The other week, while I was staying at a hotel while traveling for work, I was right in the middle of rearranging all the furniture in my room when I realized that I should probably leave a tip for the cleaning staff considering that I would be leaving them with more towels than what the room was originally stocked with before I arrived*.I usually don’t leave a tip for the cleaning staff since I typically never have housekeeping done during my stay and always tidy the place up before I leave. So if you really think about it, I’m the one who should be getting the tip.
But I must admit I’m not very confident in my when-to-tip and when-not-to-tip knowledge. I definitely understand tipping when eating at a restaurant. I’ve got that one down good. It’s pretty well accepted that not leaving a tip would be incredibly insulting. But what about other tipping situations?
Pat, what I would like to do is throw out some potential tipping scenarios and you tell me how much of a jerk I am if I don’t tip. Let’s start with the hotel housekeeping tip.
Let’s say you stay at a hotel but never have housekeeping come, should you leave a tip in your room upon check out? Assuming you put all the furniture back how it was before you leave and don’t leave any additional towels.
Pat: Before we set off down this road, can I remind you that I’m the guy (read: “cheap bastard”) who asked you if it was okay to make off with a gallon of half & half when I buy a 12 ounce coffee from a neighborhood coffee shop?
I’m not sure that I’m the best moral guide.
Christian: OK, how about this: give an opinion from your own personal point of view and then give another answer while imagining you’re a normal contributing member of society.
Pat: Okay...here’s the latter:
Considering most hotel staff probably have a scripted protocol they have to employ when cleaning each room, the amount of tidying you do likely has no effect on what they still have to do to bring the room up to management expectations. For example, you may make the bed, with drill-seargent regulation corners, but they will still unmake it and re-make it, simply because they have to. Ergo, you taking it upon yourself to tidy up in lieu of a tip STILL makes you a cheap bastard in their eyes. So...normal me says pay up, cheap-o! You think they’re really breaking the bank with their minimum wage job, one-percenter? Please, Mr. Rich-Man...remember the other 99!
HOWEVER...if it is justification for anti-social behavior you’re looking for, look no further my friend, because REAL me is back!
You did the cleaning, you say? Tip yourself! Go get yourself a nice drink, and say hi to the cleaning staff on your way out!
Christian: I see your point. But in my defense, when I say I tidy up I mean I put all the towels I use into a pile and throw away any garbage I may have accumulated. I actually never make the bed. And in the spirit of being totally candid, when I’m staying in rooms that have two beds I typically mess both of them up even when traveling alone. It’s just something that has to be done.
So let’s move on to my next tipping situation. Keeping with the motel theme, what is your opinion on tipping for valet parking?
While traveling for work I occasionally end up staying places where the only option for parking is valet. But keep in mind this isn’t free valet parking. The hotels typically charge $35 - $45 a night for valet parking. But since I am traveling for work I can expense that since it shows up on my hotel receipt. What I can’t expense is the tip for the valet guy so I generally just leave one tip as I check out. Usually around $5 which I’m assuming is on the cheap side. But I usually stay at a hotel for a full work week so if I were to tip the valet’s $5 every time they take my car or give me my car I would be looking at a $50 loss! That’s a lot of Cheeto money.
Pat: You just moved out of my league, buddy. I don’t think I’ve ever valet parked. Or had a valet do my parking. Or parked in a valet. Whatever.
I would opt to ride my bike to the hotel, and thus save the extra dough.
And just to clear things up...you do realize that you are a cheap bastard as a result of the hotel scenario, right? Tip the damn cleaning staff!
Christian: OK, let’s move on then. How about when you go to a restaurant to pick up some take-out food? Do you leave a tip?
Of course you would leave a tip if you dined in but in that case aren’t you tipping the service of being waited on? When you are picking up your food you really aren’t getting any additional service.
And before you go arguing that the tip goes to the people that prepared the food and ran your credit card etc., don’t you get that same service at fast food places? Am I expected to tip them too?
Pat: Not even a question there. No tip. Maybe, and this is a VERY rare maybe, if I’m feeling an extra pep in my step, I might toss a dollar into a tip jar if they have one, but otherwise...no tip.
I fully recognize that I too am a cheap-ass bastard, but I think this tipping thing has gotten out of hand. The traditionalist in me thinks, “You have a job. Do it well. Get paid for your good and hard work. Don’t expect much more than that.” I know that service workers are getting the shaft with their crappy wages, and it’s hard to make a living even with a full-time job, but is it really my job to make up the deficit? Can’t I just have my underpriced service at an unsustainably low price?
Good god, I started sounding like my Orange county relatives there! Okay...back to my naive liberalism. How about a hug in lieu of a tip?
Christian: I do like hugging strangers but I’m guessing they wouldn’t appreciate it as much as money. Thanks for the tip though.
* How else are you supposed to get rid of your extra unwanted towels?