Last week Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said he does not tip housekeeping staff. Now Nassetta said he gladly tips. The flip-flop offers a poignant reminder of how controversial tipping remains.
Asked about tipping at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on June 3rd, Nassetta said, “I typically do not leave a tip.”
But less than a week later, he clarified his statement to The Points Guy:
When it comes to tipping in hotels, I have always had a different approach to work and personal travel. I also never meant for my approach to work stays at Hilton properties to discourage others from tipping when they are traveling. Going forward, I will tip when traveling for both work and personal travel.
Nothing is more important to me than Hilton’s culture and team members, especially our housekeepers, who are central to delivering Hilton hospitality around the world. I have always been generous with my time and engagement with team members when on property, and I will remain focused on keeping Hilton the #1 best place to work in the United States.
I have to imagine the change of heart was not a sudden epiphany, but intense pressure from many inside the Hilton organization who were disappointed with Nassetta’s initial remarks. Practically, why wouldn’t a CEO want to transfer the cost of labor further onto hotel guests by guilting them into tipping? Nassetta started as a plumber at a Holiday Inn, so I’d think he might have a bit more empathy as well.
Many, like One Mile at a Time, take both a sensible and reasonable approach to tipping housekeeping staff. Lucky argues:
- I don’t love the tipping culture in the US at all
- At the same time, what I hate more than the tipping culture is how many people aren’t being paid livable wages
- Rather than protesting the system and not tipping (which ultimately punishes the hardworking people who are on the receiving end of our system), I want to do my small part to make things better
- Not tipping housekeeping is inconsistent with the rest of our tipping culture, and I think that comes down to the fact that we don’t interact with housekeepers face-to-face, so there’s less guilt; however, they perform among the most important functions at a hotel
- While I’d love to be able to say that not tipping housekeeping will lead to higher wages and force the hotels to pay these workers more, the reality is that this doesn’t end up happening
Thus far, I have taken a different approach. I still don’t tip (generally) housekeeping staff in the USA.
Why I Take A Different Approach
I probably should just take Lucky’s position. It’s undeniable that it is housekeeping staff, not hotels, that are “punished” when guests refrain from tipping. And while there are some unionized markets in which housekeeping staff earn more than a living wage, for the most part their wages do not afford them an American lifestyle commensurate with full-time work (obviously, I am generalizing, but don’t see how that can be avoided).
Remember my South Africa trip report from a few years ago? I bribed someone to get a document quicker. While writing about the incident, I mused:
I have absolutely no regrets paying off this woman to get the document quicker. Who knows how long we would have had to languish in South Africa without her intervention – perhaps several more months based upon the feedback we received from others on the lengthy police records request process.
…this sort of behavior cannot simply be condemned in an era in which it is so ingrained in culture and in practice.
> Read More > Remorse & Resolve: Final Thoughts on a Month in Africa
And yet there is something that holds me back from tipping housekeeping staff. Maybe it is cheapness, though I tip 20-25% in restaurants and now generously tip Uber drivers, so I’m not sure that is it. Maybe it’s just my generally slow adaptation to change. But my bribing analogy reveals that there is still something about tipping housekeeping staff…and frankly tipping in general…that seems intrinsically wrong.
If I really had to pinpoint what it is, I think it is a fundamental objection to the notion that I need to bribe you for good service…at a restaurant or at a hotel. When we see other problems in society, we don’t simply dismiss them as, “That’s the way things are” or “that’s the way things have always been.” And yet that is precisely the approach we take with tipping if staff otherwise are not making enough to survive.
And I don’t see the will to change it. I am happy to voice support for living wages for hotel housekeeping on this blog and heavily penalize hotels if any of their full-time staff qualify for public assistance, but I’m not going to be out protesting for higher wages for hotel staff. So perhaps I should just get on the tipping bandwagon, as I eventually did with Uber.
The undeniable flip-flop of Nassetta demonstrates how controversial this issue remains. I cannot in good conscience implore you to tip. I also cannot in good conscience implore you to refrain from tipping. So I guess I’m like Nassetta. I hear both sides. I tend not to tip. Tipping is the path of least resistance, I still don’t want to, but I guess now is the time?
What are your thoughts on tipping hotel housekeeping staff?
It’s so much easier to expense Uber and restaurant tips. As a business travelers that tips the scale for me. Also, I still rarely carry cash when I’m traveling domestically.
+1. I have scrambled to look for appropriate bills to tip too many times to count (and who can remember that when you rush out of the room to catch that flight?).
Market wages….MARKET…..Enough with Marxism here.
My boss get 10x bonus as us, staffers….And that what makes me climb up the ladder, at ANY cost.
But I am an immigrant from socialist country, what do I know……
I just think of the tip as being a part of that exorbitant resort fee I am usually forced to pay.
Same….my corporate travel policy explicitly states that tips for housekeeping are not reimbursable.
Not a big fan of tipping in the US either but I would rather tip housekeepers more than waiters/waitresses. Even though a waiter/waitress can deal with a guest for a longer time than a housekeeper spends on one room, the work that is required to clean a room is a lot more difficult. Sure waiters and waitresses get paid less than minimum wage but would a majority of them accept a salary in lieu of how they get paid now? I doubt it.
I make a point of carrying cash and ending up with some small bills when I’m traveling, and try to get some $2 bills since they make an impression.
I don’t think of tipping housekeeping staff as a bribe for good service, though I have to admit this is one of the very rare instances where we are leaving a tip before the work is performed on our behalf. (Or is it? Maybe I’m tipping for the room having been cleaned before I arrived, rather than for it being cleaned after my first night.)
Sometimes, I leave a note for housekeeping staff asking for extra coffee or something similarly beyond the rote cleaning that would have happened if I left no note. I’d say unless I’m requesting something really unusual, I’m not really tipping more when I do this. I’m tipping as much as I would have.
I have no illusion that the couple of bucks I’m leaving is going to materially change someone’s quality of life, but if enough of us are doing it, it really can add up to leaving a hotel staff member with some spending money beyond the essentials, or at least a little less worry about covering the essentials.
I probably spend about 120 nights a year in hotels. 80 of those are one night stays in Hampton Inn/Faifrield Inn style hotels. While I can empathize with the hourly worker not earning a living wage, there’s no greater benefit they can really provide to me that I feel I should be tipping for. Me checking in to a clean room is a brand standard. My rate is generally around USD 85 +tax and I’d say the hotels are usually relatively full. If franchisees are unable to properly compensate their staff at this rate, I can’t imagine a USD 2 rate increase would impact occupancy at all, but it would enable them to pay their staff more. An expectation for me to tip is nothing more than an effort to shift the direct wage burden to the customer.
For me it comes down to one thing – I rarely carry meaningful amounts of cash when traveling domestically, which makes it difficult. If hotels introduced a system where you could add an optional housekeeping tip to the room charge, I’d be OK with that, and it would probably encourage me to do so, though I imagine the logistics would be difficult.
The other argument is, if tipping is justified on the basis that housekeepers don’t earn a livable wage in their jurisdictions, how does one even determine if that’s true or not? There’s no way in h*ll I’m tipping unionized staff, for example, but I honestly couldn’t tell you where janitorial staff are covered by union contracts. For that matter, if housekeeping was paid the same $12 an hour in both Dallas and rural Arkansas, would you tip the former more than the latter, since the cost of living varies greatly between the two?
you should tip.
It’s a way to show appreciation for a job well done.
Housekeeping is one of the hardest and least rewarding jobs.
But of course, a lot of people consider tipping unnecessary just because a maid is a maid and that’s her job.
Over my many years of travel both foreign and domestic I have always tipped the house keeping staff. If I am staying more than one night I leave a tip each morning before I leave the room because housekeeping can change from day to day.
What does it matter what they make or not make. Just be thankful you are not in their shoes.
I don’t and won’t tip but then I’m a Brit and it’s less part of our culture than in the US.
I won’t subsidise wages when I’m paying what a hotel or restaurant deems to be an acceptable price for their services, that’s their job and I won’t be guilt tripped.
Equally when a service charge is added to a bill I will insist on it being removed if service has not been up to standard.
Hardline approach? Yes but as I say, I won’t be guilt tripped.
I have to agree with Lucky on this one. In the US (or where tipping is customary), I do leave a tip for housekeeping. If I’m in places like Japan or Scandinavia, I don’t. On a recent trip, I left a $5 tip for a housekeeper (in the US, all-suite hotel), whom I saw later in the day. To say she was appreciative was an understatement. Clearly, $5 made a difference to her, and she was so thankful. It made me sad to think that, for all of her hard work, $5 made her day.
I’d say housekeepers “deserve” tips more than most, as it’s an incredibly tough and underappreciated job. As much as I hate tipping culture, I don’t want to punish these people who need the money the most.
Btw, I agree with @Adib Barsoum. If you do leave a tip, do so every day so that the housekeeper who actually cleans your room gets it. I also read somewhere that some housekeeping managers go into the rooms before the housekeepers and pocket the tips. I don’t know if that’s true, but it might be best to place the tips somewhere that only the actual cleaner will see.
Yes management and other housekeepers will take tips out of rooms.
I aim to follow the tipping custom of the country in question and will look up multiple sites for tipping guidelines when going to a different country to ensure I follow the local standard. So, that will likely mean tipping in the U.S., but NOT importing U.S. tipping standards to countries where tipping is not in line with local culture. With regards housekeeping, the key thing I try to do is limit the mess I make and not take their work for granted. This means putting trash in the appropriate recepticles, lining up bottles by the garbage for recycling, hanging up towels/bathrobes etc. I think that shows respect to a housekeeper’s labo(u)r where-ever you are in the world.
Matthew, I generally leave $5-10 per day in a hotel room, but find your suggestion of leaving 25% in a restaurant totally excessive. 15% used to be good enough, now it’s 18-20%, often on the tax inclusive amount if using a card machine. And you now want to push that to $25%. So much for ordering decent bottles of wine when dining out….
That is not my suggestion. That’s just what I do because I tend to go to the same few restaurants over and over and know the staff.
I didn’t know it was customary to tip housekeeping. I have never tipped them. I am not sure how some jobs became tip worthy and others not. A cashier usually makes very low wages but they aren’t tipped. Trash man low wages, terrible job and not tipped.
Basically everyone who won’t leave a tip can say whatever they want, but what it comes down to is they are lazy and cheap. That’s it. Is that extra 1 or 2% cost to tip really going to kill your budget, you cheapskates? Are you really that lazy that you can’t make change at the front desk? Unbelievable.
Wow, if there is anything that will not convince people to tip, your stooping to name calling will convince literally no one to tip.
Who else is a cheapskate in your eyes? Those who do not tip the checker at the market? Those who do not tip their auto mechanic?
Don’t worry about Belinda Joseph. She obviously would say you’re cheap if you said you tipped on the pretax bill not the post tax. She would also be the one going bankrupt because she can’t envision how small margins add up. Also I’d rather be called cheap than a fool.
When you’re paid very little for a dirty job and there is an opportunity to tip, TIP. Nuff said.
This is my opportunity to vent about Hilton. I’m not surprised the CEO is a douche when it comes to tipping. I’ve had limited and terrible experiences with their hotels in regards to customer service (their Tysons corner hotel right next to their HQ routes all front desk calls to a hotline).
Blackstone probably installed a cost-cutting culture there.
For the rest of the world that doesn’t even use cash any more, it might be a good idea to write a small guide how to tip housekeeping efficiently — how much, how to do it, small b&b vs. large 2000 room LV-hotel, etc..
We’re heading to the US for July and now you just reminded that I need to order some cash for the trip. I get used to the ordinary tipping quite easily (and I totally disagree with the system but it is what it is) but I’ve never learnt to tip housekeeping as a routine..
I tip because my Mother tipped and she used to work as a maid. I bring thank you cards, and write a short note thanking them for their hard work.
It takes a few moments but it’s worth it in my opinion.
I too tip housekeeping, My mother worked as a maid as well. I remember her pride and excitement for the extra few dollars she was left which back in the day tipping housekeeping rarely occurred. It most always got us a treat we could not afford. I will write a note as well. I can still see my mom’s face beaming when I get a smile, hug or something extra special in my guest room. Especially a note in return with “Thank you”
“though I tip 20-25% in restaurants and now generously tip Uber drivers”
Wow, Matthew. Way to pat yourself on the back.
Only to provide perspective.
Unless I am dissatisfied, I tip. I dont care about the customs with regard to a particular country…I tip because that is me, and I am thankful, for work or for pleasure, to be receiving the services provided by hard working staff. A robot servicing the room would be a different scenario……. so for now…..tip.
I have always left a tip for housekeeping at the end of my stay but always wondered if the people directly servicing my room got it. Last month my sister and I shared a room while away at a family funeral & she said she had read to tip daily, which makes sense and is what I’ve started doing.
He certainly didn’t endear himself to his employees by back-tracking and contradicting himself. Another genius CEO with no common sense or care about low-level employees.
I wouldn’t bring up that bribe on your blog. You are admitting that you violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act(FCPA).
I stay in pet friendly hotels, with my cat. They know well in advance and I pay any pet fees necessary, I have never attempted to sneak my cat into a hotel where she isn’t welcome.
Because of the cat I request no housekeeping the entire time. (Usually 4-6 nights) I can make my own bed, live with the same sheets and towels for that long. I bring blankets to cover any surfaces (except the floor) that could get cat hair on them. For hard surfaces, I bring swiffer clothes along to clean cat hair and dust from the surfaces. No, I don’t vacuum the rug, but I would if they left a vacuum in the room. I make sure to bring a large indoor/outdoor carpet to put under her litter box. I put the litterbox on a hard surface if necessary. I take out my own trash (no housekeeping, remember?) and bring my own trash bags to do it. I take it right to the dumpster.
I really don’t think it’s fair that places are telling me that I have to give the housekeeper 2-5 dollars a day for every day of my stay. And, because the housekeeper might change, I have to chase her down every day. Do I go, “Hey, I’m in the room you don’t have to touch, but here’s five bucks just because if I don’t tip you, I’m being cheap?”
I tip waitstaff well because they do something for me and in a lot of cases, make less than half of minimum wage. But, should I also give the other waitresses in the same place a couple dollars because well, even though they didn’t do anything, it’s unfair to them that they make so little and I have to make up for it?
I don’t like to think of myself as cheap, nobody does, but I also don’t like to think I’m supposed to just hand out cash for someone not to do anything for me. Yes, my room was clean (I hope) when I entered it, but shouldn’t that be part of what they are paid for? To make sure that room is clean when the guests check in?
If I left the room messy or asked for things, I’d understand, but I don’t.