Tipping is probably one of, if not the most, controversial topics when it comes to customer service. Everyone knows the standard 15-20% tip for your server when you go out to dinner but what should you tip the Concierge who recommended that restaurant or the door man who got you a cab? What about the bellman who brought your bags to the room when you checked in? Is it customary to tip the Front Desk agent who gave you a complimentary upgrade or moved your room for you? Well let's find out!
The question I was asked most as a bellman (aside from "What's the WiFi password") was "How much should I tip you?" I was not a fan of this question for a few reasons: A.) my first answer is always going to be "$1,000". If you want to know what I really want, that's it. What you're really asking is "How low can I go without feeling guilty?" B.) I don't know what is in your wallet so even if I said $20 and you're okay with that you may only have $5 on you and then it's a game of me saying "That's fine, don't worry about it" and you saying "No no! I'll catch you later" then mistaking me with another bellman and giving him $15 for something he didn't do. C.) It's just awkward. Ask anyone but me how much to tip me. Even if you have to lie and say you don't have cash but you'll get me later and then asking the Front Desk, that's fine. Just don't ask me. Now, all of this being said, I never ever expected a tip. Yes, it was part of the job and yes it was "expected" but it was never expected. That way, if I didn't get a tip (yes, it happened) then I wasn't disappointed.
There isn't a standard rate per bag in the industry. It varies based on where you are, the level of the hotel, how many bags you have, and sometimes even the weather that day. For example, if you have two medium sized bags and the bellman just rolls alongside you in the hall, I'd say a buck or two per bag would be fine. However, if those bags were 20-30lbs each and the elevator is broken and you're on the 5th floor, maybe bump it to $5 per bag. If you have two carts worth of items I'd say again either a buck per bag/item (guitar, dog crate, surfboard, etc) or $20 whichever is higher. If it takes two bellman, just split it evenly between them. Again, if there are extenuating circumstances (elevator broken, monsoon outside, sweltering heat wave, etc) then maybe throw a couple extra bucks to them as a thank you.
Bellman are not the only ones you can or should tip however. Depending on the situation, it is entirely appropriate to tip the Front Desk Agent as well. This can be very tricky because you don't want to tip the Front Desk for something that someone else will be doing or should be doing. For example, don't tip the Front Desk Agent and then not give anything to the housekeeper or bellman who actually brought it. Make sure the one who makes the delivery gets tipped since they are doing the actual work and tip the Agent on top of that if you're feeling generous. If the agent gives you a complimentary upgrade out of the blue, a tip is also appreciated although never required or expected. If the agent goes out of their way to assist you with something last minute (you forgot flowers for an anniversary, champagne for a new engagement, etc) a tip is recommended as this can take a lot of time for the agent that they may not necessarily have. Now, if they go out of their way of their own volition to do something nice for you that you did not ask for, that does not require a tip on your part unless you are truly appreciative and want to do that. I once checked in a guest who asked if the Boston Creme Pie was actually invented in Boston (where I was working at the time) and I had no idea so I found out that it was actually invented at a hotel just down the street from us (the Omni Parker House on School Street). Once I was done with the check in, I called over to the hotel and ordered two for the guests. I then walked over and had them waiting in the room for when the guests got back. They were super appreciative of the gesture and it made me happy to see them so excited. The thought of a tip never even entered my mind and I don't even remember if I got one because it was something I did to make their stay better not to fatten my wallet. Things like this are not necessary to tip for unless you truly want to.
In my opinion, Concierge (aside from bellman) have the most opportunity for tipping. Almost anything they do is grounds for a gratuity. If they make a reservation at a restaurant for you maybe throw them a $5. If they help you print a boarding pass, maybe a buck or two if you're feeling generous. If they get you last minute seats to Hamilton or a table for two at 3pm on Valentines Day, then maybe a $10 or $20 is in order. Most of what the concierge does is based on your requests and should be treated as such. If you're asking for their assistance, you should thank them for it. Especially in today's age of OpenTable, Stub Hub, and Mobile Boarding Passes, if you're asking a concierge to assist you with things that you can do on an app, you should be tipping them.
An often overlooked position is the hotel Doorman. I'll admit: I don't generally tip simply for opening the door. I definitely tip if they help with my luggage or get me a cab or recommend a bar in the area while waiting for an Uber. These would be along the same rules as concierge or bellman: a buck per bag or recommendation or something along those lines. Anything is appreciated in my experience.
If you leave your car with valet, it is a good idea to tip them whenever you request your car. Yes, parking at hotels is more and more expensive every year but these guys are running back and forth all day and should be tipped as a token of appreciation. If you're staying for a while and tip well this also makes the 15-20 minute wait that everyone else has a little shorter for you. I would recommend a couple dollars each time they retrieve or park your car.
Last but not least: Housekeeping. This is a thankless job and often times tips are a large part of their paycheck so I generally tip $5 per night. A lot of people make the excuse "I didn't request service during my stay" or "Well I only stayed one or two nights and they have to clean the room anyway so why should I tip them?" Because it's the civil thing to do for the person who is cleaning the sheets you just slept in buck naked and who is cleaning the toilet you just destroyed after getting food poisoning. The housekeeper is the one who makes the room look and feel like you're the first person to ever step foot in that room. That deserves a thank you.
I hope this helped anyone who may have had questions or were worried they were under or over tipping. It is a very fluid subject and not one that I had realized had so many shades of grey until I sat down to actually write this post. There are a lot of moving parts to take into consideration when tipping people and the best piece of advice would just to do what you think is right. But don't ever give pocket change. Ever. It's insulting and we will remember you. Leave a comment with your thoughts or any questions or comments you may have!
I have nearly a decade of experience in hospitality across the country. With this experience comes some stories to tell and advice to give.