Tag Archives: tipping

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.



Tipping me over the edge

Tipping – how much is too much and how much is too little.  Is a tip expected?  In countries like Australia and New Zealand hardly anyone tips – it is just not expected.  Same thing in the Cook Islands.  So what’s a poor traveller to do and how much should you tip if at all?

According to the website http://www.thisismoney.co.uk a survey of British travellers showed that 70% of them didn’t research tipping customs for the destinations they were visiting.  This leads to over-tipping – which I guess is not a bad thing from the recipient’s point of view.  My philosophy has always been rather over-tip than under-tip.

The whole tipping thing though does sometimes get out of hand and a good example of this is the cruise line industry.

“There are exceptions, but most mainstream cruise lines pay the men and women who serve their passengers a low base wage (by Western standards). As such, on nearly all big-ship lines, crew members are dependent upon the generosity of travellers for a good portion of their income.” (except from Cruise Critic website).

Now that’s a shame.  But it is also frustrating for guests on these cruises.  For a whole week you have your waiter and bus boy all over you – BFF’s – and then on the last farewell dinner you give them The Envelope!  Next morning at breakfast it’s every man for himself as waiters are getting ready for the next wave of cruisers.  And I understand why they act like that – it is survival.

That’s why it is always surprising and charming when you try to tip someone and they refuse to take it saying that it is their pleasure to assist.  True story – happened to me on a Uniworld River Cruise.  Now they did tell us beforehand that tips are included but this girl had gone out of the way and I just wanted to show my appreciation.  As a traveller there is something really good about being on a trip where you are not taking advantage of other people and that everyone receives a living wage.

I have to admit -I am not very good at this whole tipping thing – probably because my dear husband takes care of all that side of things but I can be a bit of a dope sometimes.  In India last year we were at a fabric warehouse and had watched a demonstration of weaving just in the courtyard.  As everyone was choosing fabrics and shirts I needed the ladies and as this was a pretty smart facility I figured I should take advantage – after all in India you never know!  As I passed through the courtyard the weaving man was still there sitting in front of the loom.

So with a waggle of his head in true Indian fashion he signals me to come over and sit next to me.  Oh that’s sweet I think.  He starts showing me how to weave the wool and I did a couple of lines (or whatever you would call them).  I gave him and nice smile and said thank you and then of course he signalled that you wanted some money.  At the same time he put his finger to his lips to indicate that it would be a secret because clearly he wasn’t allowed to do that.  So of course I gave him some money – I was so embarrassed at being caught in this old trick that I didn’t even check how much.  So much for me – the seasoned traveller!  On the plus side however I hope it made his day and he could go home that night to his modest little hut and show his wife – “Hey look what I got from this stupid English lady today!” and his wife will clap her hands and jump up and down and tell him what a smart and clever husband she has.  Wish I could have been a fly on the wall!


Have you reached the tipping point?

When it comes to paying for service how do you feel about that?  Do you feel that you have paid enough already for the hotel / cruise / dinner that you don’t really need to start shelling out cash left right and centre?  There are some countries where tipping is not expected – such as Australia and the Cook Islands to name just a couple.  There are also cruise lines (such as Silversea) and hotel chains (such as Sandals) where tipping is expressly discouraged.  The reason for this is clear – they want their guests to be  totally relaxed the entire vacation and not feel that they have to walk around with a bunch of small denomination notes for tipping.

Service people very often depend on tips to make up their income.  I do believe that tipping is an expression of satisfaction with a service well provided and I hate the feeling I have on some cruise lines (who will remain nameless) that I actually have to tip this poor Filipino or Russian because the cruise line is paying them such a miserable salary.

Having said all of that I sometimes cannot believe how mean people can be when it comes to tipping.  Go on a tour and watch the people climbing out of the rear exit of the bus to avoid the driver and tour guide.  Shame on you people!

I have no cash

I have no cash

Of course then you do get the other end of the stick.    The over-eager, super-friendly server who wants to be your best friend for a whole week.  We had one such person on our Seine river cruise a couple of weeks ago.  Don’t get me wrong.  He was brilliant.  He knew everyone’s name and remembered it.  He knew what drinks people liked.  He was proactive, prompt and pretty damn creepy.  He had a smile like the dog who wants some treats….


No…. he was worse than that.  Sad thing is I felt sorry for him and we probably tipped him more than anyone else.