Tipping etiquette when traveling can be a complicated and controversial subject. The more you travel, the more confusing it all is. I’ve addressed the topic of tipping in airport lounges, and in this post I thought it would be interesting to address the topic of tipping in hotel club lounges. Should you tip in hotel club lounges, and if so, under what circumstances?
Tipping is a complex and confusing matter
Let me start by acknowledging that tipping in travel is never an easy thing to figure out:
- There are often inconsistencies regarding who it is appropriate to tip and who it isn’t appropriate to tip, despite functions often being similar
- When deciding whether to tip, my primary consideration is generally whether that person relies on tips to make a reasonable living; I then also consider the level of service provided compared to other functions I would tip for
- With how global travel has become, there’s no denying that the US approach to tipping has spread around the world, so tips often become the norm even in countries where that wasn’t initially the case
It’s impossible to create any sort of standard system around tipping, as there will always be confusing inconsistencies. For example, why do we tip almost anyone that serves us a meal, except flight attendants? In hotel shuttle buses, do we only tip if the driver helps us with our bags? If so, is the simple effort of lifting a bag what justifies the tip, as opposed to the time spent driving the shuttle?
Tipping in hotel club lounges isn’t expected
First for some context, hotel club lounges are spaces that are available to select guests (typically either those who pay for it, or those with elite status in a hotel loyalty program). Hotel club lounges usually offer breakfast, all-day snacks, and an evening happy hour. The quality of these lounges varies significantly depending on the brand you’re staying at, and where in the world you are.
Let me start by saying that tipping in hotel club lounges is never expected, including in the United States. If you go to a restaurant in the United States and don’t tip (assuming service is decent) you’re being a cheap jerk who doesn’t care about how others make a living. Meanwhile if you go to a hotel club lounge and don’t tip, you’re not being a jerk.
That’s because the attendants working in club lounges are typically paid a wage that reflects that they likely won’t get tips. Now, that might not be a great wage, but it’s not like the restaurant industry, where pre-tip pay is often below minimum wage.
My approach to tipping in hotel club lounges
For the purposes of this post, let’s focus specifically on the United States. Obviously the quality of lounges can vary hugely. An airport Marriott in the United States might have a pretty depressing evening happy hour selection, and you don’t even get complimentary alcoholic drinks. As a standard, you’re generally expected to bus your own tables, and place used plates and glasses on a tray for dirty dishes.
Meanwhile at a Ritz-Carlton club lounge, you can expect five food presentations per day, including evening snacks that could act as a dinner substitute, plus great alcoholic drinks that are included. Staff often try to get to know you as well, and provide personalized service.
So, what’s my approach to tipping in hotel club lounges?
- If a lounge isn’t great and service is unmemorable, I typically won’t tip, since I don’t think it’s necessary
- If a lounge attendant is very friendly and attentive, proactively clears plates and asks if they can get me things, I’ll usually try to leave a tip (around $5), assuming I have cash on me
- If a lounge is fantastic (like at a Ritz-Carlton) and a server makes a point of getting to know you and your preferences over the course of your stay, I always try to tip a larger amount at the end of the stay, in appreciation of their service
Let me emphasize that I’m not claiming my approach is correct, but rather I’m just sharing how I view things.
I do have to say that some lounge attendants aren’t particularly attentive, and then also basically try to pressure for tips, where they’ll place money on the tray where you are supposed to put your used plates, in order to try to encourage guests to tip as well. I find that to be pretty tacky.
Meanwhile there are some really personable and hard working lounge attendants who get quite a bit in tips through providing great service, which is an approach I far prefer.
Hotel club lounges can be a great feature, and it can be tough to figure out when it is and isn’t appropriate to tip. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. Personally I decide based on the level of service provided by the attendant. I’ll try to tip if they’re proactive about clearing plates, seeing if I want anything, etc. Meanwhile if the entire experience is self-serve and they’re not particularly friendly, then I don’t generally tip.
I should also acknowledge that sometimes I unfortunately don’t have any cash on me, in which case tipping can be complicated as well.
Do you tip in hotel club lounges? If so, under what circumstances?