Room service used dishes and glasses on cart in hallway
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Stop Tipping Housekeeping Staff For No Service During the Current 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

The main reason why people stay at hotel properties is to get a good night sleep on a reasonably comfortable bed in a clean room equipped with the minimum necessities: lights, secure doors and windows for privacy and protection, and a bathroom with a place to wash and bath or shower…

Stop Tipping Housekeeping Staff For No Service During the Current 2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic?

Dollar bills and coins for tip or gratuity
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

…so leaving a tip for members of the housekeeping staff is not exactly the first thing on the minds of most guests when they book a hotel room — but what if the service you receive is considered to be substandard? What if the hotel glasses in your room were not being properly cleaned to the point that you would likely not want to drink out of them? What if you found out that your room was infested with bed bugs? Would you still leave a gratuity?

What if you received virtually no service at all at the hotel or resort property at which you stayed — especially during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, when many amenities and services were either substantially reduced or temporarily eliminated altogether?

“Do you leave a tip when a property has stripped every service element out of the experience, and there is no contact with any employee?” This ethical question was asked by FlyerTalk member BearX220, who had stayed at a Hampton Inn hotel property earlier this month with his wife for four days and three nights “with no housekeeping, no breakfast, no hot coffee, almost nothing in the lobby pantry, disabled ice machine on our floor, etc., etc. We used the digital key so never spoke to the front desk except to confirm coffee wasn’t possible. The only sign of service was the blue sticky sanitized-for-your-protection style seal on the room door upon arrival; it was of course impossible to tell whether any of Hilton’s promised CleanStay measures were actually taken in the room, but when we entered we did our own clean regime before touching anything, sealed the TV remote in a Ziploc bag, etc.”

Suggesting that service had already been performed prior to arriving as a guest, FlyerTalk member craigthemif claimed that “Presumably you tip housekeeping because they’ve cleaned your room, not because they haven’t.”

FlyerTalk member ebuck posted that “I continue to tip when I leave a hotel, mostly because I know people are struggling with lower occupancy rates and job security. I’ve actually been tipping more since the pandemic, since I know service workers are being hit hard. I haven’t been to a restaurant to dine in, but have done take out, and I always leave a large tip, even though I’m not using the wait staff.”

Is that considered a gratuity — or is leaving extra money more of a charitable gesture, like a donation? FlyerTalk member funkydrummer disagreed about leaving more money being a charitable gesture and opined that “Their job got more difficult. For one, I believe their compensation per room (and they are almost always paid per room cleaned) hasn’t gone up but the work required has (extra cleaning and disinfecting protocols due to covid). For another, their job has also gotten riskier: Aerosoles carrying covid can linger around for hours. There is at least some additional risk of getting infected for housekeeping staff, and there’s a hugey increased risk for wait staff.”

Perhaps your stance is similar to that of FlyerTalk member LondonElite, who simply stated that “I generally don’t leave a tip anyway, but under those conditions, no, what for?”

A Gratuity of Ten Dollars Per Day Per Person?

Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Center
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

A former housekeeper at a hotel property suggested that guests leave a tip of ten dollars per day per person who stayed in the hotel room no matter what the rate is charged for the room in which they are staying — meaning that if a family of three people stay in a hotel room for five days, they should leave $150.00 for the housekeeping staff. In some hotel properties, that rate of tipping can actually exceed the room rate itself.

Gratuities and tips have long been controversial with regards to travel and dining — to the point of contentiousness from all sides of the issue, as evidenced by the following articles which I wrote for The Gate over the years…

The Envelope, Please: Attempt by Marriott to Encourage Tipping

Tru By Hilton Oklahoma City Airport
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Apparently you and I are not leaving enough of a tip for the housekeeping staff at hotel and resort properties in the United States and Canada, according to this campaign called The Envelope Please which was launched by Marriott International, Incorporated back in September of 2014, of which Maria Shriver was the spokesperson.

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

I disliked 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, whenever lodging companies profit from increases in revenue, 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?

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

Other Costs at Hotel Properties

Hilton Paris Orly Airport
Photograph ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

In addition to hotel rates, 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 Tuesday, 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.

That I vehemently oppose the implementation of mandatory resort fees, facilities fees and destination fees is no secret to you if you have been a reader of The Gate for years — they should either be optional or eliminated altogether — and I would not be the least bit surprised if forcing guests to pay these nefarious fees reduces the number of tips and gratuities members of the housekeeping staff receive.

I will just let this extensive body of work over the years pertaining to mandatory resort fees speak for me…


Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Was BearX220 wrong to not leave a gratuity at all for the housekeeping staff at the hotel property — even though he would have ordinarily done so — as he had seen no evidence that housekeeping even existed?

If you had a similar experience to BearX220, would you have left a gratuity? If so, to whom would you leave a tip — and if not, what is your reason why? Do you agree with any of the stances which other FlyerTalk members had taken in the aforementioned discussion?

Some people would assimilate leaving gratuities for housekeeping staff at hotels to leaving tips for servers and waitpersons at dining establishments, as both are underpaid sets of employees who work thankless and generally mundane jobs — and some people are apt to give more money when tipping during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic to help them through these difficult times when customers are fewer and farther between.

I will be the first to wholeheartedly agree that members of the housekeeping staff at hotel and resort properties need to be paid a better wage for their hard work. Artificially lowering the rate for a room at a hotel or resort property — only to have the guest pay resort fees and tips and gratuities and other hidden expenses — can be perceived as deceptive. Perhaps instead of $79.00, the true room rate should be $100.00; or perhaps instead of $213.00, the true room rate should be $345.00. At least the guest will have a better idea of what to pay with fewer surprises — as well as have the option of leaving a gratuity in addition to the real room rate if the service is indeed extraordinary. Lodging companies need to pay better wages to members of the housekeeping staff and not force customers to subsidize them. Tips and gratuities should be optional and at the discretion of the customer. Stop guilting guests into leaving a tip.

Furthermore, when I stay at a hotel or resort property, I try to leave the room as close to the way I found it as possible. I gather up the towels I used and either place them in the bathtub or on the floor in one area. I never leave hair in the drain. I always flush the toilet. Not only do I dispose of garbage properly, but I usually consolidated it in one trash can.

Some people do not leave a tip for housekeeping at all, with the logical and reasonable assumption that the services of the members of the housekeeping staff are included in the room rate — and they receive scorn from critics who claim that members of the housekeeping staff do not earn enough of a wage for their hard work to be able to afford basic living expenses; and by not leaving them gratuities, they are being denied reasonable compensation for doing their jobs.

If I decline to have a porter carry my bags to my room for me instead of doing it myself, am I denying him or her income? Do I not have a right to work for myself if I feel that I do not need any assistance? Is this true even during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic?

Other people like to state that if you cannot afford to leave gratuities, then you therefore cannot afford to travel or dine at a restaurant. I believe that absolute statements such as that are overly harsh. Unless the service is beyond expectations, is enjoying a stay at a hotel or resort property — or even dining out in a restaurant, for that matter — without automatically acceding to what is basically a justified and glorified form of a handout too much to ask?

Finally, I am an adult. Don’t “suggest” to me when and how much I should tip. As I wrote in this article on Friday, 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.

All photographs ©2008, ©2015, ©2016, ©2017, and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

  1. $10 per day per person? It’s somebody expecting something like that might lead me not to tip at all. That would be a high hourly rate by itself given how long they usually take per room. And I’m sure most of their tip total is tax free.

  2. One cannot equate in any way housekeeping with servers at dining establishments. In my state the minimum wage is $10.10 per hour, although outside of fast food establishments, i wouldn’t say anyone is paid so little. However, food servers are only paid an hourly wage of $3.83 per hour so long as the tips equal at least (combined) $10.10 per hour. Most food servers make far in excess of that in tips. Housekeeping is paid a “ normal “ wage by law, so any tipping is purely gratuitous by the guest. Why should the guest bear the burden to increase the employee’s wage? That is purely between the employer and the employee, and the guest should not be placed in the middle, nor feel any obligation otherwise.

  3. I will often select the option of “no housekeeping” when available. First of all, I don’t want people in my room. Second of all, they generally don’t do a very good job anyway (probably due to rote work and the need for speed). I like “my mess” to remain the same until I pack up and leave. Now, I still tip because they have to clean up when I check out, but I certainly don’t leave $10/person/day, that’s insane. Usually I’ll look around the room, and if there’s a mess, I’ll leave $20, if it looks tidy, I’ll leave $10. I almost never eat in the room, so there is rarely any food mess. The rare times when I do eat in the room, I always take all my trash to the large bins next to the ice maker.

  4. Reality hit: If your room doesn’t look like it used to, it’s because the hotel director of housekeeping, maybe the director of sales, or the GM are the ones cleaning your room. That is where the industry is, everyone else has been let got at many properties.

  5. You’re missing a big motivating factor in tipping…the positive feeling of giving a tip. It’s not a purely altruistic act nor is merely rewarding extraordinary service; it’s very much driven by making yourself feel good because you’ve given money to someone presumably less fortunate than yourself. This concept helps explain to me why tipping is such a uniquely American custom.

    That said, your post is over-complicating tips far too much. It’s really quite simple: If you can spare a tip but don’t want to tip, then don’t leave a tip.

    But please stop complaining about tipping. Just own the fact you’re cheap; no need to explain it or justify your guilt. And no need to blame others (the economic system/ the owners/ the staff/ the pandemic/ the government/ whatever else) to make yourself feel better for not leaving a few dollars.

  6. I don’t usually tip at McDonalds. The restaurant and dining area is usually clean but there is not a lot of service so I don’t feel that it’s required. I appreciate those workers. If I did tip them I wouldn’t give them $10 per person in my party.

  7. $10 a day per person is crazy – I typically leave $3-$5 a day total (usually just me traveling). If I have special requests like more towels I would tip $1-$2 when they are delivered.

    Sure you can argue “its their job” and justify that to not ever leave a tip (BTW that could be applied to a lot of professions). Personally I feel better recognizing some of the lowest paid, hardest working people in a hotel and ALWAYS leave a tip. They are working harder between guest stays now to comply with the additional cleaning requirements. Now I’m not leaving $3-$5 a day for multi-night stays with no daily service but do add more. $3-$5 is my base tip for 1 night and if I stay 3-4 I would likely leave $8-$10. I’ll never miss it and it shows housekeeping they are appreciated. Also, if a few people leave a tip maybe they have enough to cover lunch.

  8. After 18 months, we planned to take a short trip. I am trying to book a hotel during the July 4th weekend (when we get extended time off from work) almost all hotels are charging 200 %-500% of the normal price. We have fewer choices left
    1) Either accept the demand and pay the higher price for a decent family hotel
    2) Compromise to a cheaper hotel
    3) Don’t plan to travel during the long weekend, in such case we have to take off during regular weekdays which is another hassle

    Option 2 is ruled out & Option 3 is possible but has other concerns the only thing left is option 1 which I have to spend at least double the amount for the hotel budget.
    Isn’t it fair to expect the hotel to price reasonably? a normal hike during demand seems reasonable but not a 200% – 500% increase. The hotels can argue it is a demand-supply thing but for us, it looks like daylight robbery. In such a case why don’t the hotel management pay reasonable to the staff and expect the usual tips only?

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