You're Not Tipping Your Hotel Housekeeper Enough

Tipping isn't optional. | Pressmaster/shutterstock
Tipping isn't optional. | Pressmaster/shutterstock

Last week, CNBC shared a horrid new video about a cool “tipping hack” designed to let you keep a buck or two, supposedly without leaving you feeling like a scummy goblin even as you shortchange waitstaff. Here’s the thing: Tipping is already a comprehensively terrible system that relies on the whims of consumers to decide whether or not service-industry workers get paid that day, without CNBC chiming in with questionable advice.

Even well-intentioned folks sometimes don’t tip properly, not necessarily because they’re rude, but just because they didn’t know. Let’s clear that up, because tipping isn’t a kindness or a favor.  

One area where tipping continues to be an issue is in hotels -- only about one-third of hotel guests remember to tip the housekeeping staff, who already make less on average than housekeepers in non-hospitality industries do (such as those who work at hospitals).

Lodging and accommodation accounts for nearly one-quarter of the nation’s housekeeping jobs. In 2017, those housekeepers made on average $11.74 per hour -- less than $25,000 per year. Housekeepers count on tips to make something marginally closer to a living wage, and if you enjoy the reduced room rates that hotels are able to offer you by not paying their staff anything higher, then you have the responsibility to make up your share of the difference.

Any time you check out of a hotel, or a motel, or resort, or any type of facility that A) provided you lodging, and B) employs cleaning staff, remember to leave a separate tip for housekeepers in your room -- and not just give one lump sum to the front desk (that tip will go to various other hotel employees, but probably not the housekeepers). A good standard here is to leave $2 per day you used the room.

For you, this only means leaving a couple of bucks. For housekeepers, this can add up to a couple of bucks each per hundreds and hundreds of cleaned rooms.

For pretty much any other service you are unsure about, tipping 20% is the minimum. It just is. It is not 15%, nor 10%, nor whatever change you happen to have rolling around in that one weird outside pocket of your bag. It is 20%. It is 20% of the total bill, not the total bill before tax. If you enjoyed the service you received and would like to express that financially, as is appropriate, then by all means tip 30%, or whatever percentage above 20 feels right for that situation.

For the benefit of the people out there who continue to excuse grossly substandard tips for waitstaff, drivers or any other customer service professional -- usually saying something about how they “never know how this works” or are “just not a math person” -- I will let you in on the foolproof tipping method that works for me, a person whose math ability can charitably be described as “very marginally above average:”

1. You look at the total bill. Let us say this is $20.00
2. Move the decimal point one place to the left. This gives you 10%. In the case of our imaginary bill at hand, this is $2
3. Multiply that number by 2. This gives you 20%. For this bill, that is $4

From there I usually just round up to the nearest dollar. The point is, even if your phone’s dead or there aren’t pre-calculated tip options on the bill, tipping a minimum of 20% is not an unknowable mystery of the universe that we cannot be expected to handle under such stressful circumstances as sitting down at a table finishing a meal someone else prepared for us.

To reiterate, for housekeepers, tip a minimum of $2/day. For bellhops, concierges, etc., bare minimum $1 per service rendered (like calling you a cab). If you really need it, here’s a handy guide from the American Hotel & Lodging Association to bookmark for future scenarios about which you are unsure.

(While I have you here, most of us really don’t need all the towels and sheets and everything changed every single day -- leave that Do Not Disturb sign on the door for the sake of the environment and the housekeepers’ workload, but don’t use that as a reason not to tip. Again, it’s just a couple of bucks, and this is how people make their money.)

Traveling is cool! Don’t ruin it for the housekeepers and everyone else whose labor allows you to do it in the first place. If you can afford the trip in the first place, you can afford the correct tip.

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Kastalia Medrano is Thrillist's Travel Writer. You can send her travel tips at, and Venmo tips at @kastaliamedrano.