Twenty dollars. That’s all it took. One $20 spot to the lovely young lady at the front desk, and my whole experience at the hotel changed. Tipping at luxury hotels is an art; here’s a million dollar tip that comes from that simple twenty dollar bill.
By now you know I’m in the luxury hospitality business. It’s my job. It’s my vocation, and I love it. It will come as no surprise that I travel, and I do so a lot. But only on rare occasions do I take a trip purely for leisure. On my typical sojourns, if you can call them that, I’m “all tied up,” meaning I’ve got a Double Windsor knot, a spread collar shirt, and my hair is slicked back Don Draper style, ready to give a presentation, have a meeting, or other business. But to be simply a “guest” is unusual for me.
Business often takes me to Las Vegas, where vice is king, and luckily, I’m not a gambler. At least not in the usual sense. On this particular leisure trip, I found myself not in Vegas, but in the heart of the Midwest. Ohio, I must admit, inspired me to gamble.
John Bridges is an accomplished author, primarily known for the GentleManners series, a set of books that teaches and reminds men how to be proper gentlemen. The Millennial – however we’re defining that these days –might find much of what Mr. Bridges suggests old-fashioned. But in his own words, “A gentleman feels at ease wherever he goes. He is confident that he knows how to behave appropriately in any situation.”
From page 81 of the revised and expanded edition of “How to Be a Gentleman: A Timely Guide to Timeless Manners,” Mr. Bridges suggests the following when it comes to tipping appropriately.
Knowing What to Leave: A Trustworthy Guide to the Tip
Server in a midscale to upscale restaurant: 15 to 20 percent for attentive service
Server in a casual restaurant, such as a diner or soda shop: 10 to 15 percent for attentive service
Barista in a coffee bar: $1
Wine steward in an upscale restaurant: 20 percent of the cost of the wine
Host in an upscale restaurant: $20 or more, depending on the event, and attentiveness, of the service
Men’s room attendant: $3 or more, each visit
Valet parker: $3 to $5
Doorman: $5 for assistance in hailing a cab
Cash register tip jar: $1 or $2
Bartender at a large social event: $1 or $2 per drink, if tip glass is provided
Bartender or server in a private home: Nothing, unless special assistance has been provided
But what about tipping at luxury hotels, especially the front desk associate?
What dictates proper etiquette when it comes to them giving you your key, showing you how to get to your room, giving you directions to where the bar is located, the hours of both their casual dining and fine dining options, and the multitude of other pieces of information you require? Does he or she not deserve a gratuity for a job well done?
My answer: yes. Your approach must be tailored in such a way, however, that she’ll be rewarded for her excellent service. After all, she’s not expecting a tip. Why not assure her she’s going to get it?
This is the gamble.
Rewind to my check-in. I approach the young lady as you’d expect, “Good afternoon, miss. I’m checking in. The reservation is under Derek Hunter.” “Welcome, Mr. Hunter,” she responds, and thereafter she begins reciting the opening monologue she’s delivered hundreds, if not thousands, of times, losing herself in her computer and her automatic recitation.
I had booked your most basic of rooms online (there was really nothing “basic” about the highly decorated property at which I was staying, but I digress), and despite my subtly, when I interrupted well-rehearsed soliloquy, she seemed almost shocked. I then said to her:
“I’d like to start at the end of the check-in process and work backwards, if that’s alright with you.” I then hand her a $20 which she reluctantly – but gladly – accepts, and thereafter I continue. “I just want to thank you for upgrading me to a suite that would otherwise go unoccupied this weekend. I rarely travel for pleasure, so it really means a lot to me. I also want you to know that if there isn’t anything available, this is for your efforts, and please accept it with my compliments.”
Voilà. Just like magic. I was upgraded to the Club Floor, put into an enormous suite, provided with free breakfast, hors d’oeuvres and complimentary wine in the evening, and a host of other amenities. It was just what I needed.
The epilogue to the story is that, upon checkout, my rate had dropped! Being a little forward with a lot of common courtesy – and a twenty ready in hand – is a good combination, for as the saying goes, “Honey gets you more flies than vinegar.”
I call it a gamble, but really, it is far from it. That front desk agent works hard, has to deal with a myriad of issues and unfriendly guests, and the list goes on and on. I do this all the time when I travel, and very often, the individual checking me in will want to return the tip if they do not have any upgrades available. Insist that they keep it. Your generosity won’t be forgotten, and if it didn’t work out on the front end, you may find yourself treated to a complimentary beverage, some champagne and strawberries in your room, etc.
They say it’s better to give than to receive. It’s true. So take the gamble, show some appreciation, and I promise: you’ll never regret reading this article when that mega upgrade comes.