Skip to main content

Hotel workers share the new rules of tipping

Maria Mata works for the W Hotel in Downtown San Francisco cleaning rooms. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Between rising inflation and shrinking demand, hotel workers have no reservations in telling guests tips are essential.

“Since 10 a.m, I’ve only gotten $15,” said a doorman at San Francisco’s Union Square Hilton, in between pointing guests toward nearby restaurants after 5 p.m late last month. “We used to make a decent living, now we go home with $5 sometimes.”

The doorman, who asked to remain anonymous, said tips are important as door attendants often earn minimum wage. They help with handling bags, provide recommendations for restaurants and attractions, are the first point of contact for transit directions and call taxis for guests.

“You have to answer all these questions, but you can’t say no,” the doorman said.

A $5 tip is appreciated, he told The Standard.

The image shows the entrance of the Hilton San Francisco hotel. A red taxi with "Flywheel" branding and several pedestrians are in front. An American flag is on the left.
The Union Square Hilton hotel in San Francisco | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

READ MORE: Uber, DoorDash Drivers Spell Out the New Rules of Tipping

“Our people depend on tips, and people should know if we get tips, we’re prepared to work harder,” the doorman said.

Maria Mata has cleaned rooms at the W Hotel in San Francisco for 11 years and said rising inflation means workers like her need tips more than ever to survive.

“For me, a $5 or $10 tip would be good because everything is expensive, and it would really help us,” Mata said in Spanish.

Mata’s commute takes four hours round-trip. She said Covid had a major impact on the tips she used to make. For work that used to net her $1,500 in tips a year, now she’s only taking home around $200 to $300. Mata said she only cleans around 14 rooms every day.

Mata said guests should leave tips every time they have their rooms cleaned, rather than leaving a lump-sum tip at the end of their stay, as a different cleaner will likely visit their room each time it is cleaned.

Maria Mata cleans rooms at the W Hotel in San Francisco. | Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“Before, all the travelers came to SF, and I worked every day. But now, there are few enough that I might only work two or three days a week,” Mata said. “I would ask the guests to request daily service, and to let their friends and family know to leave tips.”

READ MORE: Nightlife Pros Agree: Tipping $1 For a Cocktail Makes You a Cheapskate

An assistant manager at a mid-Market hotel who asked not to be named and asked that their employer remain anonymous said guests should at least leave a small tip as long as service is up to par.

“I think at a bare minimum, a 10% tip is appreciated, even if it was just enough service to keep you happy,” the assistant manager said.

The assistant manager also gave a laundry list of times when tips are appreciated for good service, including to workers who clean rooms, to the concierge if they provide helpful information about navigating the city, to workers who handle and store luggage before check-in and workers who store guests’ Amazon packages they have delivered to the hotel.

They said high inflation also shows the need for higher wages.

“I 100% think [workers] should get a raise every year to counteract inflation,” they said.

Management for Hilton and Marriott, which owns the W Hotel, did not respond to requests for comment before publication.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at