Hey, Marriott: I Will Tip When I Darn Well Feel Like It

Apparently you and I are not leaving enough of a tip for the housekeeping staff at hotel properties in the United States and Canada, according to a new campaign from Marriott International called “The Envelope Please” of which Maria Shriver is the spokesperson.

Envelopes will be placed in 160,000 rooms at up to 1,000 hotel properties in the United States and Canada operating under the various brands of Marriott International.

I dislike this concept for various reasons:

First of all, there is usually enough junk lying around the room as it is: advertisements, forms to join the frequent guest loyalty program, notices and menus. I do not need an envelope reminding me to tip to add to the clutter.

Second, why is it my problem that housekeeping staff is supposedly not paid enough in wages? I am not their employer. Besides — due to the outlook of business travel expected to increase in 2014 combined with the room rates of hotels in the United States increasing by five percent overall — lodging companies should have seen increases in revenue, which usually lead to increased profits. Why are they not sharing more of the wealth with supposedly underpaid staff?

Third, why is this concept only for the United States and Canada and not being introduced worldwide? Could it possibly be because the concept of tipping might be different in some other countries — especially those where the culture is not conducive to the concept of tipping to the point where it could be considered offensive or an insult?

Finally, I am an adult. Don’t “suggest” to me when and how much I should tip. As I wrote in this article on April 26, 2013, I will tip when I darn well feel like it:

I understand the argument that service personnel — mainly in the United States — depend on gratuities due to low and even sub-standard compensation paid to them by their employers. They do deserve to earn a living and be compensated for their work. If those service personnel choose a job or profession which is reliant upon gratuities, then they need to perform their role as best as they possibly can — and unfortunately expect the occasional deadbeat to not leave a well-deserved tip. Others may argue that service personnel earn more than people think as a result of gratuities — but I am not about to tackle that debate here at this time.

The point I am attempting to make is that a tip should be deserved, not expected; earned, not required. If you are a service provider, did you offer a service of value to your customer — and did you do it exceptionally well? If so, that is how you will get a tip out of me. If not — well — that is up to me to decide. Not you.

What if the service performed by the housekeeping staff is substandard — such as the hotel glasses in your room not being properly cleaned? Would you still leave a gratuity?

In addition to the aforementioned general overall increase of hotel rates in the United States this year alone, guests are subject to other expenses — sometimes without those costs being obvious. That $79.00 hotel room can easily exceed $100.00 per night when you factor in such items as taxes, tips for other employees of the hotel property, and resort fees — and that is not including optional services such as room service, which in and of itself has been known to at times have excessive gratuities and fees attached to it.

As I mentioned in this article from April 22, 2014, I have always been against what I perceive as deceptive advertising. I want to know the total cost of what I am paying when I book an airfare — or a hotel room or rental car, for that matter; and I have always believed that the full price should be what is advertised. I do not agree that this should be applied to tips for hotel staff; but a guest might be more inclined to willingly tip hotel staff if not bombarded with other expenses — whether or not they are expected — which are not included in the advertised room rate.

Here is an idea: How about Marriott use the funds to be spent on this campaign towards increasing the pay to members of the housekeeping staff at its hotel properties?

  1. +1 my friend! Well said. Tipping is out of control.

    Tipping was invented to help people earning a substandard wage. Why do we tip people who make upwards of $60,000 per year? Housekeepers are mostly unionized in any big city and well paid. I don’t use housekeeping because I don’t want someone entering my room while I am staying there. I tip a $1 out of guilt anyway but I have not consumed any tip-worthy services.

  2. Construct all the grandiose arguments you want about why Marriott shouldn’t have done this, but the fact remains that housekeepers have the toughest job in any hotel. It’s back-breaking, unpleasant work. And the average wage of a housekeeper in the U.S. is only $23,416/annum. Have some compassion and leave several bucks for these women, whether the hotel owner leaves an envelope or not.

    1. Who said I did not leave any gratuities for members of the housekeeping staff, HiIslands?

      I completely agree that their work is tough and unpleasant — and if I may also include — thankless…

  3. I spend Tuesday night, every week, at the same property — I’m not cheap but for a one night stay, I’m not sure what I’m tipping for? Housekeeping simply cleaned up after the previous guest and cleaned up after me for the next guest, that strikes me as the basic requirements and not any kind of “service”.

  4. I never really understood the tipping culture in North America… I know dozens (actually more than that…) of university graduates who work full time in restaurants because, with tips, they earn more money than they would with a job related to their bachelor’s and master’s degrees… something’s wrong. Especially since those university degrees are paid with taxpayer’s money in Quebec (Canada). Don’t get me wrong, I always tip around 20% when I get good service at a restaurant… but I always wonder why I tip 15% when I receive crappy or minimal service… Recently, at a Marriott property in Italy, I had dinner with my wife and was really happy with service. I wanted to add tip either as a room charge or with my credit card, and was told “cash only” due to the way their credit card terminal work. I didn’t have any cash and told the waiter I’d be back with something for him. He looked at me and told me not to worry about it, because he was already quite happy with his job!

  5. One more question: can someone tell my why/how much tip is expected at a hotel’s buffet breakfast? I mean the type of buffet breakfast where you only see the staff when they bring a new bucket of fruits/eggs/bacon to the buffet and when they remove your used plate.

    1. I usually leave a dollar or two for the members of the staff who set the table at which I sit and clear it off after I leave, depending on the level of service and the cost of the buffet.

      Because they are not actually going out of their way to serve me, I tend to tip less than at a full-service sit-down breakfast.

      1. Makes sense. I usually leave a bit more (maybe too much actually), but certainly not 15-20%. Last week at a Marriott property in the US, I received my breakfast buffet bill (very minimal service… they brought a coffee pot and removed used plates only) with a printed card that said they expected 15-20% tips for good service. Total nonsense. That’s what I expect to tip at a fine restaurant when the waiter explains the menu, brings my 3+ course meal and maybe gives his opinion on wine pairing…

  6. I always used to leave some money for Hôtel cleaning staff, just because I know they are likely to not be paid very much at all, anywhere in the world, but I do not do so anymore, because of the envelope approach. To me, that is an attempt to invoke a feeling of guilt if you choose not to leave a tip. I consider it to be outrageous. If the hotel chain is that concerned, they should increase pay, rather then telling customers to do it. Most decent hotels charge a pretty high room rate, so it is unbelievable to me that they do not use more of their substantial profits to pay their staff a decent wage. Forget minimum wage. They should pay a living wage.

    I once received an anonymous letter from an in-hotel restaurant, complaining that I had not tipped sufficiently, as it was not more than 18%, and saying that he hoped I would do better, “next time”. Needless to say, there will not be a next time. I have no idea who it came from, and was only held back from sending it to the manager by the thought that the guy would probably get fired. I was mad, but I am not mean. Verytempting though …..

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