Before you check in to a hotel, check out this guide to tipping from the experts.
Tipping is a hot topic throughout the hospitality industry, particularly in the United States, where virtually everybody has either received or given a cash gratuity in their lifetime.
In 2014, Marriott created a ripple in the pond with "The Envelope, Please" a program that placed gratuity envelopes in some of the brands hotel rooms. After the first flush of reaction from the industry and the media that ranged from speculation that the company was looking for ways to deny their room attendants raises to horror over what some considered to be hospitality's mortal sin of soliciting tips, buzz about the program has fizzled. A Marriott spokesperson confirmed the program is no longer being actively promoted, but some hotels continue to participate.
Gratuities for hotel staff are rooted in an era that reached its pinnacle before the Great War, and by a class of traveller who use the names of seasons as verbs instead of nouns. At that time, grand hotels were a lodging option much less preferred to staying in the home of a family friend. In either case, it was customary to leave a small gratuity for the household or hotel staff for the former because of the additional work caused by the advent of a house guest; for the latter to supplement the meager wages of hotel workers, whose primary compensation at the time was room and board (similarly to what it might be employed in domestic service in a private home).
With the democratisation of leisure travel and the decline of domestic service, the hospitality rendered in many hotels that once served to replace guests' own servants is now an upgrade for most travellers. Nonetheless, the debate over tipping remains strong, as demonstrated by the response to Marriott's in-room envelope gratuity program.
In his post, Bill Marriott mentions his guidance from Emily Post, who suggested you always proffer a gratuity. My own outlook on tipping is that it serves as an effective underline to the art of graciously accepting hospitality: with acknowledgement, and sincere gratitude.
In the United States, generally follow these guidelines (amounts in US dollars):
Housekeeping: $2-5 per day depending on the room (more for suites or rooms with kitchen/ettes) left each day of the stay (in case different employees are working). Leave an envelope or note to make it clear the cash is in fact a tip. $1-2 for evening turndown service, left on top of a pillow or with a note.
Bell staff: $2 for the first bag, $1 for each additional bag, $1 more if the bags are being delivered from storage
Concierge: Are generally not tipped unless they have provided exemplary service (no for giving directions, suggestions, or basic hotel reservations; yes for reservations at difficult-to-book restaurants, theatres, events, or other extraordinary requests)
Front Desk Clerks: Are generally not tipped in the tradition of not tipping proprietors or management; also because of their role as cashiers. However, they'll be able to route tips meant for other employees you've missed (such as housekeeping or bell services when you're not there to offer a tip in person), but always put these tips in an envelope with the intended recipient on the front for clarity.
Door Staff: $1-2 for assistance with a lot of luggage or to going to particular lengths to hail a cab (i.e. not using an electronic cab call)
Valet Staff: $1-2 for retrieving a vehicle; at least $20 (more in larger cities or fancier hotels) when dropping off to "keep it up front".
See also: The full guide to tipping in the US