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Fall 2006 | Tipping Points

Fall 2006 | Tipping Points

How much do you tip the concierge when he wrangles sold-out Kylie Minogue concert tickets in Sydney? What about the doorman who hails a cab for you in Rio? We have answers!

Knowing how much to tip the hotel staff is an inexact science--especially when each country follows a different standard. You can keep from being labeled a "cheapskate" on the one hand and a "chump" on the other if you pay attention to the following scenarios in five very different cities:

Kylie Minogue is performing tonight in Sydney. She's been sold out for weeks, but, I mean, it's Kylie Minogue in Sydney! The concierge wrangles two tickets for you, and you're thrilled to shell out the A$500. How much do you tip?
"Look at the difficulty he went through," advises Alan Morris, manager of Sydney's Hotel Altamont. For A$500 last-minute tickets to a sold-out show, you might tip A$100. If there's no special effort involved, you might tip minimally. That said, many Australians never tip. "People who work in hotels get the basic wage," says Morris, "which is in excess of A$18 an hour in New South Wales. Guests might think ‘Bugger, why would he need to be tipped? He gets the same as I do!'"

Visiting Amsterdam with a bunch of friends, you spend your last night in town belting out Eurovision songs at a bar off Rembrandtplein. Billy had collected money from each of you for a tip for the helpful front desk staff, but somewhere over the Atlantic he finds a stack of euros in his jeans. How embarrassed should you be?
"Tipping is always up to the tipper," says Ronald Walgreen of the Hotel New Amsterdam. "Sometimes when a very demanding group doesn't tip we are a little disappointed, but not offended or depressed." A concierge at another Amsterdam hotel agrees that a tip is welcome if a staff member "does something really extra for a guest." Example: a porter spending 20 minutes helping you open the lock on your suitcase. Even then, he says, the tip should "relate to the service given and not be exaggerated."

Oh dear. Little Maya has taken the lid off her sippy cup and, brandishing her cutest grin, poured her milk on the carpet of your hotel room in New York. You usually leave something for the maid, but this is over the top. What to do?
Amy Bowman, concierge at the Peninsula New York, says that maids generally receive the fewest tips: "I just don't think it's been much publicized." If you're staying for a week, $20 to $25 is appropriate. "If the kid makes a mess in the room," Bowman says, "our guests usually do something extra for the staff." Bowman also says that if you visit the same hotel weekly or monthly, you might not tip every staff member every time, but tips at Christmas and at regular intervals will show your gratitude.

In Rio, you and your girlfriend have just gotten into a taxi, and she's miffed that you didn't tip the doorman who hailed the cab for you. You feel guilty. Should you?
Enjoy the ride. According to Tamara Boechat, concierge at the Ipanema Plaza Hotel, a tip is not necessary each time the doorman assists you. Instead, if a doorman has been helpful throughout your stay, you can give him one larger tip upon checkout. Brazil has some colorful lingo to describe the stingy. Mão de vaca means "cow's hand" (try to get it to open!), while pão-duro (hard bread) refers to a real-life beggar who roamed Rio's streets asking for food, even stale bread, while he secretly owned property in the suburbs.

The level of service in Tokyo never ceases to amaze. Smiling doormen greet you with a genteel bow, porters set your bags ever so carefully on the luggage rack, and kerchiefed maids operate with the efficiency that made this country famous. How much do you give them?
Nothing. In the words of an executive at a top Tokyo hotel, "Tipping is not customary/mandatory in Japan. Service is included in the price whether it's a hotel room, a meal at a restaurant, or a taxi ride." Some Americans do offer tips--and staff members sometimes refuse. If you feel the need to leave something, try a note to the manager or a small gift like a box of chocolates or a quality souvenir from your hometown (something that doesn't have "Made in China" stamped on it).

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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