The Tipping Etiquette You Need To Know For Hotel Room Service

The biggest challenge with tipping is that there's no universal rule that tells you exactly how much to tip in every imaginable situation. The basics for tipping on top of a restaurant's service fee are well-known, like 20% (or even 25%) for service in a standard sit-down restaurant, or $1 for a beer in a bar or a coffee in a cafe. But there's no shortage of ambiguous situations where the tipping etiquette isn't entirely clear.

One such case is for ordering room service in a hotel: It's not exactly table service, but it's more involved than, say, ordering a delivery pizza (those fancy room service trolleys definitely require a server to put in more time and effort than a standard Grubhub order, after all).

According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, you should tip the same for room service as if you were dining in a hotel restaurant. The AHLA's Gratuity Guide recommends a 15 to 20% tip. However, this guide was published in 2014, and Americans have generally increased their tip percentages since then, with tips of 25% for restaurant service being relatively common. With etiquette experts recommending that you tip the same for room service as for table service, this means the room service tip should probably be around the 20 to 25% mark.

Are there exceptions?

Hotels may sometimes add a gratuity on room service checks, and in this case, there's no need to tip extra — although if the automatic gratuity is low, you may want to add a little more. Aside from this, there are no other scenarios where you can justifiably not tip: Room service is regarded as a luxury, so if you're able to afford it, you should be able to afford the tip. Of course, it's possible to simply not tip, but this is almost always regarded as uncouth.

That said, these tipping rules apply mostly to North American countries (although it may be acceptable to tip slightly less in Canada and Mexico). If you're ordering room service at a hotel in another country, tipping etiquette may be different. For example, many European countries tip service staff less (and sometimes, not at all), and in Japan and China, tipping is vastly less common and may even be seen as rude. If you're traveling overseas, it's best to research local tipping customs and go from there.

What about tipping for other hotel services?

Beyond room service, there are other hotel staff you'll need to tip if you use their services. If you request an item brought to your room (for example, extra glasses or bedding), the AHLA recommends a $2 tip. In a hotel restaurant or bar, you should tip just like in any other establishment. You should tip luggage porters at least a dollar for each item of baggage they carry for you (some sources suggest more). It's generally agreed that housekeeping staff should get $3 to $5 per day: Leave this in your room for them, but be sure to expressly indicate that the money left is a tip. A few dollars simply left on the nightstand or even the duvet may be intentionally overlooked, just in case.

Valet staff should also receive a similar tip of $2 to $5 each time that they retrieve your car. Lastly, concierge staff should be tipped, but the exact amount depends on what you're asking them to do: It can start as low as $5 for something like organizing a tour guide, but more for something more involved.