I read an interesting post from Ben at One Mile at a Time today and it got me thinking -- do I tip too often and too much? The gist of Ben's article is that he doesn't tip people for just doing their job if they make more than minimum wage and aren't offering a specialized service (e.g. Hotel Maids).
I always tip hotel maids. Believe me, they won't retire of my small gratuity, but I do leave them something. Traditionally, I will lave $5/night -- but I leave this upon my departure. If I made a total mess of the room (ahem, Los Angeles, January 2009...) I will leave them a bit more. I don't do it because I feel obligated, I do it because I think it is the right thing to do. I agree with Ben, this is their job -- I don't get tipped for doing my job, but these folks are providing me a service and I have the financial ability to thank them for it.
Let's look at other people in the service industry and see if we should tip them. When getting a cab from a hotel front door, I always slip the doorman a couple bucks. He has to stand out in the weather hailing a taxi -- which if I were standing 20 feet away, I'd have to do it myself. When he does it for you, you stay dry/warm (or cool) and more often than not they will escort you out with an umbrella if it is raining/snowing. That's totally worth $2 to me!
I don't use hotel porters to bring my luggage to my room as I traditionally travel with a simple 20" Roller. If I did require help with my bags, I would probably give $5 if I had more than 2 bags. When I "check" my bag at the hotel, either because I arrived early and my room isn't ready or I checked out and don't want to schlep my suitcase around, I will usually leave between $1-$2 upon my return.
In Oregon, you cannot pump your own gas -- there is an attendant. We never tip these guys though (interestingly enough, a frenzy of comments on Facebook recently showed me that sometimes my friends do tip these guys, especially in bad weather).
I always tip a bartender at least $1. If I know I'm going to be at said establishment for the long haul that evening and it will get busier, I'll leave more $5-$10-$20 on the first drink, just so I KNOW I will be recognized and served throughout the night. In this instance, I'm not tipping on service, I'm basically bribing the person behind the bar for better service. Same basic concept though -- paying extra for the prospect of continued good service.
Following the logic I have laid out above, you would think that I'd tip a stew -- especially a first class stew, but I don't. They serve me copious amounts of booze and sometimes acceptable food, but never do I even think about tipping these folks. I will pass on the comment cards/notes that elites get each year for good service, but that's it.
I don't tip my dry cleaner but once a year at Christmas ($20), I tip the maid ($50) at the same time and I tip the property manager for my building ($100) as well. These people don't do a better job than anyone else, per se -- again, they provide me a service that I can't do, don't want to do or don't have time to do, and I have the ability to thank them financially for their service.
What do you think? Who do you tip? How much do you tip? Do you think hotel maids should be tipped and if so how much? Do you leave the tip nightly or at the end of your trip? Do you work in an industry where you should be tipped but aren't regularly?