Tipping cleaning staff at motels. - CycleBlaze

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Tipping cleaning staff at motels.

Kelly Iniguez

We are leaving soon for our summer tour (journal coming!). As part of my preparations, I went to the bank today for cash. I got $200. in $2. bills - no big deal to our Canadian friends. In the USA, a $2. bill is a conversation starter. 

I typically leave a $2. bill on the pillow for the cleaning staff. One day on a layover, the cleaning lady left the cash. When I called her back over, she said they weren't allowed to keep anything that wasn't specifically labeled 'tip'. Since then I've carried some prewritten sticky notes so I can stick one on the cash.

Since the cost of motels has gone up and especially since the hardships of COVID, I've wondered if my $2. tip is appropriately. At one point I had googled tipping motel housekeeping and I'm very sure I read that a 10% tip is appropriate. Eeeegads! I had never tipped that much and wasn't prepared to start tipping that heavily, COVID or not.

I googled again just now. What I read is that $2-5. is appropriate. Tipping nightly on a multi night stay (to make sure the person doing the work gets the tip), and be sure and label your tip as such so they won't think it is forgotten money.

That is all a background story to asking if you tip when staying in motels, and if so, how much. I'm wondering if my $2. tip needs an upgrade. Do you tip more when staying in a more expensive place? For some reason, I think that the small town person needs the money more -although,  working for a big, fancy chain motel doesn't mean they get any better pay. 

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1 month ago
Kathleen JonesTo Kelly Iniguez

We try to leave $5-$10 a night, depending. I figure they’re doing something I don’t want to do and I’m glad to supplement whatever wages they get.

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1 month ago
Kathleen JonesTo Kelly Iniguez

And I think that’s a great idea about the labels. I’d not run into that before.

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1 month ago
Gregory GarceauTo Kelly Iniguez

I have to admit that the idea of tipping motel housekeepers never occurred to me until maybe ten years ago when I started seeing envelopes for that purpose placed in front of the TV.  Heck yeah, they deserve a tip.  Now I leave a tip whether there is an envelope or not, but after reading your post I have to wonder if the housekeeper even gets the tip if it's not in an envelope.  From now on, I'll attach a note. 

[An aside:  I've noticed that the housekeepers in motels that put out those envelopes tend to be friendlier and more accommodating than housekeepers in motels that don't.]

I usually try to leave $5 if I have ones or fives.  While traveling by bike, that's not always the case.   I pay most things by credit card, but National Forest Campgrounds, county campgrounds and city campgrounds usually require me to put cash in their little envelopes for a campsite.  I would gladly ride to the nearest ATM to get more cash for tips at motels, but ATMs only dispense $20 and $50 bills.  I think $20 or $50 might be a little too much.

When my wife and I travel by automobile, she scrutinizes my tips.  Last year, when we were about to check out of a motel in North Dakota, she saw only $2 in the envelope.  She absolutely REFUSED to leave until I put in a larger tip.

"But that's all I've got other than a $20 bill," I said in my defense.

"Then put 20-dollars in there," she demanded.

"That's ridiculous," I replied.

"Do it," she answered.

I did as I was told.

Let that be a lesson to all:  carry some ones and fives on your trips.  They don't weigh all that much.

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1 month ago
Kelly IniguezTo Gregory Garceau

I'll bet the recipient of the $20. tip was ecstatic!  You know how happy you are, riding down the street, and finding some money? That good feeling lasts all day long. I'll bet the housekeeper felt like that after finding the $20. in the envelope!

I've been trying to over tip since COVID. So many people are struggling and we are fortunate to be in a  position to be generous. 

Plus, I think if anyone should get a tip, it's the person who cleans the toilet!

When we owned the movie theatre, we used $2. bills and $1. coins for change. It was free advertising around town - everyone knew if you had a $2. bill you had been to the movie theatre. Plus, it's free fun, a conversation starter and education for the younger crowd who don't even realize such a thing exists!

We had on 12-13 year old boy come to the movie one night and share a story about how he had been taking the $2. bills that we gave him and selling them to someone's big brother for $3.. Then the brother started to question how the boy was getting so many of these 'rare' $2. bills . . .  the youth was truthful, and that was the end of his money making movie going. It was great while it lasted!

Jacinto asked me why I didn't carry $1. coins also - they weigh more than paper cash!

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1 month ago
Graham SmithTo Kelly Iniguez

Hi Kelly a slightly different perspective on your question.

Tipping is less a part of Australian culture than it is in the USA because workers’ wages here used to be reasonably good thanks to a legislated minimum wage and penalty rates (extra pay at weekends and on public holidays), hence prices here in Oz were also relatively higher for accommodation and eating out because the price included paying the service staff.  

However for a few reasons, wages, especially earnings of the lower paid, have either been static or even declining here over recent years. Hence nowadays I do tip serving staff in eateries more often than I used to. However I’ve never left a tip for cleaners in a motel. Partly because I rarely stay at motels, and if I do it’s usually in rural towns where often the cleaner is often the owner/manager, or one of their family, rather than an underpaid staffer.

A slight thread detour, is to mention that on a recent 42 day tour I only free-camped about three times. The rest of the nights were spent in either campground cabins or pubs. Part of my reason for cycle touring is that it’s a way of contributing $ to regional and rural economies. Nowadays (unlike when I started cycle touring in my 20s)  I can afford accommodation with a roof, so even though I carry good camping gear, I’d rather pay for accommodation if it’s available. It’s more comfortable and the money goes to into communities which need it.

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1 month ago
Mike AylingTo Graham Smith


A few thoughts. A lot of cleaners in motels and caravan parks are not necessarily the owners or family members but in smaller operations probably only get about four hours work per shift so they may well appreciate tips that are left by guests.

However the way Australians have enthusiastically embraced  tap and go payments cash is rapidly disappearing and unless you take Kelly's advice  and visit your local bank branch before you leave and withdraw a large number of $5 notes for your tips you won't have anything to tip with. I ride with a few people twice a week and we all just tap for our 4 to 5 dollar coffees. (I envisage American readers flinching at our coffee prices). About the only cash transaction that I make these days is at our local Indian restuarant for take aways because he claims that the bank charges exhorbitant fees for tap and go but I suspect that there is a bit of tax planning involved as well. When our Church closed due to covid lockdown I started transferring money on line and I have continued. The plate is no longer passed  around, there is now a basket at the back of the Church for cash offerings. Cash will shortly be history in Oz and tips may be a thing of the past.


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1 month ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Kelly Iniguez

Kelly, I regret to tell you that Canada hasn't had two-dollar bills in years!  We have a two-dollar coin, aka the toonie, instead.  Depending on the year it was minted, a toonie weighs between 6.92 or 7.30 grams, so CA$100 worth would weigh 350 grams or a little more than three-quarters of a pound.  How much does a bundle of  fifty bank notes weigh? Less than 50 grams. 

Time to make a trip up this way again, perhaps, once the border opens.  

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4 days ago