Look quickly at the tweets and articles on the Internet and Marriott International’s new tipping program seems out of line. Marriott participating in the new tipping initiative raises the issue of fair pay. However, the intention and initiative requires critics to delve deeper. The tip envelopes now found in hotel rooms are part of a non- Marriott effort to recognize the work of room attendants in hotels and provide those lowly paid workers with some extra income.
Marriott is the first partner signed up to participate in A Woman’s Nation’s (AWN’s) The Envelope Please.™ The effort was developed to encourage hotel guests to express their gratitude to hotel room attendants, who serve guests by are often overlooked for tipping. Founded by Maria Shriver, the AWN program wants guests to leave tips and notes of thanks in the envelopes provided in hotel rooms.
“The Envelope Please was born from having conversations with women I’ve met who have taken care of my room during hotel stays,” according to Shriver. She noted that maids and other housekeeping personnel are often are the primary breadwinner for their families, but tend to be forgotten when it comes to tipping, since travelers do not see them face-to-face.
Marriott is the first major hotel chain to participate in the initiative, which Shriver is hoping will soon sign up other chains. Beginning this week, special envelopes were placed in more than 160,000 hotel rooms at participating Marriott facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Critics of the effort have taken to social media and traditional media. They cite the low pay of hotel workers as something to excoriate Marriott over. However, it is really part of the broader living wage issue affecting low paid workers in countless industries.
The reality is that paying hotel maids and other guest support staff more money would be passed on the customers, whether they got good service or not. In some ways, it makes more sense to treat the hotel stay like a restaurant meal or spa appointment where guests are asked to tip based on how satisfied they were with their service.
What is an appropriate tip for housekeeping staff? It varies by effort. Cleaning a room with children, a kitchenette being used or a messy visitor is clearly more effort than a single business occupant who merely sleeps and showers there. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) publishes a tipping guide for everything from concierges who secure hot reservations to parking attendants. They recommend $1-5 per night, with an extra amount added for special requests, like extra towels or blankets.
Maybe, instead of envelopes, there should a gratuity line on the hotel bill when checking out. However, online or automated checkout methods would preclude that possibility. Nowadays, frequent guests rarely would go to the front desk to check out and sign something.
The issue of fair, living wages is a broader one. But, Marriott should be applauded for participating in the AWN tipping initiative, which – in the end – raises awareness of the fair pay issue.
By Dyanne Weiss