Providing “tipping envelopes” for hotel guests to offer gratuities to cleaning staff is not at all a new concept. However, this is possibly the first time that a major “upscale brand” will engage in the practice.
Marriott International wants to give its housekeepers a raise — and it is hoping customers will chip in.
Beginning this week, a number of the company’s hotels will begin providing envelopes in guest rooms to encourage visitors to tip workers. The initiative, called “The Envelope Please,” is a partnership with A Woman’s Nation, a nonprofit organization founded by journalist and former California first lady Maria Shriver.
“In conversation with Maria, she said it had struck her that too often women are in positions that we forget to acknowledge,” Arne Sorenson, chief executive and president of Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott, said in an interview. “In a hotel, obviously we tip the bellman or wait staff. But often we don’t see our housekeepers. We don’t have that personal interaction, so we just don’t think about it.”
First of all, “chipping in” would tend to indicate that the guests will not be picking up 100% of this raise. I don’t see anywhere in this story where Marriott will be doing anything EXCEPT putting the envelopes in rooms.
Second of all, I spend a dozen or more nights in hotels each and every year in various parts of the world, some of them at Marriott properties. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a bellman. It seems likely that Mr. Sorenson (and his combined Marriott and Wal-Mart compensation of nearly $9.5 million in 2013) and I are living in different realities.
Naturally, hotel housekeeping is an unpleasant and frequently thankless job. What is the pay like?
In 2012, maids and housekeepers earned a median salary of $19,780, or approximately $9.51 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Ok, that is not very good at all. On the other hand, there are a lot of Americans paid the same or less who are not at all in a position to receive tips.
But wait…aren’t there unions?
Under the union’s current contract, which runs through September 2017, housekeepers, who currently make $18.30 per hour, receive raises every six months
By the contract’s end, housekeepers will be making $20.35 per hour
Um…I do more than a bit of work in education where I cannot make a penny more than $20 per hour, and the raises come a lot closer to every six years than every six months. Obviously, nobody is tipping me.
So why do Marriott housekeepers need a raise?
Only a small fraction of the company’s housekeepers belong to labor unions. Less than 10 percent of Marriott’s workforce is unionized, according to Sorenson.
I respect what Maria Shriver is attempting to do, and I do not imagine that unionizing every single housekeeper is the answer. However, at a hotel chain with an average daily rate (in 2012) of $137.34, a raise for service staff should not have to come from cajoling guests to leave a few more bucks in their rooms.