Here’s a Tip From Marriott: Don’t Forget Your Housekeeper

Working with the nonprofit A Woman's Nation, the major hotel group hopes to solve an issue affecting its housekeepers: Too often, customers forget to tip. While the effort has gotten some praise, it's also raised some questions.

It’s a small gesture—just an envelope, really—but it could mean a lot for the person on the other side of the transaction.

This week, Marriott International is working with a nonprofit group run by former California first lady Maria Shriver to help ensure that its more than 20,000 housekeepers in the United States and Canada get tipped by guests for the work they do.

The Envelope Please initiative, launched by A Woman’s Nation with Marriott as its first partner, encourages guests who stay in the hotel chain’s 160,000-plus rooms to tip housekeepers.

In the campaign, Marriott will put envelopes in its rooms that remind guests about leaving a gratuity, and there is a space for the staff member to write his or her name on the front. It could be a good reminder for travelers: According to Cornell University Professor and Researcher Michael Lynn, a full 30 percent of hotel guests fail to tip them at all; in comments to the Associated Press, he attributes this to housekeeping being an “invisible task.”

“There’s a huge education of the traveler that needs to occur,” Shriver noted in comments to AP about how travelers handle tipping. “If you tell them, they ask, ‘How do I do that?'”

The American Hotel and Lodging Association recommends that housekeeping staff be tipped $1 to $5 per night, but too often, that doesn’t happen.

That’s where The Envelope Please comes in. The campaign’s rollout coincides with celebration of International Housekeepers Week, held September 15-19.

Mixed Response

Thus far, the effort has received praise from some groups, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), which noted that the envelope helps with the invisibility problem.

“The Envelope Please initiative is a powerful way to raise awareness of the hard work performed by room attendants, mostly women who often go unnoticed by travelers,” NDWA Director Ai-jen Poo noted in a statement.

However, the effort has also raised questions about the wages housekeepers earn—in the U.S., $9.51 per hour on average, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by The Washington Post. Unionized employees tend to do better than that (in Washington, DC, for example, workers make an average of $18.30 per hour), but less than 10 percent of Marriott’s workforce is unionized, according to the Post.

“Tips will of course help, but a pay raise would lift their living standards even more,” argued ThinkProgress writer Bryce Covert.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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