Not every hotel you are going to stay in will have a bellman and concierge. Heck, some just have Frank, who makes $7.25/hour, asleep behind the desk. But even if you're staying at a budget property without plush bathrobes and a pillow menu, there are still staff members who deserve a tip -- particularly the housekeeper who makes your bed and changes your towels. And at more upscale properties, the tipping of other service people such as valets and room service waiters is both customary and appreciated.
Because tipping is a way of rewarding good service, there is no way to say what is appropriate across the board. Tip at your own discretion, and be aware that standards may vary from one country to the next. The following guidelines will get you started:
Valet: $2 - $5 (aim for the higher end in bad weather)
Shuttle Driver: $2
Doorman: $1 - $4 (for hailing a cab and/or helping with luggage)
Bellhop: $1 - $2 per bag
Concierge: $5 - $20 (depending on the level of attention; for simple questions like directions, no tip is necessary)
Room Service: 15 - 20 percent of the bill (not required if gratuity is included)
Housekeeping: $2 - $5 per night (the messier you are, the higher the tip)
Coat Check: $1 - $2
Tip your housekeeper for each night instead of giving one large tip at the end of your stay. You may not have the same housekeeper each day, and a single tip given before you leave may not get distributed evenly to all staff members who cleaned your room. For best results, write a note clearly labeling the money so the housekeeper knows it's intended for him or her.
Do not ask to borrow the bellhop's cart in order to bring your suitcases up to your room on your own and avoid shelling out a tip. The bellhop and his or her cart are a package deal -- if you want to carry your own bag, use your arms.
Keep in mind that when you're tipping a service person at your hotel, you're essentially paying a part of that person's salary. If you forget to tip a housekeeper, concierge or bellhop (or anyone else who deserves a tip) and have already left the hotel, call the concierge and explain your situation. The concierge most likely will be able to find the name of the person who was working during a particular shift or cleaning a particular room; write your forgotten staff member a check and stick it in the mail.
If your room is not ready and you request that the bellhop store your bags ... tip! A bellhop's tips are not limited to carting bags to and from hotel rooms. Tip the bellhop for each major task that he or she performs for you.
Out of cash? Need change? Don't tell the staff member that you will tip him or her later. Most likely, you'll be distracted by the fact that you are on vacation and forget to tip later. Even if you have the memory of an elephant, be prepared and bring plenty of cash. If you are out of small bills, ask for change at the front desk; in most cases, the staff person will be happy to oblige.
If the staff member who is assisting you seems rude at first, do not necessarily withhold a tip. In a foreign country, what you interpret as rudeness may simply be a difference in culture. However, if you are deeply affected by the unhelpful behavior of a staff member who has been consistently rude throughout your stay, tip the bare minimum and notify the hotel manager of the offense. It is the manager's job to dole out consequences for substandard service, not yours.
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