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Yes, tip the hotel maid

It's a relatively new concept, but the staff's cleanup efforts deserve extra thanks.

October 11, 2009|CATHARINE HAMM

Questions: When traveling throughout the U.S., how much should we leave for the maid? Does it depend on whether it's a motel, hotel, charming inn, etc.?

Ellen Switkes

Sherman Oaks

Answer: Switkes gets a gold star for being thoughtful enough to remember to tip the housekeepers. Many people do not.

The experts I spoke with agreed that housekeeping staff should be remembered with something monetary, but that's where the unanimity ended. They disagreed on how much, where and even when the tip should be presented, so it's no wonder we mere mortals have trouble with this one.

It's a relatively new topic for tipping, so that may explain why it's not yet standard, like the 20% we often add to a restaurant bill. Taking care of the housekeeping staff has come about in only the last 10 to 15 years, said Joe McInerney, president and chief executive of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn., based in Washington.

Having spent the last year of my college life as a dormitory janitor, I applaud the tip idea. My year of clean living taught me that many people who think they don't have to clean up after themselves behave, by and large, like pigs. The hotel maid is letting you indulge your inner swine, so be kind.

How kind? Shawn Gracey, general manager of HotelIcon, an independent boutique hotel in downtown Houston, said $1 to $3 kind. So did McInerney, adding that it didn't matter whether the housekeeper worked at the Ritz or the Rodeway. Steven Parker, the general manager of the Millennium Biltmore Los Angeles, fell in the middle of that range at "a couple of dollars" a day.

But Cathy Margolin, who owns an L.A.-area cleaning business that works at Hyatts, Hiltons, Four Seasons, Peninsula and others, thinks the guest at the five-star hotel should leave $5 to $10 a day.

And, she added, that money should not be left on the dresser or the pillow or the bedside table, even with a thank-you note, as the other experts suggested. Instead, it should be placed directly in the housekeeper's hand because, she said, he or she is trained not to remove anything from the room.

Margolin also thinks tipping immediately upon arrival helps establish a rapport with the housekeeper, who then will go that extra step for you.

Some of the experts said guests could wait till the end of the trip to tip; others (and I fall into this camp) said it should be done daily.

So do you have to tip? No, not really, Boss Hogg. In fact, all it takes is doing nothing to live life full boar, as it were.

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Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com

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