I don’t know if this is specific to touristy destinations like Florida, but I’ve not come across this until recently.
I recently stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. To their credit, I had a comfortable stay there. When we got there, we enjoyed a late afternoon lunch at poolside restaurant. Towards the evening, we weren’t interested in a full sit down meal so we decided to order some light room service.
I’m not stranger to ordering room service for quick bites, often simply by calling. This time, there was a link I could use. I only wanted a pizza for the group and a cake for dessert. Easy enough, right?
Tipping for Kitchen Staff?
When I clicked through the order process, I got a prompt asking me if I want to tip the kitchen staff for excellence in service in preparing the food.
Uh, come again? I had to pause for a second. What is this? I have family members who worked in the service industry. I definitely don’t want to stiff anyone. We tend to tip decent (or standard) these days: 20% for service, and more if the service is superb. I have no problems with that. If I plan to eat out, I plan to tip. Otherwise, I’d go pick up the order myself.
So, I’m puzzled why there was even a prompt to tip the kitchen staff when they are just doing their JOB. It’s tacky, and even more so when coming from a high end hotel. I skipped it and continued with my order.
A $38 order ballooned to a bill of $55.
$24 for a pizza, $14 for chocolate cake for dessert. I expected food prices to be more expensive, that’s a given. I had some leftover food and beverage credit left over that will go toward the bill, so I was fine with that. I figured that would round up to about a $10 tip.
But when I got to payment payment page, I have a bill for $55. I then see the breakdown:
- $24 pizza + $14 Chocolate Cake = $38 subtotal
- Gratuity (built in at 24%): $9.12
- Service charge: $5.00
- Tax: $3.39
- Final Bill: $55ish.
OK, so they added the 24% gratuities into the bill. (It’s a good reminder for folks to pay attention to their bills so they don’t end up paying it twice). 24% for room service seems higher than normal. At most restaurants, I have seen gratuities built in at 18% if there are more than 6 guests in a party.
I looked at the fine prints and saw the breakdown: 18% to room service member, 6% goes towards administrative fee (what?), and a $5 service charge. Why is there another service charge on top of the administrative fee?
Since the gratuities is already built in, I admit that it felt a little off when the food is delivered. I’m so used to tipping when the staff makes the delivery. Should I give him a little extra? Is it rude not to when the hotel that took a cut of the gratuities for “administrative fee”? In the end, we didn’t. The gratuities is already built in at 24%, but I also felt bad since I’m used to tipping the person delivering the food. Ugh. That is clearly part of a phenomenon called guilt tipping.
Not wonder people about tired/confused with the tipping culture
In the morning, I simply decided to skip all the non-sense with the hotel options and ordered locally through doordash. I tipped the doordasher generously. The doordasher came on time and handed over my bag of food to me with a bright smile.
It also reminded me of another experience during the same stay, I grabbed two small bottles of 20 oz soda at the Muse (a little coffee/bakery shop) connected to sister hotel, Signia by Hilton. At the cashier, I had to click through the screen before swiping my card. There is a tipping prompt with the different percentages. For what? Ringing up the order?
I don’t mind spending more when I’m out traveling and for good service. However, I think prompting for tips (e.g. for kitchen staff, or when only ringing up an order) is out of control.
For businesses: Just because it is technologically possible to program the tipping prompt doesn’t mean that it is wise for businesses to do so. It’s very tacky to see those options when it’s not applicable and the cost is already built in.
For consumers: know your guilt tipping threshold or tendencies.
Would you have tipped the kitchen staff in this case? Or the cashier in this case? Have you run into any outrageous prompts for tips?