Marriott's New Housekeeping Tipping Policy Steeped In Controversy

The next time you stay at the Marriott, you may see something a little different in your room. This week the hotel chain announced a change in the way it accepts tips from patrons. Specifically, guests are encouraged to leave tips for housekeeping staff, properly called "room attendants," in specially-designed envelopes.

The hotel tipping initiative is part of a partnership between Marriott and Maria Shriver's advocacy group, A Woman's Nation. An official release included a quote from Shriver that explained the program's origins.

"The Envelope Please was born from having conversations with women I've met who have taken care of my room during hotel stays. Their stories of hard work and perseverance inspired and informed me. They told me that room attendants, who are often the primary breadwinner for their families, are often forgotten when it comes to tipping, unlike other front-of-house employ­ees, since most travelers don't see them face-to-face. I hope this gratitude initiative will make these women feel seen and validated."
Despite its altruistic intent, the program is causing controversy.

NPR reported that many people's immediate reaction is to question how Marriott compensates its staff, arguing that perhaps wage increases are in order. A statement from Marriott in response was provided to the National Post which read in part:

"This initiative is an opportunity for customers to voluntarily show their gratitude to the housekeepers that clean their rooms — this tipping program is not intended to be a substitute for competitive wages. Room attendants at Marriott hotels are paid salaries that are above minimum wage and receive benefits and training."
Beyond the issue of wages, the tipping program opens up the often confusing, if not always outright controversial, issue of tipping. While tipping is considered by some to be an "extra" to acknowledge superior service, in certain industries wages are actually kept low since tips are the norm. Etiquette expert Emily Post told the Chicago Tribune that in many states, servers make below minimum wage and tips are expected to make up the gap.

The National Post spoke to one consumer who complained of "tipping fatigue." Jodi Costello acknowledged she tips room attendants only when the job performed has been exemplary:

"When it's just the basics, that's the hotel's job, I'm paying the hotel to stay there as it is. I don't feel that I have to go above and beyond to make up somebody else's wage when I'm there."
The program was introduced on the first day of International Housekeepers Week, which runs September 15 - 19 this year.

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