Here's Why Marriott Should Be Reminding Us to Tip the Maid

Maid holding towels in hotel room smiling
Monkey Business Images

Being a hotel room attendant may well be the hardest job in the lodging industry; it may also be the one that gets the least guest recognition. Marriott International (MAR) is hoping to change that. The hospitality giant is starting to leave envelopes in guest rooms, encouraging them to leave a tip or even a note of appreciation.

This is a big deal. Marriott is placing these prominent pleas for service gratuities in more than 160,000 rooms across thousands of hotels.

Marriott's move is being done in partnership with Maria Shriver's A Woman's Nation, a nonprofit that aims to ensure that the value of women in the workplace and beyond is recognized and respected. The Envelope Please initiative hopes to place gratuity-seeking envelopes in service categories dominated by women. Hotel housekeeping is one such environment, and Marriott is the initiative's first hotel partner.

Maid to Order

Gratuities are part of the lodging experience. When a valet gets your car, you tip. When a bellman helps you with your luggage, you tip. When room service delivers your blueberry pancakes for breakfast, you tip. You are also expected to tip your room attendant for tidying up, but the genesis of Shriver's movement was that she found that most people don't.

One could argue that some guests don't tip because they don't interact with their room attendants. It's not like a valet handing you your keys or a bellman meeting you upstairs with your suitcase. However, many overnight guests also probably don't know that tipping is encouraged. These envelopes should change that. It should also make it easier for a housekeeper to recognize it as a gratuity, rather than having to assume that a few bucks left on the dresser are intended to be a tip.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association suggests that guests should leave $1 to $5 per night, depending on the class of the hotel. The association also suggests tipping daily since it's rarely the same person that's cleaning your room every day over a prolonged stay.

Welcome to Marriott

From a business perspective, this is a brilliant move by Marriott. It watches over more than 4,000 hotels across the planet, and anyone running a hotel will tell you that hiring and retaining a staff of room attendants is one of the hardest aspects of managing a property.

It's hard to find good help, but this move should help Marriott with retention and make it more attractive to prospective hires.

The publicity around the move will also help highlight that room attendants do rely on tips, just like nearly everyone working in hotels. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that maids and housekeepers in the travel industry make just $21,800 a year.

Yet the need to tip room attendants is not universally known, and it's apparently rarely practiced. Travel reviews aggregator TripAdvisor reports that less than a third of American travelers tip their room attendants. That figure is likely to increase at Marriott, even if the envelopes merely suggest leaving a daily tip. And if the move leads to maids and housekeepers from other hotels jumping ship to Marriott to improve their earning potential, it's a safe bet that Marriott won't be the last major hotelier to do this.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. To read about our favorite high-yielding dividend stocks for any investor, check out our free report.