The topic of tipping hotel housekeeping can be surprisingly controversial. You have some people who believe housekeeping should be tipped, others who believe housekeeping shouldn’t be tipped, and plenty of people who just aren’t sure what’s expected.
In this post I wanted to lay out the arguments on both sides, share my take on tipping, and share general tips on how much you should tip (if you choose to do so).
The argument for tipping hotel housekeeping
Many people believe that it’s appropriate to tip hotel housekeeping. The logic is as follows:
- Housekeepers are generally the hardest working and among the lowest paid people in hotels
- Not only do they work the hardest, but they arguably have the most disgusting jobs, having to clean up some messy situations
- Housekeepers provide customer service, just like hotel concierges, hotel bell staff, or hotel bar and restaurant workers; just because you don’t interact with them doesn’t mean they aren’t serving you
- Tipping hotel housekeeping isn’t an endorsement of the practice of the cost of labor being passed off from hotel owners to guests, but rather is an acknowledgement of these people being underpaid and hard working
The argument against tipping hotel housekeeping
Many people believe that it’s not necessary to tip hotel housekeeping. The logic is as follows:
- When you book a hotel you’re paying for a clean room, and that’s what housekeeping provides, so that should be a given
- It’s not the job of hotel guests to subsidize the salaries of housekeepers, and hotels should just pay them better wages
- The tipping culture in the United States is terrible, and enough is enough
- Hotels have cut back housekeeping services, blaming it on the pandemic, and we shouldn’t reward this behavior
- We’ve seen hotel company CEOs suggest that hotel guests should simply tip more to subsidize wages, so why would we support this practice?
- For some people it’s a matter of “out of sight, out of mind,” as it’s not that they’re not trying to tip, but rather they don’t even think about it
My stance on tipping hotel housekeeping
Personally I very much believe in tipping hotel housekeeping, at least in the United States, which has a general culture of tipping for good customer service (I don’t find it as necessary in other countries, where housekeepers may earn fairer wages, but I play it by ear).
Now, just to be clear:
- Do I like the tipping culture in the United States? Nope…
- Do I wish hotel housekeeping were paid better wages so I wouldn’t feel compelled to tip? Absolutely…
- Am I frustrated by the concept of “giving in” to greedy hotel owners who don’t want to pay for their staff? I sure am…
- Do I think hotel housekeepers have the hardest and most thankless jobs in hotels? Yep…
- Am I going to punish these hardworking employees who largely have a thankless job just because the system sucks? Nope…
I believe in the “live and let live” ideology, so if I have cash on me, I always try to leave a few dollars per day for some of the hardest working people in a hotel. I’m fortunate that a few dollars won’t make a material difference in my financial situation, while I know it can go a long way for many of the people working in hotels.
I also think that housekeepers get the short end of the straw of our tipping culture. Whether you like it or not, in the United States there’s an expectation that you tip a taxi driver just for doing their job without them providing any sort of extra service for you. If they should get a tip for not going out of their way, those who work as hard as housekeepers should as well, in my opinion.
Now, I have to admit, I’m not perfect about tipping. I tip hotel housekeeping whenever I can, but the issue is that I sometimes don’t have any cash on me, which can make it hard to tip.
What percent of hotel guests tip housekeeping?
A 2017 New York Times story that interviewed hotel housekeepers indicated that about 30% of guests tipped. I’m not sure if that number has changed as a result of the pandemic, but that’s one of the few concrete numbers I’ve seen regarding tipping.
On the one hand, it’s my understanding that hotel guests have started to tip more during the pandemic. On the other hand, housekeeping services have been drastically cut back, decreasing the opportunities for housekeepers to be tipped.
One thing is for sure — tipping is the exception, rather than the norm. As one housekeeper described it, sometimes they’ll go days without receiving a tip, and even a $2-3 tip makes them happy, because it means someone appreciates what they’re doing and thought about them.
Over the years we’ve seen some hotels introduce initiatives to try to encourage tipping, either directly or indirectly. For example, several years back Marriott had envelopes with the housekeeper’s name, intended for leaving a tip. These ended up being discontinued, as guests apparently found them to be tacky.
Other hotels have subtly introduced other initiatives to at least let you know who cleaned your room. For example, some hotels have “thank you” notes that the housekeeper leaves with their name on them. Presumably it’s intended to remind you that there’s a real human cleaning your room.
How much should you tip hotel housekeeping?
The American Hotel & Lodging Association (ALHA) recommends tipping hotel housekeeping $1-5 per night. If you’re going to tip, ideally:
- Leave it nightly, since someone different could be cleaning your room every day
- Make it obvious that it’s a tip and not just money lying around, since you don’t want a housekeeper to be accused of theft; personally I always leave a tip with a short thank you note
Personally I generally leave around $5 per night when I have it (I tip on the higher end of the scale because I often don’t have cash to tip, so hopefully that at least partly makes up for the times that I don’t tip). I’ll also tip a bit extra if the room is especially messy (though that doesn’t happen often).
Tipping hotel housekeeping can be a surprisingly controversial topic. I see both sides — ideally housekeepers would be paid good wages so that I wouldn’t feel like I needed to subsidize them. At the same time, they’re generally not paid particularly well, they work really hard, they deal with disgusting situations, and they draw the short end of the tipping stick because they’re “out of sight.”
Personally I think it’s appropriate to tip $3-5 per night for hotel housekeeping when you have cash on you. And if you tip, make sure you make it obvious that it’s a tip, and not that it’s just money lying around. That being said, tipping hotel housekeeping isn’t expected, in the sense that a majority of people don’t tip.
Where do you stand on tipping hotel housekeepers?