You’ll No Longer Have to Tip When Using the Bathroom at the Charlotte Airport

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.

The Charlotte airport has bathroom attendants, and those aren’t going away, but the way they get paid is changing.

For years, Charlotte Douglas International Airport has been unique in two ways: folksy white rocking chairs and bathroom attendants who work for tips.

But the airport said Wednesday it will eliminate tipping for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July.

“Those employees will go onto a steady wage,” said interim aviation director Brent Cagle. “We will have consistency and predictability in their wages. The tipping is something we have done for a long time, but it’s something customers don’t like. It’s one of the most frequent complaints about service.”

The airport will increase the wages of bathroom attendants from $3.29 an hour plus tips (with a gross up if tips don’t get the attendant to minimum wage) to an hourly wage of $10 to $12.

    Does one need to add that this is a change in bathroom policy being made in North Carolina, at the local level, without any need for action by the state legislature?

The airport wants to keep bathroom attendants, arguing that one person responsible for cleanliness of a given airport keeps the bathroom clean. Although it’s not clear why that duty needs to be mixed with helping people dry off after washing their hands, or providing mints.

I prefer the approach of the Kuala Lumpur airport:

And if you need fresh breath while in the restroom, there’s Sydney airport’s attendant-free approach:

Changing the way attendants are paid isn’t going to obviously change passenger expectations. It’s not going to do anything to diminish confusion and fear. So it’s important to get the word out: starting in July, no tipping required in the airport restrooms in Charlotte. Pass it on.

(HT: Tocqueville)

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. A somewhat welcome change, but they shouldn’t be in there at all. This stuff just proves tipping is outta control – something people are perfectly able (and desiring) to do themselves, doesn’t require a service for tips.

  2. No need at all for an attendant. Takes up space and provides little other than awkwardness.

  3. If there’s gonna be someone in the mens room cleaning or attending they should at least do it the way they do it in Jamaica and make her a female attendant. Its way too weird to have a man watching over the other guys in the most private of places. Seems more natural to have a woman in there to me

  4. Sorry Billy, that’s against the law in N. Carolina. Unless she’s a transgendered woman who was born as a man, then it would be okay.

  5. I rarely tip in those bathrooms and never felt guilt about it. How many people go through an average bathroom there in an average hour? 500? 1000? If everyone was supposed to tip $1, they would be making an incredible (tax-free) wage.

  6. I’ve been transiting CLT more frequently the last year or so and once stumbled onto a bathroom that was attendant-free. i always go back to that same one assuming i have the time to spare.

  7. Never tip. But dint use their paper towels too. Some night clubs do that:
    Bathroom attendants and you can get paper towels to wipe hands only from them. Those nightclub owners are assholes.

  8. In some countries an attendant is a welcome sight, because it means someone is paying attention to a facility that otherwise may be filthy. However, I don’t see that as a big issue at most U.S. airports, and don’t see why Charlotte needs something other airports get along fine without.

  9. Isn’t that why they invented airport lounges, so you wouldn’t have to use the public restrooms? #firstworldproblems 🙂

  10. I have always liked the clean restrooms in CLT and did not mind tipping the attendant.

    Some if them likely make way more than $10-$12 per hr.

  11. @Pat — your math is probably accurate. These “poor” people are probably bringing home >$1k per day, or >$200k per year. The distortions that tipping induces are mindboggling.

  12. You couldn’t pay me $200,000 a year to stand in a public toilet for eight hours a day watching grown men who should know better try to decide if I was worth dropping a dime or a quarter or, heaven forfend, even a dollar on.

  13. Gary, your article perfectly captured all of my feelings about this and the dread I feel 20+ times per year when I connect in Charlotte and remember the bathroom situation. It’s almost enough to make me stop drinking the free Dos Equis, but not quite.

  14. I had no idea this existed. I’ve only ever visited the restrooms at the US/AA lounge. It’s bizarre. As Andy noted, I didn’t realize this extra lounge perk — attendant free bathrooms!

  15. “And if you need fresh breath while in the restroom, there’s Sydney airport’s attendant-free approach:”

    @gary – not sure i want to know how you get fresh breathe from that picture…

  16. I was just in CLT on July 3rd and there were still attendant in the men’s room with a tip jar on the table. Personally I prefer not having anyone in the bathrooms, other than scheduled janitorial staff cleaning up.

  17. Update July 16: signs in the bathrooms now say “TIPPING IS NO LONGER REQUESTED”

    The signs weren’t there yesterday, to my recollection, and definitely not last week.

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