Everyone knows they’re expected to tip their cab driver and waiter. But few realize that they’re also expected to tip the people who clean their hotel rooms every day.
That’s why Marriott says it’s launching its “The Envelope Please” campaign this week in partnership with A Woman’s Nation, a nonprofit founded by Maria Shriver, in some of its hotels. The hotel will place envelopes in 160,000 rooms in the United States and Canada with the name of the person who cleans the room and the message, “Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts.”
The gratuity guide from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, an industry trade group, suggests tipping housekeepers $1 to $5 a night, left in a daily envelope with a note. But Cornell University Professor Michael Lynn told the AP that his research shows that 30 percent of guests don’t tip. Housekeeping staff makes up the largest share of employees at Marriott hotels, numbering 20,000 in the U.S. and Canada.
Housekeeping isn’t considered a tipped occupation, so workers have to be paid at least the minimum wage. But the pay still tends to be very low. Median pay for all maids and housekeepers is $9.41 an hour. While some unionized Marriott housekeepers make $18.30 an hour, they’re an outlier: GlassDoor reports that their hourly pay is about $8.32 an hour, while a 2006 ranking said they make just $22,075 a year.
Tips will of course help, but a pay raise would lift their living standards even more. Hotel workers in Providence, RI, recognizing this, went on a hunger strike in June over demands for a $15 minimum wage.
Higher pay seems warranted given that it’s a very tough job. Hotel workers have a 40 percent higher injury rate than other service sector workers, and housekeepers have a 50 percent higher rate than other hotel workers. In surveys, about 80 percent had work-related pain. The job is very physical, requiring workers to lift, bend, and twist with heavy loads and clean in awkward positions. They also usually have to meet quotas for how many rooms they clean in a day, often 15 or more. In a four-year dispute between the Unite HERE union and Hyatt, employees said they were forced to clean up to 30 rooms in an eight-hour shift.
Even with the low pay and intense physical requirements, it’s a growing occupation. Jobs in accommodation, or hotels and lodging for travelers, have grown by 120,000 since the beginning of the recovery, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.