through there quite often and avoid the public restrooms altogether since I have Admiral’s Club access. I always use the toilets in there – even if I’m rushing from B to E – just to avoid the attendants. I don’t need help doing something I’ve been doing my entire life.

    As someone else said, who carries cash nowadays anyway?

  20. I cannot stand peeing to the sounds of someone singing a hymn. Please, just go away. I can find the TP, the soap and the water. It is really creepy.

  21. I resent someone holding the soap, water handles & paper towels hostage in expectation of a tip. I realize it’s a job, but give me a break!

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