Drawing the line on tips: Where does it end?

October 17, 2016 - by: Dan Oswald 10 COMMENTS

by Dan Oswald

Employee compensation is a complicated issue that can stir passion in people. Recently, the now-former CEO of Wells Fargo was taken to task by Congress for his company’s compensation practices, which many believe contributed to widespread fraud on the part of bank employees.  tips are greatly appreciated

There are no easy answers when it comes to compensation. But there is a relatively recent trend in compensation that has me irritated. I need to get this off my chest, so I’m choosing you to hear my complaint.

My work frequently requires me to travel. The other day, I was in a room in a nice, boutique hotel, and on the table was an envelope in which I could leave a tip for the housekeeper who serviced my room. Neatly written on the envelope was the name of the person who would provide cleaning services during my stay.

It was as if Natalie was trying to establish a relationship with me. And why not? If I felt like I knew her, I might be compelled to give her a nice tip. I started to think that maybe Natalie should tell me more about herself. Maybe a short bio was in order so I could learn more about her. Does she have a family? Is she a single mother working hard to support herself and her children? What about a picture of Natalie and her family? Would that encourage generosity?

I think I’m a reasonably generous person. We all probably do. But when I really considered what I was being asked to do, it bothered my sensibilities. I was being asked to pay Natalie for doing her job well. Isn’t that her employer’s responsibility? I know we’ve all become accustomed to tipping service providers such as wait staff in restaurants, cab drivers, and bellhops at hotels. But where should we draw the line?

Our society has become more of a service economy over the years. So many of us make our living providing services to others. Should we all expect a tip from a customer for a job well done? More important, should employers assume they can pass on some of the costs of their employees’ compensation directly to customers?

We have a team of fantastic customer service people at BLR. After a customer service representative solves a customer’s issue or answers a question, would it be appropriate for our company to send a follow-up e-mail that goes something like, “Thank you so much for calling today. We hope your concern was resolved to your satisfaction. If Bob did a great job for you, you can show your appreciation by clicking this button, and we will provide him a $10 tip from you. Your credit card on file will be charged $10 in order to make rewarding Bob simple for you. Thank you!”

Then I, Bob’s employer, can track how much he makes in tips. That will not only tell me how our customers perceive the level of service Bob provides, but it will also help me determine how much (or how little) I need to pay Bob per hour because he’ll get the rest of his compensation directly from customers. Isn’t that what the hotel was doing when it asked me to pay Natalie for doing her job?

And is it unreasonable for me to believe that I’m paying the hotel to provide a service that includes a clean room? I feel like I’m being a curmudgeon or cheapskate here, complaining about tipping someone who probably works very hard and makes a relatively low wage. But let me be clear: My issue isn’t with Natalie; it’s with her employer, which is looking for me to supplement her compensation. Does that mean the hotel’s management knows it’s not paying her appropriately and is providing her the means to request a tip to assuage its guilt? If the hotel underpays other staff, should I also tip them? For instance, should I tip the front desk clerk for checking me in efficiently when I arrive? I’m sure he, like Natalie, could use a few extra bucks.

I understand that the compensation for certain professions is based on a system in which customers pay a gratuity for the services provided. I’m struggling with professions that suddenly are jumping on the gratuity bandwagon because it allows the employer to supplement employees’ compensation without it coming from the employer. It imposes an additional cost typically borne by the service provider on the customer, and I’m not sure where it ends. It’s a slippery slope when any company that provides a service believes it can push customers to pay gratuities to employees. The next thing you know, the cashier at the grocery store will have a tip jar sitting next to the register! Who could blame him?

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1 Tim Lawson
06:56:13, 18/10/16

This is one stupid article! All the things to write about concerning compensation, fair pay, CEO’s outrageous pay, middle class workers pay, etc and you write an article about leaving a few dollars for someone cleaning your room. This doesn’t meet your standards of past articles. If you are struggling with this then you better put your big boy pants on, and write about something with meaning.

2 Jeannie
07:36:31, 18/10/16

I wholeheartedly agree! You are paying big bucks for a clean room. That is her job to keep it clean. The owner should pay her for doing her job, not the consumer. You should send your thoughts to that hotel (and every other one you encounter with that same dilemma.) We are being extorted to pay up, or get lousy service. Some may argue that we’ll pay for it either way (either directly to the maid, or through increased room rates/costs). So, I guess this way, at least we have a choice.

3 TC
07:48:47, 18/10/16

When I go on business trips or leisure trips I do not find it necessary for the cleaning crew to come into my room everyday that I am there, so I keep the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door. I know how to throw my bed together for when I get back to the room, is in a nicely made up mode and I feel comfortable with my room situation.
I can actually use a towel to dry off with more than once, as I can hang it from the shower rod and let it dry for the next use. And as for cleaning the room, if I drop something on the floor, I can pick it up myself and place it in the trash can, a trash can that does not have to be emptied everyday just because there might be one piece of trash in it. And if I find the need, I can always get a fresh towel any time that I need one.
This helps to keep people out of the room that I am paying to use while I am there.

4 Pete
07:53:11, 18/10/16

I couldn’t agree more. Why does the person working the register at the coffee shop have a tip jar out, but the same job at the grocery store doesn’t? And why shouldn’t we all tip the flight attendant when she/he brings us coffee? Is it because she/he isn’t a starving artist/poet/musician with interesting piercings and fascinating backstory? Is being served by a free spirit worth an extra $2? As to your last point, that we will pay for it either way, true, but the tip is just an extra cost blurring the actual cost of the room. If i see a room rate of $169, and a expected to pay a $10 tip, this is a room rate of $179, which is false advertising. Don’t even get me started on non-optional “resort fee” surcharges not included in the advertised rate.

5 Dale Land
10:03:31, 18/10/16

I am totally onboard with your complaint and must confess I do not normally leave a tip for cleaning/making my bed when using guest lodging, it’s kinda like the Walmart or other retail employees who are underpaid and qualify for government programs for health, food supplement etc . I am also annoyed by the efforts to provide additional compensation when getting cup of coffee either at the counter or drive thru, I often tip there if I have change/coins coming back but not always depending on the service. I found the expectation in Italy non existent and frowned upon although I have added a small ip if we found the service above the expected and graciously provided as the servers/help are considered a profession and service is provided as such.
As an ending note I do tip when enjoying a meal out according to the service and meal provided, lousy service, lousy tip, good service, good tip, great service, great tip…..as it should be!

6 John
16:14:26, 18/10/16

I have had similar thoughts, and another example is the proliferation of tip jars by the cash registers in sandwich shops and deli-type places. There is minimal personal interaction in ordering a menu sandwich and having it handed over as I pay. I dislike the implication that I should be tipping for this basic exchange. In fact, I have found myself preferring to patronize locations without tip jars, so the “tip” places are losing some of my business.

7 Judy
09:06:17, 19/10/16

I have always felt that cleaning staff in hotels are underrated and, therefore, have tipped according to quality of service provided by those individuals. I was, however, taken aback the time I found on my pillow an envelope, signed by a staff member, specifically stating that a tip for good service would be appreciated. I also noted that the staff member hoped I had “a great day!” … complete with smiley face. Was it an entrepreneurial effort on her part? Was it even encouraged by management? I don’t know, but this felt insincere and I didn’t like it. I’ll continue to thank service workers for good service, both expressed and with cash when deserved, but not simply because I was asked for it.

8 Becky
14:24:14, 19/10/16

I agree completely, but at least tipping is voluntary and depends on the level of service and is not some federal or state mandated tax. When I do tip, it is in cash so they can keep the whole thing, because they don’t report it to their employer or on their tax return if it is in cash. And I certainly do not feel pressured to leave a tip in cashier tip jars.

9 Vicki
15:12:30, 20/10/16
10 Deb
06:48:07, 02/11/16

I only “TIP” for exceptional service. Therefore must be above and beyond what is expected. Someone just doing their job is not exceptional service, it is why they get a paycheck. In our entitlement society today the average person believes they deserve something for nothing. We have lowered the bar to the point where we trip over it; perhaps, if we raised the bar a little for our expectations service would improve. Frankly, I don’t continue with service that is not up to my standards. Why should I pay anything for substandard?

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