She explained that even in America, she doesn’t tip because she thinks it’s ridiculous to tip someone for a job they’re already getting paid to do. She instead offers an explanation to taxi drivers, restaurant servers, and hotel workers. She explains that she doesn’t believe in tipping because their wages should be enough compensation, or they should look for another job.
While she is an extreme case, there are many others in our industry who don’t tip their support teams at hotels, DMCs, or venues. In many cases, planners just aren’t aware that it’s common practice. In other cases, planners can’t convince higher-ups to budget for tips. Either way, it’s a huge shame.
When I was a young, corporate planner, I had no idea that tipping was the norm. I had no formal job training, no mentor, and no association memberships to educate me. It wasn’t until one day that a salesperson friend casually mentioned it to me that I became aware of it. I was terribly embarrassed!
From that moment forward though, I understood that tips are part of a living wage for most hotel workers. They don’t expect tips every time like a restaurant server does, but they nevertheless hope that their hard work didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. They hope that each planner is savvy enough to be in on the whole tipping practice. Moreover, those service charges that you pay as part of your final bill? Most, if not all, of that percentage goes to the hotel, not the workers. You have to ask to be certain.
Why is the practice of tipping not more common knowledge in our industry? I believe it should be taught in every college program and every designation program.
Why is tipping not discussed on message boards? That’s a simple answer – it can be discussed in generalities, but any specific discussion of numbers can be deemed collusion or price fixing.
Whom to Tip
Because there are no formal rules or implied understandings about tipping in the meetings industry, it can be confusing whom to tip.
- I have tipped a salesperson only once in my career, and that’s because the poor guy went way above and beyond, helping his hotel open for the first time, and serve us – the hotel’s first group. Otherwise, they are well compensated, commissioned, and bonused.
- I tip every Convention Services Manager (CSM) – with only one exception in my 20+ year career, and that was because the CSM failed miserably and did nothing to recover or apologize. CSMs typically receive the largest tip I give to any individual worker because they work on every detail of my program for weeks or months, and really orchestrate everything.
- I tip Banquet Captains individually if they went above and beyond. If they just did their job, I include them in a bulk tip to the Banquets department.
- I tip A/V people on occasion, if they really stood out, helped me out of a bind, etc.
- If the rooming list was especially a bear, I tip my main contact.
- Front Desk people rarely get tipped, so a little goes a long way if they handled special requests, handed out gift bags, etc.
- Bellmen who deliver all our boxes get tipped individually, along the way.
- I tip bartenders after group events, if it was an open bar. Cash bars usually generate tips from individuals.
- If I’m working with a DMC, I tip my main contact (not the salesperson, but my account manager).
- As an individual, I ALWAYS tip hotel maids.
How to Do It
- I budget for tips as a regular line item, and it is non-negotiable. I’d decrease my F&B budget before I’d reduce my tipping. I may not spend the whole amount, depending on the service levels I receive, but I always budget for it.
- You can reserve an overall percentage of your total meeting budget, or reserve a certain dollar amount per attendee to go toward tipping. If you want to chat numbers with me privately, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Some companies require tips to be paid via company check. My clients have always been fine with me requesting a petty cash disbursement from the hotel on arrival day. This amount gets added to the meeting’s master bill, but allows the planner to disburse cash tips along the way (i.e. to bellmen who deliver all your boxes, bartenders the night of an event, etc.).
- I tell my team on arrival day to keep track of any individuals who go above and beyond. On the last day, we decide as a team how to dole out all the tips. We write hand-written notes to individuals or entire departments. We always try to hand-deliver directly to the individuals. If not, we typically entrust the delivery of envelopes to our CSM.
In an industry that relies on service, I’d love nothing more than to see every behind-the-scenes individual rewarded along the way, every time they do a great job. Remember, they’re the ones making us look like rock stars.
Do you tip? Join the conversation below or by emailing Editor@MidwestMeetings.com or Shawna@SpinPlanners.com.
Shawna Suckow, CMP, is a veteran planner and the Founder of SPIN:Senior Planners Industry Network and The Hive Network. She’s the author of Planner Pet Peeves and Supplier Pet Peeves, both available on Amazon. She is an award-winning speaker to audiences worldwide on audience engagement, supplier-planner relations, and other meetings industry topics.