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The Ultimate Guide To Non-Awkward Hotel Tipping

The Ultimate Guide To Non-Awkward Hotel Tipping

The Saguaro, Palm Springs

The Saguaro, Palm Springs

The Parker, Palm Springs

The Parker, Palm Springs

Ever awkwardly find yourself without cash while the bellman stands by ever-so-patiently in your room? Or unsure about who exactly you're supposed to tip, and how much? We've been there. Our friends at HotelTonight chatted with Jacob Tomsky, author of the New York Times bestselling hotel industry memoir Heads in Beds, for the inside scoop on hotel tipping etiquette. 

Who should you tip at a hotel? How much?
Of course, any employees, such as the bellmen and waitstaff, who live off tips need and deserve to be tipped. And the current standard for luggage help is $1 or $2 a bag but really nothing less than $5 for the whole transaction, even if you only have one bag. But there are a few non tipped positions I always recommend providing with a little gratuity. First, the housekeepers. Another suggestion is to tip the front desk agent at check in! Front desk agents have a lot more power and influence than you'd probably think.

Who should you NOT tip at a hotel? Is there anyone who you’d be insulting by tipping?
No one. There is no one you should not tip. Most hotel employees will be extremely grateful to receive a gratuity, especially those not expecting one. Even if they refuse it they will do so with a genuine smile and when you walk off, the money still in your possession, they will look at your disappearing back and think, "That was really nice. That person is really nice. I love them. And I should have taken that tip probably."

What's the smoothest way to leave a tip? How can you avoid making it awkward?
It's not a drug deal! No discretion required. People who tip, even openly, look GREAT doing it. It's a gesture of kindness. One need not be discreet about kindness.

What's the best etiquette if you don’t have cash to tip? Is it ever ok to say that you’ll tip someone later?
People do say that all the time, "I've got no cash now, but I'll take care of you later." The phrase "I'll take care of you later" is famous in the world of bellmen for being, almost 80% of the time, a huge lie. I suggest, if you find yourself traveling without cash (which I don't suggest), then make a point of getting an envelope in the room and writing their name on it and tell them you'll drop this by the front desk later with the tip in it.

Is it ever not worth it to tip if you don’t have enough on you? For example, it is better to tip $1 or nothing?
It is better to tip nothing as opposed to tipping change. Feeling bad, apologizing, and handing over even a worn old dollar is better than nothing. But do not give anyone quarters. There is just something insulting about change. But a dollar and an apologetic look is certainly better than nothing.

What’s the biggest tip you’ve ever seen given in the hotel industry?
I know a desk agent who received a letter at his home address containing a check from a guest for $3,000. I was like, "WHAT DUDE YOU GOT THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS?" It was for a year of service, always helping the guest, making reservations, taking personal care of them. That was huge. A hundred dollar bill is basically the standard HUGE tip. I mean that puts you up there with the elite, dropping a hundred. Three thousand dollars? I don't know where that puts you. That's like deity-status. Even now, looking back, it astounds me.

What can you get from tipping?
When you tip a bellman or doorman you get a friend and someone who probably knows more about the city than the concierge. The real deal city.

Anything else we should know about hotel tipping? 
I think that just about covers it! But I always say this: If you can't be kind then be generous. If you can't be generous then please, seriously, be kind. But if you can be both? You will be loved.

For the full interview, head over to HotelTonight's blog.

Editor's Note: HotelTonight is quite frankly the best hotel-booking service out there. Make sure you check out their app first before you go elsewhere. Use our promo code: TRES25 to save $25 off your stay!

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