Pity the poor bellman

Everyone in the service industry knows that there are good days and then there are those very very bad days.  Probably the first person you meet when arriving at your hotel is the doorman – or whatever other title the hotel chooses to give him.  He is the one who opens the door of the taxi, welcomes you to the hotel and beckons the bellman to take your bags into the hotel.  Now whether you intervene at this stage and say “No – that’s OK, I can do this myself.  It’s just a carry on” is going to have an impact on that bellman’s pay because after all that’s how most people in the service industry make a reasonable living – salary plus tips.

The downside of this is that you are now forced to have that awkward trip up in the elevator while you make small talk.  This is excruciating for me and I am quite sure the bellman feels the same way.  Then your bags are wheeled inside and the bellman goes through the standard tour of the room.  “This is the air conditioner….this is the TV control.”  Really?  So now you are scrambling through your bag looking for notes to tip him.  Well travelled people usually take care of this even before they pull into the hotel and have a few notes conveniently ready in your pocket.  Remember the Scout’s tip – Be Prepared.

But when you take the same scene to a foreign environments like Africa or India it takes on a whole new feel.  Who can resist the Masai warrior in his traditional dress with those blindingly white teeth gleaming through a smile that stretches from ear to ear.  No one!

Who can resist the Cambodian welcome of clasped hands – as if in prayer?

Or the dignified Indian gentleman

This is when things start to change a bit and engaging in small talk takes on a whole new feel.  When the bellman shows you around your room in New Delhi you are probably safe to say that his awe for the flat screen tv and the jacuzzi bathtub are genuine as this is a long way from what he experiences in his home.

So how much to tip and should you always tip – let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth courtesy of “I am a Bellman”

I am a Bellman/ Valet at a 4 Star Hotel.

Not a day goes by where I don’t get the question, how much should I tip you, or what can or can’t you do for me. I want to do this to help people not end up being labeled as “That Guy” (the guest who makes us cringe every time we see you).

Here are some tipping suggestions to help get the ball rolling. Keep in mind this can vary depending on how nice the hotel is and how much assistance was given. As a reference point my Hotel is full service (meaning we have valet, overnight staff, room service, concierge, etc.) and charges between $180-$700 a night depending on the room.

  • Bell help to a room ($5-20) (good gauge is about $2 a bag)
  • Pulling a car from valet ($2-5)
  • Parking a car (anything you give is generous)
  • Hailing a cab ($2-5 and perhaps more if they load up your baggage)
  • Checking luggage or retrieving checked luggage ($2-5)
  • Grabbing something from your vehicle (same as pulling your car)
  • Shuttle service (varies greatly depending on availability, but a good gauge is $5-10 a person) (always give a little more than you would expect to give a taxi)
  • Temporarily holding a vehicle on the front drive with a Doorman ($2-20 depending on length of time)
  • Help from concierge with reservation, direction, etc. ($5-20)
  • House keeping (if you destroyed the room, leave something)

Overall I would say my best advice is be courtesies, it goes a long ways, especially if you don’t plan on tipping.

Second and my most important – if you take care of the staff $$$$, they should take care of you, and maybe even go above and beyond. There are two people we remember, those who tip well, and those who don’t tip at all and or are rude. Don’t get labeled as “That Guy” off the bat. It will assure you receive mediocre or no help during your stay.

Lastly, some No No’s to avoid doing

  • Don’t tip a $1 (depending on what was done it can be seen as insulting)
  • Don’t lie about why you are not tipping (we have heard em’ all) just say thank you and proceed
  • Tip at the end of a task, not at the beginning (if it is less than we normally receive for that task, you will probably receive mediocre service as a result)
  • Don’t try to grab a bell cart at a nice hotel, it is standard operating procedure to have a bellman assist you.
  • Don’t have the valet pull your car just to put something in it or grab something out.

So spare a thought – and some change – for the bellman.



By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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