Hotel Maids: To Tip or Not To Tip?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Who would think there would be a brouhaha over a pocketful of change? But talk with travelers and a hot button issue is how much to tip hotel housekeepers, if it is necessary to tip them at all.

Call this a pitched battle. Many insist it is perfectly right to stiff the maid. "Housekeeping works on a salary or hourly wage," said Sherry Thomas, president of Palm Beach Etiquette, a training company. "It is not necessary to tip."

On the other side, there is Joe Brancatelli, who blogs about business travel at JoeSentMe. He said he tips "a minimum of $5 a day whenever I require service." Of course, there are days he leaves out the "Do Not Disturb sign" and deducts that from his expenses. By the same token, he rewards a maid more if necessary. "I add [more] if I've been particularly messy or requested a special service," he says.

Broader research returns a very mixed message. In an Ipsos 2012 poll for coupon site RetailMeNot, 48% of consumers said they do not typically tip hotel housekeepers, not a dime, but among those who do tip, 44% usually leave at least a fiver, while a third leave a dollar or two. That's for the stay, which could be a day...or a week.

A regional difference arises too in the Ipsos poll, where Southerners are more than twice as likely as Northeasterners to say they do not commonly leave a tip (56% vs. only 25%).

What do housekeepers earn? That answer, too, is all over the map. In Manhattan, housekeepers who belong to the Hotel and Motel Trades Council AFL-CIO make upwards of $25 per hour and get good benefits (including a pension and medical). That housekeeper, incidentally, cleans on average 12 to 14 rooms per day, according to the union.