A Nation of Cheapskates


By Robert McGarvey


A new poll makes clear that we have become a nation of cheapskates when it comes to hotel housekeepers. The poll, via CredirCards.com, delivers the bad news.  31% of us never tip hotel housekeepers.


And that one in three of us is comfortable enough with the choice to reveal it to a pollster.

Just 27% of us always tip hotel housekeepers.

That leaves 42% who can go either way.

Pity the poor housekeeper.

In much of the country housekeepers earn minimum wage.  And that isn’t a living wage.  The federal minimum is $7.25 per hour. That’s $290 per week.  About $1200 per month.


In some, heavily unionized places – Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York – housekeepers earn upwards of $16 per hour.  Maybe over $20.  

For their wages, hotel housekeepers typically clean 12 to 14 rooms per day. There’s some variation depending upon the size of the room, the service level of the hotel, and whether housekeepers work in teams.

But at the end of the day, a housekeeper does a lot of work for little money.

I have always left a tip. I cannot recall ever not leaving a tip.  If I ever did it was pure forgetfulness.

Years ago, in Boston, I drove a taxi. I developed a healthy respect for tips and people who leave them.   Of course I always tip taxi drivers.

That said, I am all in with Danny Meyer and his campaign to rid fine dining of tips.  Many – including both diners and restaurant workers – say boo to Meyer.  But, personally, I’d rather the servers were better paid and that I didn’t have to tip, unless I want to, a practice that already prevails in much of Europe.  Of course I always leave a tip in Europe – old habits die hard – but generally single digits.

So why am I all in on tipping housekeepers? Because they are poorly paid – I know that – and also because, in my experience, the person most important to my satisfaction with a hotel stay is the housekeeper.  

When my bed is properly made, towels refreshed and the bathroom cleaned, coffee service refilled, trash emptied from the wastebasket, I’m happy.   I’m ready for another day.

And just about always all that stuff happens.  

Women incidentally are better tippers than men, regarding housekeepers, according to the poll.  47% of women always/mostly tip hotel housekeepers, compared to 33% of men.

Another curiosity when it comes to tipping in restaurants,men,  Republicans, northeasterners and credit/debit card users  to a media 20%.  Women, Democrats, southerners, and csh users tip 15%.

There’s no comparable breakdown for hotel housekeepers.

But if you are in the don’t usually tip them category, give it another thought.  They slog through our messes and, sadly, many are also subjected to sexual abuses by guests and for this they earn minimum wage.

How much to tip?  Some guests tell me they tip $5/day, more when they make special requests.  

TripAdvisor, in its tipping tips, suggests $2 to $5 per night.  That makes sense to me.

Should you tip more if your stay is a big room at a swank hotel, rather than snug quarters at a Motel 6? That’s a point of argument.  Some claim the housekeeper at the posh hotel is typically better paid and will clean fewer rooms. Others say precisely because they clean fewer rooms, they need more generous tips. Both sides have their points.  Make your own choice.

Should you tip daily?  Many urge this.  That way, the tip goes to the person who cleans the room that day.  The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) – which suggests tipping $1 to $5 daly – – recommends leaving the money in a clearly marked envelope daily.

That’s good advice.  If there’s $2 in change on an end table, how’s the housekeeper to know it’s a tip?  Make it explicit.

Just do it.

You want a clean room, we all do, and, sure, I’ll agree that housekeepers should be better paid and in that event the need to tip will vanish.

But until that happens, I say tip.

6 thoughts on “A Nation of Cheapskates”

  1. I usually tip $5 a night. If I don’t it is because they left the bathroom poorly cleaned. Housekeepers are poorly treated by the hotel industry and a lot of guests, and I find extending a little kindness with them, even a kind word, goes a long way.

    1. Robert,

      Thanks for a well thought out, well-written piece. As a 40+ year road warrior, you and I are in furious agreement. I’m totally appreciative of the efforts of hotel housekeepers, bellmen, et. al. and my default is to tip every time, assuming passable service. Yet, it pisses me off that these folks have to rely on our generosity for a living wage. Hoteliers should at the very least make it easier for us to add a tip credit onto the folio, have it charged to our cc, distribute the $, AND allow the employee the pleasure of tipping Uncle Sam like everyone else does.

  2. Leave the tip on the pillow, no envelope needed. Even in cultures where the tip may be unexpected, they understand and take it.

  3. Good column, Robert. I’m with you and the others – it’s important to tip… And I believe in tipping daily, b/c the staff that cleans your room often varies from day to day.

    I also want to shout out, negatively, Marriott, for leaving envelopes in their rooms for tipping. Marriott should pay their staff a decent, living wage, rather than pushing that to their customers. I still tip when I stay at Marriotts, but I resent their corporate cheapness (for an otherwise quite upstanding company).

  4. Why am i expected to support the poorly paid worker?
    Shouldnt the multibillion corporation do so? I pay my 60 employees well and give them health insurance
    Cant friggin marriott etc do the same?
    This after i get ripped off with local hotel taxes and resort fees whether i use the services or not.

  5. Excellent points…….. I tip $5.00/night for acceptable service.
    What is the problem with some people about giving a hand up to those at the bottom of the economic ladder? Is it a power trip thing? Don’t take it out on the service folks because your life “ain’t working out”. What is $5.00/night when a coffee can cost
    Up to $8-9.00 a cup??
    Sometimes I believe people start to believe their own

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