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 spa packI’m a serious budget traveler. On the road, my accommodations of choice typically involve shared bathrooms, views of brick walls and tube TV’s that get three to five channels. But on a recent trip business to Colorado, I had the good fortune of staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver — a far cry from the moldy basement apartments and bargain-priced B&B’s to which I am accustomed.

The hotel is wonderful, and it definitely lives up to that song “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” which plays on repeat in all the elevators. (Okay, it doesn’t, but I think it should.) At the beginning of my stay, I put great effort into finding something wrong with the Ritz, thus proving that luxury hotels are a big rip-off and that I am a genius for unearthing $60-a-night centrally located rooms while evading bed bug infestations and burglary.

But there was nothing wrong with the Ritz. Service was impeccable. Hotel staff smiled at me as if I were an adorable kitten. The sushi bar menu didn’t include anything vegetarian, but the chef insisted on creating a customized vegetable roll just for me, which he promptly served on the house. I even looked under the bathroom sink and on top of the shelves in the closet for dust; there was none. I was beginning to see the point of paying $300 per night for a hotel room. But there was one little problem (and it wasn’t the Ritz’s fault).

As a newbie luxury hotel guest, I couldn’t figure out whom to tip and whom not to tip. I had this nagging feeling that I should hand a folded bill to every person who said “Good evening,” held open the door or dispensed advice on what to see in Denver — and this would be a lot of people. I visited the ATM and stuffed my purse with one-dollar bills. I felt like I was on my way to a strip club.

In Hotel Tipping, we recommend tipping the valet $1 to $2. Good to know. But at the Ritz, at least three people were involved in getting us into our vehicle each time we needed it: one guy called for the car, another drove the vehicle to the front of the hotel and a third staff member opened the car doors for us. This process caused me much anxiety. I frantically stuffed bills into everyone’s hand, afraid I would neglect to tip someone, thus unleashing untold karmic retribution upon myself.

We asked, and it turns out valet staff members pool their tips at the end of the day, so there’s no need to go crazy throwing money at everyone in a uniform standing near the car. This piece of information was quite helpful, and now I’m on the hunt for even more tipping tips!

Share your best advice on tipping in the comments below, and you could win a swanky Ritz-Carlton travel spa pack (pictured above).The person who shares the most creative, practical tipping tip by March 22 will win the prize. Be sure to include a valid e-mail address when you comment.

–written by Caroline Costello

10 Responses to “Win a Ritz-Carlton Travel Spa Pack”

  1. Alyse Kochenberger says:

    Valet Tips: This article is 100% right about the fact that they pull their tips. Just because they pull tips does not mean you should decrease the amount of times you tip just the amount of people. When I am staying at a Luxury Hotel I always tip the Valet attendant who opens my door 5 – 10 dollars, evertime they recieve my car. If I only get my car out one time I will tip 10-15 dollars so all of the employees get a little something.

    Housekeeping Tips: I will leave $5 dollars per night that I stay at the hotel on the night stand for my housekeeping attendant when I check out.

    Restaurant Servers: Servers do not pull there tips but they do tip out their server attendants (food runners) and bus boys. Some people tip 15% of their total bill to servers but I never tip less than 20%.

    Bartenders: A good rule of thumb with bartenders is tip 1 – 2 dollars per drink that you and your guests order. If the bartender is overly friendly or comps some of the drinks I always increase the amount of money they get!

    That is my feedback on tipping. The most important thing to remember if the person serving you creates a memorable moment for you, you should recognize their efforts with some dough!!

    Alyse Kochenberger

  2. Pat Baker says:

    Sometimes tipping up front is a good idea, especially with a concierge. It can be well worth $20 or more thankfully given at the time of your first request if you will be staying a while.
    Also, it is thoughtful to tip the maid each day, to be sure the one who cleaned your room is thanked. They may pool these tips — I don’t know. But it still is nice to say thank you each day.

  3. Martrese says:

    While these “tips” (no pun intended) work well for a luxury hotel in the United States, there are so many other worldwide scenarios for which no person could be spontaneously prepared. (Taxi ride in Morocco, shoe shine in Paris, etc.). The single best advice I can give is to do your research ahead of time, given the location you’re visiting and the types of tipping scenarios that could arise. E-mail the hotel and ask what’s customary. Consult a guide book on the area. Check web sites such as this one. The answers ARE out there – all you have to do is ask.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with Alyse’s comment about making the effort to thank someone (monetarily AND verbally) for good service. My husband and I are staying in our old apartment building in NYC right now (we moved to Oregon three years ago) and our doormen, all of whom still work here, to this day thank us for Christmas tips we gave them years ago.

    P.S. Caroline – I immediately recognized the travel pack image. I stayed at the Ritz in Atlanta for business years ago and was sorry I didn’t lift the shampoo, etc. Those travel containers with press-open tops are the best.

  4. Sheldon says:

    I stayed at the San Juan Ritz this past Christmas / New Years the best 10 day of my life, everything was wonderful, from the minute the front door was opened by the door man to the last minute that I checked out. My room was great it had a balcony and faced the pool and the ocean, I left the door open and had wonderful tropic warm air breeze all the time. Best part was the pool with the walk in edge unbelievable, I never had a wet towel, the pool attendant, was always changing them to dry towels. From the pool to the warm Atlantic Ocean and the clean sand, I could not believe the restaurants the food was unbelievable and best of all was the desserts, unreal, everyone tries their best to make your stay their wonderful, I recommend the Ritz at least once in your life.

  5. Susan says:

    I found a great tipping app for iPhones called “Tipping Tips”, which gives advice on tipping in over 100 countries. It’s got general guidelines and specific information on everyday situations like taxis and hotels, plus info on less common stuff like Safari guides in Africa. There’s a calculator that knows what country you’re in and automatically calculates the correct percentage – very helpful since I hate doing math in restaurants!

  6. Annette Jacques says:

    When excellence in service goes above and beyond the standard, in addition to a generous tip, I always ask the person’s name and write a letter to the head of their department or where it would be most effective, to make sure they receive the recognition they deserve.

  7. Nadia says:

    I travel internationally extensively and have found the best mehtod that works for me is to research tipping customs online or ask the locals once I arrive at my destination.

  8. I never leave less than $5. If someone is working to make my stay, meal or visit a pleasant one – they deserve recognition. I never forget that it could be me on the other side of the wallet one day. What may be a coffee for me could mean a meal for someone else.

    And I try to tip a bathroom attendant (esp. at airports) when I’m able. I put myself in that person’s shoes – can’t imagine what they have to clean up. I admit that if I have a $20 for that person, I’ll spare it.

    And an important thing for me is that you quietly hand the tip off, say nothing other than thank you. The moment isn’t about me – it’s about the other person.

    Does that mean a have a wallet full of cash to give away? No – but it comes back to me in good karma.

  9. Dave Gordon says:

    Tip early, often and big. If you want good service make sure you stand out and are remembered. While good service is expected you are not only “paying” for that good service but even service above and beyond. It doesn’t matter that the tips may be pooled, if you tip generously and early you will be recognized and if you”miss” someone, they will have received word from their mates that you have generously contributed to the pool. When going to an event or a restaurant where a tip can get you a better seat go don’t worry about being overly generous. Every year I go to an event that has precious few tables for dining. I give the Maitre D $50 and get the best table in the house. I simply consider this the price of admission for a good seat. You get what you pay for!

  10. Dave Gordon says:

    This is an addendum to my previous submission.don’t forget, the recipients of the tips are working for a living and depend on these tips.

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