TIME Etiquette

Don’t Want to Leave a Tip for Housekeeping? Shame on You.

Courtesy Anchor Books

Jacob Tomsky is a dedicated veteran of the hospitality business and the author of the bestselling Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.

As someone who worked in the service industry—and then wrote a bestselling memoir about it—Jacob Tomsky has some words of advice to offer on gratuity, and ingratitude

Imagine a housekeeper, ten years of service at the same property, walks into a hotel room one day to find that her company, overnight, has placed envelopes in every single room, envelopes that suggest and encourage hotel guests to tip their hardworking housekeepers.

Yesterday there were no envelopes.

Today there are envelopes.

The day continues as usual but something exciting has been added to the routine. Usually a housekeeper will enter and immediately assess the damage. And, confronted with that damage, she (or he) might let out a weary and timeless sigh. Cleaning a hotel room is a Sisyphean task. Every day the boulder is balanced atop the hill. And every day a guest flies in and drop-kicks that boulder, sending it rushing madly to the ground. But now, perhaps, the first part of the routine involves skirting around the damage to check this new and exciting envelope. Perhaps there is a gratuity inside. Then, wonderfully, the housekeeper may let out another sigh, of a completely different nature, but just as timeless; a sigh of gratitude.

Recently, the Marriott hotel chain began placing these very envelopes in their rooms, envelopes suggesting that guests leave a gratuity for the hard-working and often ignored housekeepers.

As a ten-year veteran of the hotel business, and author of an entire memoir about it, I would like to say:

Dear Marriott,

Oh, man, I love you for this. This is so kind. So beautiful.

Immediately, however, there was backlash from more than a few Marriott guests. Some of them appear to feel “blackmailed” or “guilted” into tipping.

As a ten-year veteran of the hotel business, including a stint in the housekeeping department, I would like to say:

Dear Affronted Marriot Guests: I dislike you for this.

Some people need to be guilted into tipping. Or at least steered through the process.

Housekeeping is the most thankless job in the hospitality business. When it’s done correctly, you never even glimpse the person who delicately avoided all your disgusting personal items. Usually, if you see them, it’s when you pass them in the hall, and you avert your gaze a little, maybe feeling a touch of guilt. But now Marriot is allowing us to do more than give them a sheepish smile as we sneak past their carts. They are giving us a well-defined way to thank them directly: with cash.

This is America. We tip here. We keep the currency circulating at the micro level, hand to hand, giving tax-free cash to the people who we feel need and deserve it. When we go abroad they love us because we tip there too. It’s an act of kindness. It’s hard to show kindness in today’s world. And nothing (truly, nothing) says “thank you” like a gratuity—the meaning of the word is, after all, “thanks”—especially for a housekeeper. It’s like a gift certificate that applies to the whole world! For back-to-school supplies! For drinks after work! A healthier lunch! A cold soda! Anything.

If you don’t want to utilize the envelope, don’t. Maybe write a nice note. Or refrain from trashing the room like a filthy animal. But do not grow indignant because Marriot has added a wonderful extra for the hardest-working employees in the hotel business. Perhaps these indignant guests should try cleaning 15 rooms a day and then see? Then maybe see if they wouldn’t appreciate a small gratuity for all the effort? Work that job for one week and see if they don’t think that money is earned and absolutely appropriate.

I am so happy for those Marriott employees. Life, as they open door after door, day after day, just got a little better. A little more exciting.

It’s wonderful.


Jacob Tomsky is a dedicated veteran of the hospitality business, the author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, and the founder and president of Short Story Thursdays, a weekly, email-based short story club. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other outlets. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME gratuity

And America’s Best Tippers Live In…

Dollars and cents
Finnbarr Webster / Alamy

Data from the mobile payments company Square reveal some huge regional differences in the generosity of customers

This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Miguel Helft


New Yorkers are stingy with their cabbies (though not quite as stingy as their neighbors in New Jersey). Indeed, New Yorkers are among the worst tippers in the country in a number of categories — but not when it comes to personal hygiene. For some reason, a visit to the barber or stylist inspires generosity in the Empire State. Folks in Seattle and Portland reserve that same kind of giving spirit, no surprise, for their baristas, and Floridians and Texas extend it to their bartenders.

The observations derive from tipping data collected for FORTUNE by Square, the San Francisco-based mobile payments company, whose smartphone and tablet credit card readers have become a feature of thousands of small businesses across the country.

Interestingly, some tipping trends are fairly uniform across the country. Beauty and personal care professionals tend to receive the biggest tips — on average closer to 20% than to 15%. Taxis and limousines skew lower, with average tips below 16% in many states. Tips at restaurant bars show the most variability, with New York fast-food joints receiving an average of 14.77% and bars and lounges in Texas getting 19.66%.

For the full list, please go to Fortune.com.


Tips Add up for Many Workers

’Tis the season for tipping. Maybe you tip because you genuinely appreciate good service when you get it. Or maybe you tip because you’re afraid if you don’t, your newspaper will end up on the neighbor’s lawn every morning or you’ll be the last one served at your favorite bar.

But however you feel about holiday-season gratuities, tipping is a serious business for most people on the receiving end: Gratuities make up a significant part of their annual income. And new data from salary experts PayScale sheds light on just how big of a deal a tip is for people in service occupations.

Casino dealers — talented in helping us lose our money — earn more than 50% of their income from tips, as do waitresses and bartenders. The people we ask to make us look better — makeup artists, hairdressers, and nail-salon employees — get nearly one-quarter of their income from tips. And if you’re throwing a party during the holidays, note that caterers, food servers and parking attendants get more than 20% of their income from tips.

Who among recipients is least dependent on tipping income? According to PayScale, night club managers, hotel executive chefs and hotel front desk managers get less than 10% of their income from tips.

The past few years have been tough on workers who earn gratuities. Last year, PayScale reported a 5% drop in the average hourly tips across service jobs; this year, tipping hasn’t recovered from that dip. (In a separate survey, Rent.com found that 61% of apartment-dwelling tenants aren’t planning to tip their building staff this year — bad news for doormen, who PayScale.com says get 14% of their income from tips.)

So, in these still shaky economic times, if you’re thinking of cutting back on your tipping generosity, just keep in mind that it can have a bigger impact than you might think.

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