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When it Comes to Gratuities, Hotel Housekeepers Don't Exactly Clean Up

By Ellen Creager, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

December 6, 2009 --Here's a tip: Tip your hotel maid.

"Maybe once a month someone will tip, but what can I do? We can't force people to tip," says Sara Hana, a housekeeper at the Victory Inn in Roseville. "Sometimes they leave empty bottles." Of all the workers travelers encounter, hotel maids are most likely to be stiffed at tip time. Often unseen by guests, they are known only by the crisp pillows they plump or fluffy towels they hang. "Sometimes they slip under the radar, but they are incredibly deserving," says Dan Post Senning of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. "They deserve a tip of $1 to $3 a day." The nation's 433,000 hotel maids (also called housekeepers) make a median wage of $9.42 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But at modest hotels and motels, they are minimum wage employees. In Michigan, that's $7.40 an hour.

Tipped in fruit and beer

Housekeepers say some guests leave strange tips.

"As far as myself, I do pretty well," says Dorethia Wilson, a housekeeper at the Shorecrest Motor Inn in Detroit.

"Sometimes they leave $5. Sometimes they leave $1. The most I ever got was $30. About 75% of people tip."

But guests leave things other than money.

"The strangest thing I ever got was ... a watermelon," she says. "The most valuable thing I received was a Bible. Sometimes people leave candy. Or spare change. Sometimes they leave a case of beer -- but I don't drink.

"And I have what I call my little thank-you box. I keep the notes I get. Sometimes they're written on paper towels. But I appreciate little notes like that, even more than the money."

Tipping on the pillow

While guests expect hotel maids to be as discreet as the Secret Service and as honest as Mother Teresa, many travelers don't bother to tip for a housekeeper's excellent service because they don't know how.

"When they do tip, they often bring it down in an envelope to the front desk at the end of their stay," says Nancy Moore, front desk night auditor at the Best Western Georgian Inn in Roseville. "Often it's because the housekeeper has done something extra for them."

That method is fine. But because the maid who cleans your room might be different each day, a better practice is to leave a tip daily, Senning says. Leave it on the pillow or on a table with a note.

"Be really clear. Don't leave loose change on the bedside table," he says. "And if you make a real mess, leave a little more."

Many hotel maids in metro Detroit supplement their income -- with the approval of hotel managers -- by collecting and cashing in empty bottles left behind in the rooms.

"It's a hard way to make a tip," says Heidi Hughes, staff director of Local 24 of UNITE-HERE, which represents 8,000 hotel housekeepers in metro Detroit. And while tips have slipped, "the workload has increased," she says. "Mattresses are bigger, duvets are heavier, and there are more pillows, more amenities and bigger rooms."

Tipping beyond the maid

Tipping can be confusing, because travelers should never tip certain people, like bed and breakfast hosts, airline pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, ticket agents and cruise ship captains.

But most service providers appreciate a tip for excellent service. That category includes maids, shuttle and taxi drivers, doormen, bellhops, cruise ship staffs and hotel concierges.

While traveling internationally, tip traditions vary, but in this day and age there is no excuse for not knowing what they are, Senning says. And tipping the hotel maid always is a kindness, no matter where you are in the world.

Why? Tipping is not obligatory, but it is part of etiquette. And etiquette, as Emily Post always said, is a combination of manners and principles.

"Manners change with times, but the principles behind them -- honesty and respect -- do not," Senning says.

So here's a tip: Tip your hotel maid.

Contact ELLEN CREAGER: 313-222-6498 or ecreager@freepress.com


How much you should tip

--Hotel maid: $2-$5 per day, left daily.

--Bellhop: $2 first bag, $1 per additional bag.

--Skycap: $2 first bag; $1 per additional bag.

--Doorman: $1-$2 for carrying luggage or hailing a cab.

--Concierge: $5-$10 if they get you tickets or reservations.

--Taxi driver: 15% plus $1-$2 if they help with your bags.

--Room service waiter: 15%.

--Private excursion or tour guides: 10-15%.

--Group tour guide or driver: $2 daily

--Airport or hotel shuttle drivers: $1-$2.

Sources: http://emilypost.com; Fodor's

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Copyright (c) 2009, Detroit Free Press

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