You probably do a lot of tipping these days, at restaurants, hair and nail salons, even if you ride in an Uber or Lyft. But do you leave a tip for housekeeping when you stay in a hotel? And if you do, do you leave a tip every day so different housecleaners get some of the cash?
Almost a third of Americans don’t tip hotel housekeepers, while just 3 percent don’t tip restaurant staff, according to a survey by TripAdvisor.
A few years ago, the Marriott hotel chain started a new program to put envelopes in their rooms reminding visitors to tip. But the effort in some ways backfired, instead raising questions about whether the hotels adequately pay their staff.
Frequent traveler Amy Dampier often stays in hotels while on business and said she does not usually leave tips.
“I have tipped for stays at luxury, vacation or spa-like places,” she said. If she does, the amount is “based on how long I stay and what kind of cash denominations I have on hand. Anywhere from $2 to $5 per night.”
Aaron Olbur also travels frequently and said he didn’t used to tip because he didn’t know he needed to, but started when his “mother-in-law told me that it was the right thing to do.”
He usually leaves $5 to $10 because it “sounds like a good round number in my head, and overall it is a nice gesture.”
That’s the recommendation of etiquette expert Lizzie Post, who told Travel + Leisure recently that hotel guests should leave a few dollars every day, since different people clean the room each day. She added that you should leave a note so the housekeeper knows the money is meant for him or her.
Rachel Gumpert, a spokeswoman for Unite Here, a hotel and hospitality workers' union, said she hopes hotel visitors leave $1 to $5 a night “as a recognition of the often invisible work hotel housekeepers do that although unseen is integral to an exceptional guest experience.”
“The schedules and room assignments of housekeepers varies, so tipping daily is the best way to ensure the workers providing you a standout stay aren't accidentally passed over,” she added.
Gumpert said housekeepers are usually women who “are providing excellence in service that often includes a very challenging work load and grueling physical labor.”
Median wages for hotel housekeepers are $9.28 an hour, she said, though union hotels pay more. Union hotel workers clean 16 rooms a day, while non-union hotel workers can clean more than 30. But union or not, Gumpert said guests should tip.
“Hotel housekeepers generally work each room alone with strenuous conditions, including women lifting hundred pound mattresses, repetitive bending, and full shifts on their feet,” she said. “The reality is that the women who work as hotel housekeepers are doing valuable work that deserves recognition, just the same as valets, bellmen, or other hotel workers more visible to guests are.”
She said hotels can’t keep tips left out for housekeepers, but in some cases tell housekeepers to turn over their tips to a pool shared by all employees.
Lanikai Lindsey, the director of rooms at Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, said he recommends $2 to $3 a day and said guests can choose the amount based on the level of mess they leave.
“If you're a single traveler and a relatively a tidy person than your use of the room is minimal,” he said. “If you are a family traveling for a few days, the number of goldfish that have fallen in between cushions and chips that may have been crushed into the carpet should be considered.”
“Take into account whether or not you have met your housekeeper and how they engaged with you,” he added. “Some housekeepers work very hard to never be seen as to not disturb you, so they create that magic moment of sneaking in quickly while you pop out of your room, others really enjoy getting to know their guests and seeing how they may positively impact your experience.”
He said the amount has inched up over time: 10 years ago, he would have recommended $1 a day.
Tom Voss, the dean of hospitality management at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, had a different perspective.
He said tipping hotel housekeepers “has only recently become fashionable,” so there is not yet an established amount.
“The tip amount should be based on a variety of variables including type of hotel — luxury vs. motel — cost of room, length of stay, degree that the guest communicates with the housekeeper and overall performance and satisfaction,” he said. “Hotel housekeepers work hard and are often paid little, so if the guest is satisfied, it is fashionable to tip.”
While in the past, tipping housekeepers was not standard, Voss said over time some hotels have made efforts to increase communication between guests and housekeepers.
“This includes incorporating room attendant postcards with personalized notes into hotel rooms, which both encourages tips and provides a place to leave a tip,” he said. “This has helped make tipping a norm.”
Increased communication led to a tip from frequent business traveler Alison Smidt, who said she’s long debated whether to leave a tip when staying in a hotel.
“I honestly try and keep the ‘do not disturb’ sign on as long as I'm there to not have a guilty conscience about not tipping,” she said. “I just don't feel I need my bed made every day, or my bathmat placed back on the side of the tub.”
But she does tip when housekeeping has made a special effort for her specifically.
“On one trip to Wisconsin I had a few notes waiting for me in the room from housekeeping saying they felt an uplifting presence in my room,” she said. “While that could've been taken as super creepy, this came at a time when I was feeling especially ill and alone away from home. So it was incredible. I tipped about $20 for the week that time because it was so appreciated. I didn't really calculate that amount at all. It's just what I had.”