There’s no denying that the US tipping culture can be tough to navigate, as there’s no rhyme or reason to it. While I know tons of people hate the US tipping culture, the reality is also that many people in the US rely on tips to make a living.
When it comes to tipping in the US I ask myself one simple question — “does this person rely on tips in any form to make a living?” If the answer is yes, I’ll typically tip. Therefore many might say I over tip. But I’d also rather live and let live, rather than trying to prove a point about how I disagree with the US tipping system.
That’s why I spend a fair amount of time on the blog talking about tipping (it’s also something I receive a lot of questions about). I’ve talked about tipping in airline lounges, tipping in hotel club lounges, tipping airline chauffeur service, tipping housekeeping in hotels, etc.
The scam appears to be targeting customers using the showers in Qantas’ Los Angeles lounge. As recently as last week, a lounge attendant picked up a sum of money that had been left in the room while showing a customer to their shower. The attendant was then seen surreptitiously placing the cash into another room, ready to be taken in full sight of the next customer when they arrived. Our members suggest that the sole purpose of this practice is to subtlety pressure every customer into themselves leaving money. Even if the previous customer had left a tip, it would have been collected while the shower was being cleaned between customers.
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX shower room
While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a “scam,” my first reaction was that this is pretty “low.” But then when I thought about it more, I’m not sure it’s much different than a lot of the other stuff I see.
For example, all the time I see hotel shuttle bus drivers put their own dollar bills in the cup holder by their seat as a way of prompting people to tip. And when they are tipped, they’ll place the money in the cup for everyone to see as well.
Australian Frequent Flyer quotes a Qantas spokesperson as saying that tipping isn’t expected or encouraged in any Qantas Lounge. While the former is true, I spoke to the (Australian) manager when the lounge first opened, and asked exactly that. He said it certainly wasn’t expected, but that at the LAX lounge staff to some degree do count on tips to make a living. Of course that will likely come in the form of US guests tipping, while most foreign guests likely won’t.
I certainly tip in airline lounges for some types of service (I’ll tip the bartender serving me drinks, in nice lounges I’ll tip those serving me food, and I’ll even tip those who clean the showers). I don’t do it because I love the US tipping culture, but rather because the minimum wage in the US is extremely low, and in many instances that’s what these workers are paid. And they rely on tips to get by.
While I think the above technique is sneaky and it would sort of rub me the wrong way if I caught on, I also sort of can’t say I blame them. And I also wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “scam.” Now, if this has been addressed by Qantas and they’ve told the attendants to stop, then it’s of course a problem. But if that hasn’t happened, I can’t say I blame them.
What do you make of the technique used by the shower attendants at the Qantas Lounge LAX? Is it a “scam,” sneaky and questionable, or just plain smart?