Business Travelers: I insulted someone this week.

Business travelers! I insulted someone this week and learned a lesson; one I believe you’ll want to know about. 

I travel a great deal.  I’m in hotels 200+ nights and fly over 150,000 miles a year. Want to know something else? I think I do my share of tipping. I have believed for a long time that we in the travel industry and those who are road warriors, need to set an example for everyone else when it comes to many things “travel,” tipping included.

Let’s start with the taxi drivers. I tip 20% for rides where the taxi was clean, the driver courteous and the ride smooth.  Dirty taxi? You lose 5%. Drive like Mario Andretti and make me nauseous? I’ll ask you to slow down.  If you don’t, you lose another 5% or more. Does your car reek of body odor or too much air freshener or cologne? You lose a couple of points there as well.  If the ride is under ten bucks, I tip 25% and start with the same deductions.  If you do something extraordinary, like say “Please” and “thank you” I offer more of a tip.  Help me with my bags? That’s a couple extra points as well. By the way, the lack of service in most taxis is why I use Uber as often as possible (though I’m disappointed to hear of recent price gouging accusations).

Next is hotel maid service.  I tip $3 a day when I stay in a hotel, leaving the money on the desk in the room before checking out.  I think this service is overlooked by many.  Sure, it “comes with the room” but why do these folks get shorted by most people?  They work hard to clean our rooms and make our beds; they should be rewarded for good service.

Here is where I learned a big lesson last week; tipping hotel porters and doormen.  Yes, I tip these folks as well.  I have one hotel at which I spend a great deal of time; more than 120 nights a year. The other day I arrived at the hotel, and the hotel porter, an older gentleman in his 60s, offered to take my bags.  I said “That’s okay, but thanks for asking.” I then offered him a few dollars because I watched so many people turn his service down.  His response: “Sir, thanks for the offer, but please let me earn it.”  There it was; by offering a tip, a truly honest gesture of goodwill, I insulted the man.  This was a man simply trying to earn a living, yet I offered charity.  I felt horrible.  I immediately placed my bags down, and said “I’d love for you to help me with my bags – thank you.”  Inside the lobby near the check-in area, he asked if I’d like help getting my bags to my room.  I, of course, said yes. All I have when I travel is a small roller bag and a briefcase (both with wheels) and I really did not need any help.  I navigate obstacles, shuttle busses, moving walkways and airplane aisles with ease (though remind me to tell you about an unfortunate accident where I skewered my own privates in a horrific escalator dismount).  Yet, by asking for help with my bags, I offered an opportunity for a older gentleman to earn a tip and prove, to all who watched in the lobby, that doormen and porters are still a useful hotel service.  What did I tip?  $8, about $1 for every minute he was with me. I wanted to give him more but I worried I’d insult him again with an over-tip.

The lesson?  While wheeled luggage makes it so easy for us to get around, we in travel and those who travel need to tip more. Let’s take care of the people who help us and those who work to preserve hospitality services we all remember so fondly. Somewhere, someplace, we made a maid smile and made a hotel porter feel like a man.

What advice do you have for tipping while traveling?

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About John T. Peters

Since I was a young boy, I've been in business for myself. Sure I've had 'jobs' along the way; some actually quite senior roles in major companies. My entreprenurial spirit however, keeps me going. Life's challenges however, happen in and out of the office. I'm constantly trying to improve as an executive, father, husband, brother, son and friend, all at the same time. I've determined that in everything you do, you're better off "outside the box." So, read on for Fresh Thinking. View all posts by John T. Peters

One response to “Business Travelers: I insulted someone this week.

  • McCool Travel

    For multi day hotel stays I typically tip after first night and when leaving. I mentally deduct, as you mentioned with cabbies, for service and following directions—such as replacing towels when I followed the directions to NOT have them replaced.

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