Should you tip in hotel club lounges?

The etiquette of tipping while traveling can be a complex and controversial topic. The more you travel, the more confusing it all gets. I’ve been on the topic of tipping in airport lounges, and in this post I thought it would be interesting to look at the topic of tipping in hotel club lounges. Should you tip in hotel club lounges, and if so, under what circumstances?

Tipping is a complex and confusing issue

Let me start by admitting that tipping when traveling is never easy to understand:

  • There are often discrepancies as to who is appropriate to tip and who is not, even though the functions are often similar
  • When deciding whether to tip, my primary consideration is usually whether the person relies on tips to make a reasonable living; I then also consider the level of service provided compared to other features I would advise on
  • As travel has become global, it cannot be denied that the US approach to tipping has spread around the world, so tipping often becomes the norm even in countries where it wasn’t originally

It is impossible to create any standard system around tipping as there will always be confusing inconsistencies. For example, why do we tip almost everyone who serves us food, except flight attendants? In the hotel shuttle buses, do we only tip if the driver helps us with our luggage? If so, is the simple effort of lifting a bag what justifies the tip, as opposed to the time spent driving the shuttle?

Tipping is not expected in hotel club lounges

First for some context, hotel club lounges are spaces that are available to select guests (usually either those who pay for it or those with elite status in a hotel loyalty program). Hotel club lounges typically offer breakfast, snacks throughout the day, and an evening happy hour. The quality of these lounges varies greatly depending on the brand you are staying at and where you are in the world.

Access to the hotel’s club lounge can be valuable

Let me start by saying that tips are never expected in hotel club lounges, including in the United States. If you go to a restaurant in the United States and don’t tip (assuming the service is decent), you’re a cheap fool who doesn’t care how others make a living. Meanwhile, if you go to a hotel club lounge and don’t tip, you’re not a fool.

That’s because employees working in club lounges are typically paid a salary that reflects that they likely won’t receive tips. Now that may not be a great salary, but it’s not like the restaurant industry where the pay before tip is often below minimum wage.

My approach to tipping in hotel club lounges

For the purposes of this post, let’s focus specifically on the United States. Obviously, the quality of lounge chairs can vary greatly. Airport Marriott in the United States can have a pretty depressing evening selection of happy hours, and you don’t even get free alcoholic drinks. As standard, you are usually expected to set your own tables and place used plates and glasses on a dirty dish tray.

Marriott Seattle Airport Club Lounge
Marriott Seattle Airport Club Lounge
Marriott Seattle Airport Club Lounge

Meanwhile, in the Ritz-Carlton’s Club Lounge, you can expect five food presentations a day, including evening snacks that can act as a substitute for dinner, plus great alcoholic drinks that are included. The staff often try to get to know you and give you personalized service.

Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Club Lounge
Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Club Lounge
Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island Club Lounge

So what is my approach to tipping in hotel club lounges?

  • If the salon isn’t great and the service is unmemorable, I usually won’t tip as I don’t think it’s necessary
  • If the lounge attendant is very friendly and attentive, proactively clearing plates and asking if they can get me things, I’ll usually try to leave a tip (around $5), assuming I have cash
  • If a lounge is fancy (like at the Ritz-Carlton) and the server makes it a point to get to know you and your preferences during your stay, I always try to tip more at the end of the stay in appreciation of their service

Let me emphasize that I am not claiming that my approach is correct, I am simply sharing how I see things.

I have to say that some lounge attendants are not very careful and then they also try to push for tips where they will put money on the tray where you have to put your used plates to try and encourage guests to tip as well. I find this quite annoying.

Meanwhile, there are some really personable and hard-working salon employees who get paid handsomely by providing great service, which is an approach I much prefer.

Bottom row

Hotel club lounges can be a great feature and it can be difficult to know when tipping is and isn’t appropriate. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Personally, I decide based on the level of service provided by the escort. I will try to tip if they are proactive in clearing plates, checking if I want something, etc. Meanwhile, if the whole experience is self service and they’re not particularly friendly, then I usually don’t tip.

I must also admit that sometimes, unfortunately, I don’t have cash, in which case the tip can also be folded.

Do you tip in hotel club lounges? If so, under what circumstances?

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