TIME Television

Game of Thrones Gives a Tourism Boost to Southern Spain

Game of Thrones
HBO

Restaurants are already creating menus inspired by the show

How do you write dollar signs in Dothraki? Game of Thrones is filming its fifth season in Osuna, Spain, and the show’s presence there may be good news for the territory with an unemployment rate of 34.7 percent — one of the highest in the country.

More than 500 locals from around the town of 18,000 are receiving approximately $65 a day to work as extras for the HBO hit, The Independent reports. But local business may get an even bigger boost after the production leaves, as previous filming locations in Iceland, Northern Ireland and Croatia have reported dramatic increases in tourism following the show’s visit. The number of tourists visiting the town and the Seville area is expected to rise by 15 percent, according to U.S. ambassador to Spain and former HBO exec James Costos. (Could there be anyone more qualified to talk about HBO’s Spanish tourism impact than a guy who’s held those jobs?)

Those who do make the trek to southern Spain can unwind at Casa Curro, an Osuna restaurant that’s prepared a Games of Thrones-themed menu with dishes like the Joffrey — a bacon and trout dish with mulled wine.

MONEY Tourism

Price Hikes Up to 150% Are Planned for Your Favorite National Parks

Entrance sign near Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, Yosemite National Park.
Entrance sign near Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, Yosemite National Park. Fred van Wijk—Alamy

A proposal is on the table to hike prices of admission, annual passes, campsite reservations, and more at roughly 130 national parks and recreation areas.

A broad proposal from the National Parks Service (NPS) first exposed by the Denver Post could make visiting some of the country’s biggest and best national parks significantly more expensive as early as next summer. Admissions to popular national parks such as Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake are likely to see price hikes of 50%, while prices at some lesser-known gems like Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park might rise upwards of 150%. Price increases are also being proposed for annual passes, campsites, boating permits, and other services at dozens of park and recreations areas.

Before storming the parks service in protest, bear in mind that even if the price increases are accepted, our national parks would remain one of the world’s great vacation bargains. The current price of a seven-day pass for a vehicle and all of its occupants at Yosemite is $20, rising to $30 if the proposal is approved. To make its case that the increases are necessary and appropriate, the NPS noted:

The current park entrance fees have been in place since 1997, when a seven day pass was increased from $5 to $20 per vehicle. According to the U.S. Bureau of labor and Statistics, $20 in 1997 is equivalent to $29.64 in 2014. This fee change will allow Yosemite to maintain consistent revenue while adjusting accordingly for inflation.

Likewise, the price of admission at Great Sand Dunes would rise to $10 per person up from the current rate of just $3 (there’s no flat vehicle rate offered), while the cost of an annual pass would increase from $15 to $40.

Park visitors could start to see the price increases as early as next summer, and/or fees might be incrementally hiked over the next couple of years. One of the reasons cited for the proposed increases is that the NPS is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, and it wants to commemorate the centennial with parks and recreation areas looking their finest.

None of this is a done deal, however. The parks service is allowing the public to weigh in with comments over the next couple of weeks, and at least in theory the response could have an impact on how the proposed price increases play out. What’s especially complicated about the matter is that the average Joe is being asked to submit comments related to each park’s price hike individually; there is no central spot where people can respond to the general idea of raising prices across the board. There’s one spot where you can offer your opinion on price increases at Yosemite, for instance, another for the price increases at Washington’s Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, and so on. (The nightly cost of an individual campsite at the latter would go from $10 to $18, by the way.) The dates for open commenting and public meetings at each park are different as well. The commenting session at Yosemite began on Monday and stretches through November 20, and there’s a two-hour meeting open to the public on November 12, while comments for Lake Roosevelt can be made through October 31, and three meetings are being held in nearby state-owned facilities this week.

The superintendents of each park also have some authority to decide if and how price hikes go into effect, though a broad range of parks—including Mount Rainier and Olympic in Washington state, Rocky Mountain in Colorado, and Glacier in Montana—are expected to follow through on some if not all of the proposed increases. Jon Jarvis, the NPS director, noted in a memo that there will always be “significant public controversy” about any price increases for use of lands that we as a nation own. Yet he stated that the increases “will allow us to invest in the improvements necessary to provide the best possible park experience to our visitors.”

Surely, many park goers will be upset by the proposed increases, and it would be surprising if a majority—or even a significant minority—of those commenting on the proposals were voicing their approval of higher fees. For some perspective, Kurt Repanshek, who runs the National Parks Traveler blog, points out that admission to Yosemite cost $10 a century ago, so we are more than due for a price hike:

When you think of how inflation has treated park entrance fees — that $10 fee charged in 1915 equates to $230.74 in 2014 dollars — entrance to the parks under the existing pricing structure might literally be described as a steal.

TIME Nepal

Death Toll in Nepal Blizzards Rises to 40 as Authorities Wind Down Search

The body of a victim is moved from an ambulance to the morgue after it was brought back from Annapurna Region in Kathmandu
The body of a victim is moved from an ambulance to the morgue after it was brought back from Annapurna Region in Kathmandu October 17, 2014. Navesh Chitrakar—Reuters

More than 600 people have been rescued, but a few locals are still reportedly missing

Nepalese authorities are being thwarted in their hunt for more survivors of the Himalayan snowstorms that have killed at least 40 people over the past week.

After minor avalanches hampered the search for stranded climbers Monday, Keshav Pandey, of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, admitted, “After this we can only hope that those who are missing will establish contact with us or their families,” Reuters reports.

Some 600 people have been rescued so far by the Nepalese army and other groups. Pandey believes it unlikely any more tourists are missing but said that some local porters and guides had not yet been traced.

Casualties from the blizzards, which took place unexpectedly during peak trekking season and are said to have been triggered by a cyclone that hit eastern India the previous week, included trekkers from Israel, Japan, Canada, Poland and Slovakia along with several locals.

Baburam Bhandari, chief of Nepal’s Mustang district on the Annapurna mountain circuit where the blizzards hit, told Reuters that army rescuers dug out the body of another Israeli tourist on Monday.

This is the second major disaster this year in Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains. (Annapurna ranks in 10th place.) Sixteen local guides lost their lives this April in an avalanche on the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest.

Nepalese Tourism Minister Dipak Amatya said he would do everything possible to ensure that the country never again encountered a tragedy of this nature. “There is no point blaming the hostile weather for the disaster,” Amatya said.

[Reuters]

TIME russia

An Aeroflot Nightmare: How I Got Placed Under Virtual Arrest in Moscow

Russian Airlines OAO Aeroflot Operations
A passenger jet operated by OAO Aeroflot takes off from Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Old practices are dying hard in Russia, including at its national airline

Russia at one point seemed to be embracing the West, and the transformation that came as a natural result. After the unraveling of the Soviet Union in 1991, politics became democratic and the economy capitalist. The Cold War was relegated to history books and outdated spy movies. Separated by ideology and fear no more, the economies of Russia and Europe became closely intertwined. The G7 turned into the G8.

But these days, Russia seems to be reversing course. Politics have slipped back into near-authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin. Moscow is striving to reassert the influence it once held over its neighborhood during Soviet days. Sanctions and ill-will are again isolating the Russian economy from the West. I recently bought a T-shirt in Moscow sporting a picture of Vladimir Putin karate-kicking Barack Obama. The ideas and attitudes of the USSR have proven hard to change.

That seems to be the case at Aeroflot, the nation’s main airline, as well. During Soviet times, the name Aeroflot was synonymous with gruff flight attendants and dilapidated aircraft. But the airline has mustered ambitions to become a major international carrier, and has made tremendous progress upgrading its fleet and modernizing its services. It joined the SkyTeam alliance, which includes Delta and Korean Air.

But as my wife and I found out, Russia’s national carrier, much like the nation itself, is apparently having some trouble shaking off its past.

A week ago, we arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to check into our flight back home to Beijing only to be told that we no longer had seats on the plane. The flight was overbooked and we had been bumped off. We are seasoned travelers, and in our experience, when flights are overbooked the airline usually asks for volunteers to surrender their seats, sweetening the request with some nominal financial benefit. If Aeroflot went through such a process, we weren’t involved, and when we raised the possibility of seeking volunteers, we were ignored. Apparently, the staff had determined who lost their seats in advance, and that was that.

Aeroflot’s decision, however, put us in a tight spot. Not only did we both have to be at work the next morning, but our visas were also expiring that night, so the delay would cause us to remain in the country too long. We explained our predicament to the Aeroflot staff, but nevertheless, they booked us onto another flight the next day. Then they demanded we sign documents agreeing to the change. When we continued to protest, one of the Aeroflot staffers told my wife we had 15 minutes to accept the new tickets or else he would call the police, have us thrown in jail for a visa violation and abandon us to deal with the consequences without the aid of the airline.

Left with the stark choice of prison or a delayed departure, we signed the papers and took our replacement tickets. However, what we weren’t told by Aeroflot is that we would not be able to move freely in the city, the airport or even a hotel until the boarding time of our new flight. The airline placed us in a special section of a Novotel hotel with a guard posted outside the door.

We were not allowed to leave the immediate area of our room, even to go to the hotel coffee shop, nor to order our own food. Breakfast boasted bread and spoiled yogurt but no coffee. Basically, we were locked away as if we had overstayed our visas, when we had not. The airline forced us into a situation in which we were treated as criminals.

We got a pretty good idea of how Edward Snowden must have lived during his first days in Russia. After arriving at the same Moscow airport, Snowden, too, was held in this travelers’ no-man’s land in a hotel not far from our own.

When I asked Aeroflot’s press officers about our case, they responded that “the procedure was completed in full compliance with the company’s rules and regulations.” The press managers added that “there were no offending words or any intimidations at your address [sic]” and that the Aeroflot staff employed “the persuasion approach” to resolve the problem.

As to the conditions at the hotel, they wrote that “there were no negative feedbacks received about the quality of service provided.” In addition, Aeroflot said that “we have taken the decision to organize additional training sessions for our ground personnel which will include the imitations of similar situations [sic].”

That might help. But if Aeroflot intends to shed its old reputation, it might want to ditch its Soviet practices along with its Soviet planes.

TIME Tourism

China Sets a Course for the Cruise-Ship Industry With Its First Luxury Liner

Employees stand in front of nearly completed ship at China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) Longxue shipbuilding ,in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou
Employees stand in front of nearly completed ship at China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) Longxue shipbuilding, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou November 13, 2011. © Siu Chiu / Reuters—REUTERS

The world's largest shipbuilder does not have a cruise ship — at least, not yet

China is planning to build its first cruise ship, targeting the nation’s huge aspirational middle class as it looks for new ways of spending its money and vacation time.

To venture into new waters, Chinese shipping officials have secured the help of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise-ship operator. The Miami-based juggernaut of cruising said on Wednesday it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation to help design its maiden cruise vessel.

Carnival said the joint venture — which will also involve a major Italian shipping yard — would support “the Chinese government’s plans to grow the cruising industry in China and meet escalating demand for cruises from Chinese travelers.”

The Chinese Ministry of Transport has said it expects the Chinese cruise industry to number 4.5 million passengers by 2020 and to be the second largest global cruise market, after the U.S., by 2017. Some 530,000 Chinese tourists boarded cruise ships last year, more than double the previous year, Forbes reports.

Global cruise operators, beleaguered by accidents and on-board illness in other waters, have been keen on cashing in on the Asian market and wooing Chinese consumers to their bunks and buffets, reports Reuters. Carnival already ports three cruise ships in China and is set to add a fourth liner to its China-based fleet in 2015. Other companies, including Royal Caribbean, have claimed a smaller chuck of the market’s burgeoning appetite for cruises.

China built 25,903 tons of ships last year, surpassing South Korea’s output by about 1,000 tons.

MONEY Tourism

This Autumn Is Awesome for Foliage, but Rotten for Apple Picking

Golden delicius rotten apples on the ground
Jose A. Bernat Bacete—Getty Images

The success of your weekend plans for fall excursions in the countryside may be dictated by weather patterns that kicked off last January.

Much of the nation experienced a brutally cold winter in early 2014, followed by a surprisingly mild summer. According to the Weather Channel, Chicago had only three summer days when temperatures surpassed 90 degrees (it normally has 17 days of 90+ weather in August alone), while northeastern cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York never crossed the 95-degree mark, which is also extremely rare.

Most recently, a relative absence of rain and strong winds, combined with weeks of mostly sunny days and chillier evenings, has helped create a scenario in which the fall foliage stands out as especially brilliant and long-lasting in spots known to attract leaf-peepers—the Appalachians and New England in particular. “It’s really what happens in late July to late September that sets the stage,” Michael Schlacter, a meteorologist at Weather2000.com, explained to Bloomberg News. “This is one of the most ideal two-month seasons you could have had; it has pretty much clinched the season.”

William Ostrofsky, forest pathologist for the Maine Forest Service, told the Portland Press Herald that largely thanks to the mild summer, this year’s foliage season is likely to rank among the top 10 best ever. “Everything is right on time and they’re going very brilliantly,” he said.

Likewise, Connecticut’s forests are expected to turn especially brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows in the very near future, with peak foliage reaching mid-state during the last two weeks of October, and peak colors along the coast in late October and early November. “Weather conditions have been advantageous this summer to set Connecticut up for a really nice foliage season with great colors,” Christopher Martin, director of the State Forester at Bureau of Natural Resources, said to the Middletown Press.

Yankee Magazine noted this week that “foliage has been boosted by a late spring, a mild summer growing season, and a bright sunny and dry autumn,” and that experienced leaf-peepers are on record saying this has “already been one of the best foliage seasons in recent memory.” The Connecticut River Valley along the Vermont-New Hampshire border should be experiencing peak foliage this holiday weekend, as should many lower-elevation mountain areas throughout New England.

On the other hand, some of the same weather factors that have led to terrific foliage are wreaking havoc on another traditional favorite fall pastime, apple picking. As the Boston Globe put it, “The winter was too cold, the summer not hot enough, and now comes an autumn of discontent for apple growers.”

Some orchards in Massachusetts are reporting that apple crops are down 50% this season, and many will have to shut down apple picking operations earlier than usual, if they haven’t done so already.

The bum year for apples isn’t limited to New England either. The Chicago Tribune reported that after long strings of frigid weather, orchards in Illinois have been forced to delay openings for apple pickings and perhaps even raise prices as means to cope. “It was as bad as bad can get,” one orchard owner said of the conditions. “It’s the worst crop we’ve ever had.”

Extremely dry weather in southern California, meanwhile, has compelled most apple orchards in the mountain town of Julian—known of hosting an annual Apple Days festival in early October—to shut down weeks before they normally do.

Perhaps this is all for the best. There’s a good case to be made that apple picking is a wasteful scam, in which tourists overpay for what’s often a mediocre product. They bring home far more apples than ever wind up using, and most bizarrely, they (OK: we) pay extra for the work of picking them.

MONEY Tourism

Disney World Tests a No-Line Ride

In a move designed to speed up theme park lines, Disney is running a test to make the Toy Story Mania ride a FastPass-only attraction.

MONEY Tourism

You’re Not Allowed to Wait in Line for This Disney Ride

Daytime TV talk show host Wendy Williams and her son Kevin take a ride on "Toy Story Midway Mania!" during a visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at Walt Disney World Resort January 19, 2014 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Daytime TV talk show host Wendy Williams and her son Kevin take a ride on "Toy Story Midway Mania!" during a visit to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at Walt Disney World Resort January 19, 2014 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Gregg Newton—Disney Parks via Getty Images

If you want to ride Toy Story Midway Mania at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios, you better have a reservation.

In a test that started on Monday and runs through Thursday, Disney World is requiring Hollywood Studios visitors to make advance reservations via the FastPass+ system if they want to hop aboard the popular Toy Story ride, an interactive “4D” attraction in which guests twist through a series of virtual carnival games while wearing 3D glasses. Normally, the wait time to ride Toy Story Mania can easily stretch over an hour, but the new reservation-only system means that Disney World guests won’t have the option of waiting it out in the standby queue.

A Disney spokesperson explained to the Orlando Sentinel that extra FastPass+ reservations for Toy Story Mania would be available during the course of the experiment. On the one hand, the move means that no one will have to endure agonizingly long lines for the ride. The FastPass+ system gives riders a time window when they are to arrive and hop on in a jiffy. On the other hand, some worry that all of the available pass times could be snatched up as soon as they’re available, and those who don’t snag a reservation early in the day will be shut out from riding.

What makes this four-day test potentially big news is that it could be a vision of how theme parks will operate on a broader scale in the future. Over the years, Walt Disney World and other theme parks have tweaked numerous policies that essentially kill spontaneity because they all but force guests to plot out plans for meals, rides, and more in advance. Disney guests have been instructed that if they want to bring their kids to a Character Breakfast or have dinner at one of the nicer park establishments, they should reserve weeks if not months before arrival. Likewise, the MyMagic+ wristband system introduced in early 2013 was created to help guests reserve meals, ride times, and more.

When theme park guests aren’t waiting in lines for hours, they’re happier, which works out for Disney and park visitors alike. What works out especially brilliantly for Disney is that when guests aren’t waiting in lines, they’re free to roam about in the areas where they’re apt to spend more money, such as gift shops and restaurants. After all, you can’t buy overpriced souvenirs while you’re stuck waiting on line.

In a post at Theme Park Insider, most Disney fans seem opposed to reservation-only rides. “I want a vacation, for Christ’s sake, and if I have to plan everything in advance, then it’s simply not fun anymore,” one commenter stated, bashing the entire swath of policies pushing guests to plot minute-by-minute plans ahead of time. Still, another commenter noted that Toy Story Mania reservations are “definitely needed for the ride. The queues are longer than any other attraction in the Disney parks.”

Love it or hate it, the shift to more reservations and less waiting in line seems like the way things are heading. “Everybody’s striving to improve the flow of the guest. That’s the wave of the future in our industry,” Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, explained to the Orlando Sentinel. “It would not surprise me within the next 10 years that we see rides that are totally reserved.”

MONEY Travel

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Tipping

Man signing credit card bill at restaurant
Tetra Images—Getty Images

It's not your imagination. In today's world, we're expected to tip more people, and at increasingly higher amounts. What's up with that?

In the past few days, tipping has been at the center of controversies involving the Philadelphia Eagles’ LeSean McCoy, who left a 20-cent tip at a restaurant, and Marriott, which launched a campaign to encourage guests to tip housekeepers. The latter prompted many to respond by bashing the upscale hotel company for not paying maids higher wages in the first place.

Clearly, the subject of tipping—fraught with guilt and obligation, clouded with issues of class and income inequality—strikes a chord. It certainly doesn’t help that there’s so much we don’t understand about gratuities. For example …

Until very recently, most travelers didn’t tip hotel maids. Marriott’s initiative to prod guests to tip housekeepers seems to have firmly established the practice as standard. And indeed, it does seem to be the standard: Only 31% of American travelers said they don’t tip maids, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey. As recently as 2011, however, the ratio was reversed, with industry experts such as Michael Lynn of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration pointed to data suggesting that only 30% of hotel guests actually left tips for housekeepers. In 2006, New York Times columnist Joe Sharkey admitted he, presumably like nearly all business travelers, generously tipped almost every hotel staffer he encountered but had been overlooking the maids, “perhaps because they were unseen, working in the room when the guest was gone.”

Where you leave the money matters. Marriott provides envelopes so that guests can leave a tip, and perhaps a note of gratitude, for housekeepers. Hotel guests may not be exactly sure where to leave tips for the maid—and the maids themselves may not know if money left out in the open is intended for them. In one anonymous Q&A, a hotel maid offered the advice that hotel guests should “leave [the tip] where it’s obviously for the recipient—like a $20 on the nightstand for a hooker!” Her suggestions: on the tray with the ice bucket, or in the bathroom under the water glass.

Some stereotypes about tipping appear to be true. Certain ethnic groups are perceived to be less generous tippers than others. Apparently, these theories are not simply urban myths. One recent study found that Hispanics tipped less at restaurants than whites after controlling for factors such as bill size and the customer’s personal feelings about the quality of the service and food, while the conclusion in another survey declared “restaurant servers and their managers can expect below average tips from black customers regardless of their social class.” Only 11% of Italians in a recent survey, meanwhile, said that they “always” tipped for service on vacation, compared with 60% of Americans.

Millennials are bad tippers too. Millennials are known to love tasting new foods and tend to dine out in “upscale, casual-dining” establishment more than older generations, yet roughly one-third of Gen Y tips less than 15% at restaurants. Only 16% of people in demographics older than the millennials admit to tipping less than 15%.

Dads tip babysitters, moms stiff them. Men typically tip the babysitter for an average of $2.20, while the typical babysitter tip offered by women is $0, according to a PayScale survey.

There’s a payday loan banking alternative that runs on tips. It’s an app called Activehours, and it allows hourly employees to get paid for the time they’ve worked—before payday, and with no mandatory fees. Instead of the loanshark-like terms of the typical payday loan, users have the freedom to pay Activehours whatever amount (including $0) they want for the service.

Cheapness is only one reason people don’t tip. The NFL’s LeSean McCoy said that he is normally a generous tipper, but that he left a 20-cent tip on a recent restaurant bill as “a kind of statement,” with the message being that the food, service, and general level of respect weren’t up to snuff. Other restaurant customers have been shamed for using homophobia, racism, religion, and, in one instance, being spurned by the bartender after groping her, as excuses for why they didn’t tip their waitstaff.

Holiday season tipping can be traced back to newsboys. The annual tradition of tipping doormen, mail carriers, maids, nannies, and others originated in the 1700s, when young newspaper delivery boys got in the habit of hitting up subscribers for gratuities on Christmas or New Year’s Day. The practice, which existed well into the mid-1950s according to Bloomberg News, was adopted by bootblacks, street sweepers, and other local service people.

Waiters haven’t always gotten 20%, or even 15%. It makes sense that we tip more as time passes, just to keep up with inflation. That doesn’t explain why we’d be expected to tip at an increasingly higher percentage, however, because as our restaurant bills have gone up, so have the gratuities. (If a fancy dinner in 1950 cost $50, a 15% tip would be $7.50; if a comparable fancy dinner in 2000 ran $100, the tip at a 15% rate would double too.)

Nonetheless, the standard percentage to tip waitstaff has risen over the decades. According to a PayScale study, the median tip is now 19.5%. In recent years, some waiters and restaurants have suggested that 25% or even 30% is the proper gratuity level, and that a 20% tip, once considered generous, is just average today. As recently as 2008, though, an Esquire tipping guide stated “15 percent for good service is still the norm” at American restaurants. An American Demographics study from 2001 found that three-quarters of Americans tipped an average of 17% on restaurant bills, while 22% tipped a flat amount no matter what the bill, and the gratuity left averaged $4.67. Meanwhile, in 1922, Emily Post wrote, “You will not get good service unless you tip generously,” and “the rule is ten per cent.”

Emily Post herself sorta hated tipping. In that 1922 guide, Post wrote, “Tipping is undoubtedly a bad system, but it happens to be in force, and that being the case, travelers have to pay their share of it—if they like the way made smooth and comfortable.”

Tipping was once considered demeaning and anti-American. Slate, the New York Times, and Esquire are among the outlets that have published epic rants calling for the end to the “abomination” of tipping in the last year or so. No one made the case better than the Times’ Pete Wells, who summed up of our current tipping system, “it is irrational, outdated, ineffective, confusing, prone to abuse and sometimes discriminatory. The people who take care of us in restaurants deserve a better system, and so do we.”

Those who defend tipping, and/or those who just insist on always tipping generously tend to think of gratuities as the great equalizer: Tips are necessary because waitstaff and other workers aren’t paid enough by their employers, and gratuities help provide them a living wage. A century ago, however, anti-tipping groups felt they were being progressive by declaring war on the demeaning system because it implicitly created a servile class that depended on the generosity of richer, aristocratic customers—and was therefore anti-democratic and anti-American. The anti-tipping movement gained steam in the late 1890s and continued through the 1910s, when a half-dozen states tried (but ultimately failed) to make tipping illegal.

Waitstaff today need tips even more than you think. As much as some people would love to replace tipping with a more sensible system—like, you know, just paying workers more money—today’s waiters and waitresses remain stuck desperately in need of gratuities. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly 15% of America’s 2.4 million waitstaff live in poverty, compared to 7% of all workers.

Some workers get tipped way more than waiters. Waiters and waitresses get an average of 63% of their wages from gratuities, per the PayScale study, but workers in the stripper/exotic dancer category earn the highest median hourly tips of all, at $25.40 per hour.

We tip for totally nonsensical reasons. Studies indicate that diners tip more when a waitress wears a barrette, flower, or some other ornamentation in her hair, when the server repeats orders to the customer, and when the waiter introduces him or herself by name ($2 extra, on average). Another study showed that the quality of service generally has very little effect on how much the customer tips. And in yet another survey, various consumers admitted that they tipped more when the server was white, black, female, or attractive, among other categories.

Sometimes even experts have no clue how much to tip. Or if you should tip at all. When Marketplace asked Cornell’s Michael Lynn earlier this year about the norm for tipping the barista at Starbucks, or any coffee shop for that matter, he paused and sighed before giving the honest answer: “I don’t know.”

MONEY Travel

The Hardworking Person You’ve Forgotten to Tip

Tip at Marriott hotel
Jeff Greenberg—Alamy

A new initiative from Marriott nudges travelers to tip their housekeepers.

American travelers are a pretty generous bunch. Virtually everyone tips restaurant staffers — 97%, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey. More than 80% of Americans tip taxi drivers, and 79% tip bellhops. Skipping the tip makes Americans anxious: 23% report feeling guilty when they don’t tip, and one in three Americans has tipped someone even when the service was bad.

But when Americans travel, they sometimes forget to tip the people who clean up after them: hotel housekeepers. Americans are less likely to tip housekeepers than other service workers; more than 31% report that they don’t tip hotel maids at all, according to TripAdvisor.

Now Marriott wants to offer a reminder. In a partnership with Maria Shriver’s nonprofit advocacy group, A Woman’s Nation, the hotel chain has launched a new initiative to place envelopes in hotel rooms where customers can leave “tips and notes of thanks.”

“Hotel room attendants often go unnoticed, as they silently care for the millions of travelers who are on the road at any given time,” states Marriott’s press release. “Because hotel guests do not always see or interact with room attendants, their hard work is many times overlooked when it comes to tipping.”

How much money should you leave? The American Hotel and Lodging Association, an industry trade group, recommends tipping housekeepers $1 to $5 a night, depending on the level of service and cost of the hotel. The Emily Post Institute concurs — its website recommends a tip of $2 to $5 a day.

Other important etiquette rules: Leave the tip every day, to ensure that whoever cleans the room that day gets the money. And be sure to put the cash in an envelope or leave a note next to the money saying “thanks” — any good housekeeper will be afraid to take cash if she’s not sure it belongs to her.

Even though hotel bills are getting bigger, the people who clean the rooms still make a pittance. During the first half of 2014, travelers paid an average of $137 a night for hotels in the United States, up 5% from last year, according to Hotels.com. On average, maids and housekeepers in the traveler accommodation industry make just $21,800 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — below the poverty line for a family of four.

Which leads some people to ask — why doesn’t Marriott just pay its workers more, instead of asking customers to do it? For a $20.6 billion company MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL INC. MAR 1.2568% , that’s a fair question. But for now, if your manners compel you to tip the taxi driver, the bellhop, and the concierge, don’t forget to leave a few bucks for the housekeeper, too.

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