Now, I admit, when I arrive at a hotel in the United States, I do find it a little aggravating that you’d better have a wad of cash in your hand before the airport cab pulls up to the hotel’s main entrance. Your first tip (of many) upon arrival will be 10% for the cab driver.
And before you’ve signed off on your MasterCard or collected a receipt for the ride, a hotel doorman has dashed to the trunk of the car to grab your bag and find out if you want it delivered to your room. Even if that “bag” is a Hello Kitty backpack holding little besides your jammies and toothbrush, you still need to give the doorman a dollar as you retrieve your pack to carry to the room yourself.
If you have more substantial luggage and do need help getting it to your room, the doorman will hand off your suitcase to a bellman who will carry it to the bell stand, write a claim ticket for you, then point you toward the check-in desk. Tip number three: a dollar or more, depending on how many bags (and how big) the bellman had to handle.
You check in. You get to your room and it’s time to call the bell desk, give them the claim number, and wait for yet another bellman to bring the luggage to your room. This will require more cash and since this is the person who appears to have expended the most effort, having hauled your stuff from the valet desk up to your room on the umpteenth floor, I think he deserves the most substantial tip.
Generally speaking, I’d tip $2 per bag in a moderately priced hotel. You might tip a little higher if the poor guy had to wrestle with a duffel containing your rock collection, or if you’re in a hotel so fancy that the staff many not recognize a one dollar bill. Tip extra if you take the bellman up on his offer to fill your ice bucket or conduct a guided tour of your room with useful instructions on topics like how to open drapes or work a remote control for the television.
Whew. Okay. We’re in the room. Put away the wallet and relax.
Be prepared for unexpected tipping
But wait. Not so fast there, pardner. You need to iron a shirt that was folded nicely when you packed, but now looks like it was wadded and twisted out of shape by suitcase gremlins sometime during the trip. The iron doesn’t work, so you call Housekeeping for a replacement.
Every time you ask Housekeeping or any other department of the hotel to bring anything to your room, plan on tipping at least a dollar to the person who delivers it. The more complicated the request (please bring me two hypoallergenic pillows and I forgot my toothbrush and . . .) the more you tip. It doesn’t matter if the broken iron wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t the fault of the young woman who brought you a new one from the basement supply room, either.
Or, let’s say your Italian lover surprises you with a lovely bouquet of roses delivered to your room. Before you swoon over it, be sure to give a couple bucks to the kid who delivered the flowers.
Maybe you’re traveling for business and, corporate mogul that you are, the hotel surprises you with an amenity for your room – say, a fruit basket or a bottle of wine. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t order it (you didn’t order the flowers either, right?). It doesn’t matter that it’s a gift from the hotel. Tip the person who brought it to you. It’s the right thing to do.
As a rule of thumb, don’t answer the door without a buck in your hand. You may not always need it, but I’ll give you better than 50-50 odds that you will. And for that matter, don’t try to use some Gen Y or Q or whatever excuse that you always just use your debit card for everything and don’t have cash. Baloney. You’re traveling. Go to the bank and load up on one dollar bills before you leave town.
How does all this work in Europe? Pretty much the same way. Maybe it wasn’t always that way, but with so many Americans traveling, I think hotel staff expect it of Americans. They may not hold other Europeans to the same expectations, but unless you are masquerading as a Swede (good luck with that), they will know you’re American and think you’re cheap if you don’t do something tip-wise.
Feel free to consult Rick Steves, everybody on Google, Arthur Frommer, and your cousin Tony and heed whatever advice you like best. This is my take on it and, as you know, I am a great believer in being generous, smiling and saying thank you. Life’s short. Have fun traveling and don’t be a cheapskate. Ciao!