Tipping Gone Mad: Hotel Booking Site Solicits Tips After You’ve Made Your Reservation

When I wrote about an airport shop that required a tip when paying by credit card for a bottle of water – not that just solicited a tip, but that wouldn’t allow credit card payment without one – most readers were aghast at how far U.S. tipping culture has sunk.

You’d think that tipping couldn’t get much worse than standing in line, showing your bottle of water at the cash register, and then being forced to tip for it. But there’s a version of this story that does seem like it would be worse:

Usually when you’re asked to tip, you’re asked to tip a person. But what about being solicited for a tip on a travel booking website? You’ve just made a hotel reservation, and the computer asks you to voluntarily pay them more money because reasons?

There are a number of hotel booking websites that undercut the prices you’ll find booking direct on chain websites like Hilton and Marriott. They take wholesale rates and charge you less instead of capturing the full commission. Sometimes this is allowed (true membership sites) while other times it runs afoul of price parity rules.

One website along this lines is Traveluro. Reviews of the site are generally not good, including complaints that they didn’t actually book the room though customers were charged, and that they changed dates and shortened trips. Their parent company went public in a SPAC deal last year.

Apparently you have to pay Traveluro extra if you want telephone customer service (for when you find out you don’t have a reservation at the hotel you booked?). They solicit you the extra $4.99 after you complete your reservation. But that’s not all. The online hotel booking site solicits for tips!

The range of things for which tipping is being solicited in the United States has grown tremendously. Tipping, it seems, is no longer just for personal services someone provides – like a waiter in a restaurant, or a stylist in a salon. You’re asked to tip when you bus your own tray after waiting in line for food at a restaurant. You’re asked to tip when picking up food for carry out. And the amount you’re asked for has grown, from 15% to 20% and now sometimes 25%.

Surely there has to be a line. How much will we stand for? Isn’t a reasonable principle that tipping ought to be reserved for service provided by people and not machines?

(HT: Sam O.)

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. [political stuff removed -gl]

    As it is, I am glad that with their tipping they subsidize me as I only and exclusively tip at US restaurants and bellboys, but nothing else (Starbucks, Uber, 7-ELEVEN, Supermarket cashiers, food trucks, you name it). Although they still ruin the experience as I can’t just tap and go as I do everywhere else in the world (It’s tap, figure out how to zero the tip, sign with an X, and then finally go), and I can’t just call any server at a restaurant (must wait for whomever was assigned to my table, a hassle).

  2. What should be a good hourly wage for a server? Is $20/hr enough, $40 or should a server be paid more. . What about the kitchen staff.

    When i was young a10%tip was considered good. I waited tables in college and if you averaged 10% you made a lot more that you would at other part time jobs. On top of that you only declared part of your tips.

    Also tips should only apply to menu prices never taxes and other fees.

    Mainly i tip 10-15 % unless its a very small total ticket.

    Pick a store you go into on a regular basis. How much do the workers make. Do you give them a tip. I am in home improvement stores a lot. There are guys and gals that go above and behond. Does anyone tip them. They give you advice, help you put the proper things together etc. The wait staff at most places makes 2-4 times what they make.

    I say raise prices and have the menu price be what you pay.

  3. Man I’m a cook for Marriott for 10 years we don’t get tip we get higher hourly like 3-4 dollar more but man their tips add up on average they make like 60-70 bucks a day on top of what hourly they make.

    Even those outlets that sell ready to go food and serve Starbucks make more money than cook with tips. I think starting with no experience they start at like $16-18 but tips skyrocket them to the 25-27 range I’d say making more than coins that make all salads and stuff you see in hotels out front which kinda sucks.

    For San Diego I think 20 is the norm hotel cooks start around there nowadays.

  4. I bought a camera accessory online, and the website asked me to leave a tip for the developers of the product. Outrageous with all the tipping. I used to guilt tip (feel guilty when I saw the rip jar). No more, only wait staff get a tip, not the oil change guy, or the person giving me a slice of pizza.

  5. FYI,
    Bookings made on TRAVELURO do not qualify for Best Rate Guarantee with Marriott. They consider it a ‘shoddy’ website yet does nothing to warn its members. #Bonvoyed

  6. Nobody can fix stupid, or apparently, those who are ill-suited to being out without supervision. If people don’t know who and how to tip, or use tipping to make people ‘like them’, they can just go on their ignorant way, making all kinds of people very happy with free money.

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