Recently, I came across an article in New York Magazine where writer Annie Lowrey gave a reasonable argument on why we shouldn’t tip hotel maids. Fueled by the Marriott Hotel “Envelope Please” campaign which remind guests to tip their hotel maids, Lowrey believes that instead of tipping, we should hold hotel chains accountable to the task of paying higher wages. While logical in its intent, the article conveniently glides over the actual point of hospitality tipping: it has nothing to do with supplementing wages—it’s about gratitude and respect.
Almost two decades of both personal and business hotel stays teaches you things, among them just how messy humans can be, especially when we know someone else is going to “take care of it.” More than leaving a few tissues laying on the night stand, any hotel maid can tell you about daily cleanups involving human waste, used condoms, drugs, spilled drinks and other things that (we would hope) you probably would’t stand for in your own home. While that isn’t the norm for most people (we hope), the woman or man that cleans your room will probably remain unseen to you, a magical force that organized your bathroom toiletries on the sink and picked up last night’s shoes and earrings and put them into place. The custom of tipping $1-5 dollars per day based on room size and clean up needs is a way of acknowledging them, their work and expressing gratitude for the feeling of returning “home” to a great room and overall great hotel experience.
So while hotel workers continue to organize for themselves for better working conditions and wages, thoughtful travelers will also continue to pause for a quick moment, and place aside a few dollars as a way of simply saying “thank you.” And besides, frequent travelers will tell you that a little tip goes a long way towards your next stay.
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