Do You Tip In Hotel Club Lounges?

I know, the tipping situation in the US is out of control. Blah blah blah.

I’m not disagreeing the situation is out of hand, but it doesn’t change the fact that many people rely on tips to make a living, regardless of whether the system makes sense or not. In other words, as much as I might disagree with the system, I don’t want to “punish” people that work in an industry that rely on tips as a result.

But even when trying to apply that standard, there are inconsistencies that leave me confused. For example, why do we tip almost anyone that serves us a meal, except flight attendants? In shuttle buses, do we only tip if the driver helps us with our bags? If so, is the simple effort of lifting a bag what justifies the tip, as opposed to the time spent driving the shuttle?

I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong answer, but today I came across a situation where I wasn’t sure if I should tip (by my standards)… and it wasn’t even in the US!

Do you tip club lounge attendants in hotels? I usually don’t. In the US they’re pretty bare bones, and I find the attendants are usually pretty “removed.” They put out the food, you serve yourself, and then when you’re done you put your plates and glasses on the designated tray.


But how about if the attendant is nice? What if they proactively clear your plates for you, and what if there’s a form you’re supposed to fill out with your name, room number, and a space for optional gratuity? That was the case at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel Toronto Airport today.


The attendant was friendly, and the breakfast spread was decent, so I tipped $5. I don’t know if I did that because I felt obligated to, or simply because she was friendly and it felt “right” to do so? At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like the form was really tacky, since clearly it’s intended just to fish for tips (in order to enter the lounge you have to use your room key to begin with, so theoretically eligibility has already been determined).

Do you tip in hotel club lounges? If so, do you only tip when service is proactive, or regardless of service levels? And how do you feel about a form with an optional field for tips?

Filed Under: Hotels
  1. That card is not a Sheraton brand standard/issued card and would get them marked up for using it.

  2. Usually.

    I don’t need a ‘form’ to remind or assist me in leaving a gratuity for services rendered.

  3. I got the same card at the Sheraton in Chicago, which surprised me since I have never received anything like anywhere else in the world

  4. In the US, if the place is kept clean, yes. $2 per person unless the service is exceptional in some way.

  5. Flight attendants don’t need tips. They are paid a reasonable wage which is more generous than most people with their level of skill/training would get.

    I generally don’t tip for things that are provided for free such as hotel clubs or shuttles. When you start down that road there’s nowhere to stop.

    Yes, the tipping culture is out of control in the US. I’m sure some Americans would glady have people paid nothing and make them work for scraps.

  6. I thought the point of tipping was to essentially cover the employee’s otherwise missing wages. Since a server makes less than minimum wage, we’re expected to tip to make the difference. I doubt that hotel staff are paid below minimum wage unless they are servers in a restaurant on site or illegal aliens.

  7. There are so many surly people out there that it amazes me they chose to go into a field where customer service is everything. I’m a dentist but I know that my success is as much based on the way I and my staff treat people than merely the quality of care. So when I’m in a situation like you described and the staff is smiling, happy and committed to making my time with them enjoyable, you bet I leave a tip. For a breakfast like that with my wife, I’ll leave $5. Never really left anything for a cocktail in the evening. And if it’s Club Level at the Ritz, and I see the same person each day, I’ll do better than that.

  8. I would like to weigh in the hotel shuttle tip.

    If I travel with big checked luggage, I tip based on the help of those luggages.

    If I travel with carry on only, and it would be a round trip from and to the airport. I tip only once on the return trip.

    If the shuttle ride is between 12-5 am, I will tip regardless the abovementioned condition.

    Lastly, if the shuttle to/from the hotel is a very long ride, I will tip nicely. One particular example is a Hilton in midwest. A taxi ride from the airport would cost $40. I tip those college student drivers very nicely every time I take that free shuttle.

  9. Just talk with a German accent. They’ll assume you don’t understand the American obsession with tipping.

    Seriously though, don’t most excellent hotels just charge a service fee that they pool and share with all staff, so you don’t feel obligated to tip every time you do anything within the hotel?

  10. I tip in lounges most times. Sometimes in the evening in US when I buy drinks, if
    server is very generous in their pour, I will tip extra. Shuttle drivers always get a tip,
    regardless of whether they help with bags. I find most Europeans resent US tipping
    culture, but truthfully I think their just cheap! Lucky, you did right.

  11. @ Lisa – I understand the concept, but in California, all servers are paid minimum wage plus tips, so the formula strictly applied would result in no tips for any California service people.

    As far as the question, I only tip if it’s a sit at the bar type situation at an airport lounge with someone serving me a drink specifically, not attendants who are just stocking supplies and maintaining the facility generally. I also don’t tip for carryout food or at Starbucks.

  12. I tip just about anyone in the US who is providing a service and is less fortunate than myself. Since most people are in service industries that pay relatively little, I end up tipping quite often. Everyone has to decide for him or herself what is “right”. I don’t judge what other people do because I don’t know what their particular circumstances (maybe they just lost their job).

    On the other hand, I think that the culture of the US is somewhat sickening in that people who are better off than other people feel it is their right to belittle others (i.e., too bad you are working for less money and if you were any good, you’d have a better paying job, so don’t expect me to make up for it) and keep as much as they can ( I need my latest gadget, I deserve more since I work hard, those slackers deserve less). This “me me me” attitude shows a lack of respect and gratitude to others.

  13. I usually tip a couple of bucks if there’s some genuine service being provided, particularly if the attendant is enthusiastic and helpful. That form though… that would put me right off tipping. I’m sure the hotel would argue that it allows guests to add a tip to their bill, but it seems awfully pushy.

  14. Oh hell no! I don’t tip lounge attendants. Everyone wants a tip these days… dry cleaners, flower shops, bakeries and many more… sick of it. I’m already paying for the product or service!

  15. Re “in order to enter the lounge you have to use your room key to begin with, so theoretically eligibility has already been determined,” you’ve never seen club level guests bring others from non-club floors or even non-guests into the club? Or, in some hotels, guests hanging by the club door and drafting in after a key-holding guest?

  16. Club lounge staff are typically not paid a wage based on a tipping environment. Bartenders at a paid hotel bar are…but not in the club….they get full pay.

    I’ve seen tips declined at several RC properties.

  17. I do tip at high-end places, such as Four Seasons or RC, where there is a high level of service…mixing cocktails, etc. Usually $20/day if I’ve heavily used the lounge, given in an envelope at the end of the stay, with a nice note stating that the tip is intended to be divided among ALL of the lounge staff. I give it to the lounge manager. I generally don’t tip at your standard Hiltons etc where you are basically helping yourself to a soda or a snack with minimal service from the attendant.

  18. I’ve only tipped once in a lounge, where the attendant proactively cleared my dirty dishes and refreshed our nonalcoholic drinks. I used to drive a shuttle bus and got tipped about half the time on average.

  19. @ Nybanker — Oh I absolutely have, but these cards don’t solve that either, since you fill them out at your leisure and then leave them there when you leave. If you want to control who enters you need to have someone at the door. That’s not happening either way.

  20. I struggle w/ tipping the hotel shuttle driver. While it may not be the best salary, they’re paid above the minimum wage (as opposed to a waiter who in NY gets $2.13 an hour with the assumption that tips will supplement this). So while i doubt the driver is pulling in $75k a year pre-tips I think roles that like are less dependent on tips and i’ll base my tipping on a level of service.

    Driver who doesnt speak, help with bags and drives like he’s from Massachusetts – no tip
    Driver who is friendly and helps with a bag – tip

    Would also have to assume the lounge attendant is a salaried position (again as opposed to a waiter or busboy). While i gladly tip at a buffet in a restaurant, an invisible lounge attendant may not get a tip.

    Of course situations like these are often also based on how many small bills i have in my pocket or if i even have cash on me at all. If i’m only carrying $20s vs if i have a bunch of $1s and $5s.

  21. Hi Ben
    Yes you’re right. The US tipping thing is out of hand. People are happy at 20% now. An indifferent waitress suddenly being realy nice at the end of a meal is a clue. 10 % is not enough to even get a thanks. The Brits don’t expect it but it’s nice if you do. The Japanse hate it – all the honour is in serving you. I think when it’s expected as a right you have a problem because there’s an entitlement attitude. Having said said that there is a helping out culture in the US that us mean Europeans don’t have. Airline ID discounts, Vets lounges at airports , free food on your birthday. It’s quite refreshing! So nowheres perfect!
    Yes I do tip in exec lounges as I feel it’s all for ‘free’ anyway! Exec lounge must be the worst job in the hotel.

  22. Hey Lucky, slightly off topic but do you have any good tips on gathering Club/Lounge info about properties for comparison? I know RC properties and some Hyatts supposedly have good Lounges but I don’t know if I’m missing some kind of resource other than just looking at individual property sites to find out. Having trouble with some high category Marriotts in particular. Thanks, as always, for your help!

  23. Lucky: I think you missed the more important element in that room…the automatic pancake machine! (I know they’re just mediocre but still – automatic pancake maker!) šŸ˜‰

  24. I would never tip in a lounge. Where does it end? The whole culture is screwed up. I’ve had a porter from the IC NYC practically running alongside our taxi as it was pulling away begging for a tip. He did nothing we got the cab and put out bags in so he got nothing.

  25. My tipping practices vary from situation to situation. I’m mildly surprised when folks say they always tip or never tip in a given location or context. I’ve tipped servers anywhere from 0% to 200%. I’ve left anything from twenty-five cents to a hundred dollars in a musician’s tip jar. I’ve had tips accepted in Japan and refused in the US. When it comes to tipping it’s best not to paint yourself in a corner with unnecessary deference to preconceived notions.

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