Americans are incredible tippers, and with good reason. Housekeepers work hard. But the cashless economy is threatening housekeepers income and quality of life. Alex Smithers reveals the source of this hidden crisis and how you can help fight it.
When did you last stay in a hotel? Think back. Did you tip the housekeeper?. Americans usually tip in restaurants, but few of us pay a proper thank you for the hard work of maids; only one out of three, according to research by the New York Times.
You’ve probably seen the firestorm around tipping in US eateries. Is tipping a great way to reward great service, or are you supporting the system keeping waiting staff from making minimum wage?
This has nothing to do with tipping hotel maids. While the nuances vary from state to state, housekeepers must legally be paid minimum wage, so the only thing you need to feel guilty about with them is failing to tip.
Minimum wage in the US can be as low as $7.25 per hour, and housekeeping is no joke. It’s hard on your hands. It’s hard on your back. You’re exposed to chemicals. The hours are long. And the work can be lonely.
This isn’t the kind of work you do for the love of it. And those of us who stay in hotels benefit hugely from this valuable service. Tipping hotel housekeepers is a way of re-balancing the scales towards fairer compensation.
And many housekeepers earn little more than the legal minimum. It varies by state, with maids in California and New York earning slightly more, and those in Texas earning slightly less, but the median is around $21,800 per year (annum or anything Latin hardly recognized in the US), or $10.49 per hour.
To put that in perspective, in the US after an hour of hard work cleaning a room – which can include cleaning up blood, feces, urine, and medical waste – most housekeepers won’t have earned enough to buy two fast food meals.
When we tip housekeepers, we recognize that the hard work they put in and the comfort we get from a comfortable stay in an immaculate hotel room is worth more than that.
Tragically, as Americans shift to credit cards over cash, the once steady flow of tips – a much needed income for these vital minimum wage workers – has become a trickle.
The issue of lack of tipping is compounded by the basic nature of housekeeping. First, it’s practically invisible. We virtually never see our maids, and that’s how most of us like it. We want to check in, go to the room, see that it’s clean, sleep, then leave.
It’s ‘our room.’ Many of us don’t want to think about anyone else poking around in there. And hotels know this, which is why interactions with housekeepers are carefully minimized.
This invisibility is great for guests; it’s as if our room has been whipped into shape each day by magical fairies.Yet it also makes it much easier to forget the raw human effort that goes into that.
Second, it’s not a sexy problem. Understandably, we want to feel good. So we don’t dwell on it when someone is doing tough and unpleasant work to help us out, by instinct. This makes it hard for the issue to break through into the national consciousness.
But there’s little doubt that for many housekeepers, tips are a lifeline that can mean the difference between saving for a child’s college fund or tightening belts.
So what’s a hotel guest to do? We know that when they remember, hotel guests more often than not will tip. This is particularly the case with stays longer than a single night.
One of the biggest challenges facing would-be socially conscious hotel guests is a lack of cash. Even having cash in your wallet at all is rare for many people, and having the right change to tip the amount you think is fair is as a result even rarer.
Suppose you only have a twenty. If you want to tip $5, are you going to leave it? Probably not. And few will take the time to go and split a twenty. When you’re ready to check out, you’re ready to get out of there.
Maybe you’ve got a flight to catch. Maybe you’re late for a meeting. But when it comes to the time you’d usually tip your housekeeper – i.e. checkout time – the first thing on your mind is not tipping. It’s getting out the door.
There is a way around this. Digital tipping is fast and easy. TipZyp allows you to leave a tip of any amount up to $20 entirely online, and you can be on your way in seconds.
With the continued decline of cash but accompanying increase in socially aware consumer habits the best way to address this problem may be with advanced technological solutions like TipZyp.
Hotel housekeeping tips are likely to continue to decline until using such apps becomes commonplace, and the human cost is real. At the very least, receiving a tip can be a real emotional boost for a housekeeper.
If you can afford it and you believe your housekeeper has done a good job, consider leaving hotel housekeeping tips next time you travel. If nothing else, you’ll make someone smile.