Last week Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said he does not tip housekeeping staff. Now Nassetta said he gladly tips. The flip-flop offers a poignant reminder of how controversial tipping remains.
Asked about tipping at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on June 3rd, Nassetta said, “I typically do not leave a tip.”
But less than a week later, he clarified his statement to The Points Guy:
When it comes to tipping in hotels, I have always had a different approach to work and personal travel. I also never meant for my approach to work stays at Hilton properties to discourage others from tipping when they are traveling. Going forward, I will tip when traveling for both work and personal travel.
Nothing is more important to me than Hilton’s culture and team members, especially our housekeepers, who are central to delivering Hilton hospitality around the world. I have always been generous with my time and engagement with team members when on property, and I will remain focused on keeping Hilton the #1 best place to work in the United States.
I have to imagine the change of heart was not a sudden epiphany, but intense pressure from many inside the Hilton organization who were disappointed with Nassetta’s initial remarks. Practically, why wouldn’t a CEO want to transfer the cost of labor further onto hotel guests by guilting them into tipping? Nassetta started as a plumber at a Holiday Inn, so I’d think he might have a bit more empathy as well.
Many, like One Mile at a Time, take both a sensible and reasonable approach to tipping housekeeping staff. Lucky argues:
- I don’t love the tipping culture in the US at all
- At the same time, what I hate more than the tipping culture is how many people aren’t being paid livable wages
- Rather than protesting the system and not tipping (which ultimately punishes the hardworking people who are on the receiving end of our system), I want to do my small part to make things better
- Not tipping housekeeping is inconsistent with the rest of our tipping culture, and I think that comes down to the fact that we don’t interact with housekeepers face-to-face, so there’s less guilt; however, they perform among the most important functions at a hotel
- While I’d love to be able to say that not tipping housekeeping will lead to higher wages and force the hotels to pay these workers more, the reality is that this doesn’t end up happening
Thus far, I have taken a different approach. I still don’t tip (generally) housekeeping staff in the USA.
Why I Take A Different Approach
I probably should just take Lucky’s position. It’s undeniable that it is housekeeping staff, not hotels, that are “punished” when guests refrain from tipping. And while there are some unionized markets in which housekeeping staff earn more than a living wage, for the most part their wages do not afford them an American lifestyle commensurate with full-time work (obviously, I am generalizing, but don’t see how that can be avoided).
I have absolutely no regrets paying off this woman to get the document quicker. Who knows how long we would have had to languish in South Africa without her intervention – perhaps several more months based upon the feedback we received from others on the lengthy police records request process.
…this sort of behavior cannot simply be condemned in an era in which it is so ingrained in culture and in practice.
> Read More > Remorse & Resolve: Final Thoughts on a Month in Africa
And yet there is something that holds me back from tipping housekeeping staff. Maybe it is cheapness, though I tip 20-25% in restaurants and now generously tip Uber drivers, so I’m not sure that is it. Maybe it’s just my generally slow adaptation to change. But my bribing analogy reveals that there is still something about tipping housekeeping staff…and frankly tipping in general…that seems intrinsically wrong.
If I really had to pinpoint what it is, I think it is a fundamental objection to the notion that I need to bribe you for good service…at a restaurant or at a hotel. When we see other problems in society, we don’t simply dismiss them as, “That’s the way things are” or “that’s the way things have always been.” And yet that is precisely the approach we take with tipping if staff otherwise are not making enough to survive.
And I don’t see the will to change it. I am happy to voice support for living wages for hotel housekeeping on this blog and heavily penalize hotels if any of their full-time staff qualify for public assistance, but I’m not going to be out protesting for higher wages for hotel staff. So perhaps I should just get on the tipping bandwagon, as I eventually did with Uber.
The undeniable flip-flop of Nassetta demonstrates how controversial this issue remains. I cannot in good conscience implore you to tip. I also cannot in good conscience implore you to refrain from tipping. So I guess I’m like Nassetta. I hear both sides. I tend not to tip. Tipping is the path of least resistance, I still don’t want to, but I guess now is the time?
What are your thoughts on tipping hotel housekeeping staff?