Marriott International announced today that it has partnered with A Woman’s Nation, a Maria Shriver venture, in implementing a housekeeper gratuity initiative, “The Envelope Please”, in more than 160,000 North American hotel rooms. The plan is that clearly marked gratuity envelopes will be left each day in guest rooms as a reminder that someone who doesn’t make much money cleaned the room. Hint, hint.
Before going further, let’s establish that we are unabashed Marriott fan-boys. We’ve written about them in our books, used some of their management practices as exemplars in speeches and seminars, and we lay our heads on their pillows… a lot (4 nights in the last week alone between us.)
Though I’m not sold on the notion that guest tips should be the primary way to get housekeeper pay into the liveable wage arena, I have always made it a point to tip generously. We’ve done enough work in the hospitality sector to know first-hand how hard these people work. I’ve also traveled enough over the years to realize that a lot of travelers, including some fellow road warriors conveniently run out of cash when it comes to thanking someone who isn’t standing right there in front of them. My bet is that the majority of these non-tippers will remain so, whether there’s a gratuity envelope placed conspicuously on their bed or not. Regardless of what they might say, for the most part, their lack of tipping isn’t due to ignorance of the custom. It’s due to being cheap.
Here’s what I would rather see:
As some hotel properties are now doing with newspapers (especially since USA Today went nuts with its prices), a notation is made on the hotel bill that a newspaper convenience fee has been assessed. If the guest asks, the fee is immediately removed. I would suggest a 2% housekeeper recognition fee be routinely added to room bills. If a guest declines, the hotel deducts the fee from the guest bill, but leaves the 2% in the kitty at its own expense. To be blunt, it will get lost amidst the myriad other (and less worthwhile) taxes and fees already added to our hotel folios.
As a frequent guest, I would welcome this approach in that it keeps me from having to keep small bills on hand, remembering to tip daily, it’s more easily recorded for tax and reimbursement purposes, it goes on the credit card, AND (housekeepers won’t like this part), the income is tax reportable to them as it should be. Further, I’m willing to bet that a majority of the aforementioned cheapsters won’t want to have a public conversation upon checkout about the fee, so they will just go along with it. The ones who do may be worth losing as customers anyhow. (They could be making a lot of towels disappear, too.) As a final benefit, going through hundreds of thousands of little envelopes every day involves knocking over a lot of trees unnecessarily. Besides, there is too much marketing and promotional debris in the rooms already.
However you do it, please try to remember that behind every freshly made hotel bed, laundered towel, dust-free dresser, and clean bathroom is a person who made it that way; someone who, just like you and I, likes to get a little recognition. Come out of your pocket with a couple of bucks. If for some reason you can’t do that, say hello to them or leave a Thank You note. Yes, a Thank You note.
These are my thoughts. We welcome your comments and ideas.