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Bathroom Attendants

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NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 12:08 PM

I am curious how others on Chowhound feel about being confronted by a bathroom attendant in a nice restaurant handing you a towel (with the obvious expectation of a tip).

Personally I find it very irritating for several reasons. First, I know I may be unusual but I do not always take my purse into the bathroom. While I do not like being coerced into tipping an attendant for doing something I would much rather do myself (such as getting a towel) I also do not like not giving the attendant anything. Therefore it becomes an awkward situation for me. (Though I usually compensate by returning to the bathroom later so I can tip).

Second I just find it so unnecessary. I suppose I can understand that in a 5 star restaurant some may expect the continual pampering. However, I have experienced the unexpected bathroom attendants in nice, but definitely not 5 star establishments. I just don't see any reason for it unless the restaurant has no other place to put an employee.

Third, it is becoming more of a special treat for many of us who love to eat out but cannot afford to because of the economy. At least for myself, I would be less likely to return to a restaurant knowing I would have to tip an attendant in the bathroom. (I know- are a few bucks really worth crossing off a good restaurant off my list? Probably not. But it is a huge turn-off.)

Just as a side note, the one time I did feel the opposite was at a drag-queen restaurant in manhattan a few years ago- there was a drag queen bathroom attendant in the ladies room! :} (That was worth a big tip! :} )

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    c11 RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 12:29 PM

    Agree 100%. Irritating is a good word for it!

    1. p
      phoebek RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 12:44 PM

      Nope, you're not unusual. I find it irritating, too. And if I don't take my purse into the bathroom, I just smile apologetically, and say, "sorry, I left my purse at the table."

      1. r
        roro1831 RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 12:57 PM

        It's not just at nice restaurants anymore. I went to a concert at Sullivan Hall in NYC to see a band i know from back home. Now Sullivan Hall is not high end at all, a bar with a stage, but yet the bathrooms had someone inside handing you a "towel" or should I say a piece of paper from the dispenser. I found this to be rather insulting of my abilities to dry my own hands in a bar. Needless to say he got no tip from me.

        8 Replies
        1. re: roro1831
          PeterL RE: roro1831 Jan 28, 2009 03:19 PM

          You sure he was an employee and not just someone out for a quick buck?

          1. re: PeterL
            r
            roro1831 RE: PeterL Jan 29, 2009 05:02 AM

            Yep, all bathrooms had attendants

          2. re: roro1831
            karmalaw RE: roro1831 Jan 29, 2009 05:27 AM

            And yet that attendant may very well have been part of an overall plan to keep the bathroom cleaner and less of a zone for illegal activity. Surely both reasons to be insulted. (not).

            1. re: karmalaw
              r
              roro1831 RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 06:33 AM

              Highly unlikely as the bathroom wasn't exactly nice to begin with and I could care less about illegal activities in bathrooms. The attendant was doing such a great job, like stopping women from using the mens room.
              I just have a problem when people are basically doing nothing, and expect you to tip them for it. It's not like they have a toilet paper menu and the attendant is helping me choose based on my needs.

              1. re: karmalaw
                j
                julesrules RE: karmalaw Feb 4, 2009 08:30 AM

                Great, now that I know the attendants are actually *security guards* that the establishment needs to keep the peace, I feel even less obligated to tip!

                1. re: julesrules
                  k
                  KTinNYC RE: julesrules Feb 4, 2009 08:36 AM

                  I hope you are kidding.

              2. re: roro1831
                jgg13 RE: roro1831 Jan 29, 2009 07:30 AM

                I saw this once in upstate NY at the dutchess county fair. They had kids sitting next to the paper towel dispenser snagging paper towels for people.

                1. re: roro1831
                  d
                  dfan RE: roro1831 Jan 29, 2009 10:54 AM

                  I've played a couple of gigs at Sullivan Hall and it really bugs me. I tip him anyway because it seems like such a lousy job, but I'd really rather there wasn't one at all.

                  Bathroom attendants at really high-end restaurants make me uncomfortable; ones at regular places just annoy me.

                2. Karl S RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 01:04 PM

                  To the extent the presence of BAs prevent the room from becoming a pig sty, keep it stocked, and discourage activities that don't belong in that room (smoking, snorting, screwing, for example), I'd say some places could use them...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Karl S
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                    NicoleFriedman RE: Karl S Jan 29, 2009 03:57 PM

                    If it were a matter of cleanliness, making sure people don't linger too long if the wait is ridiculously long (such as at broadway shows) I really wouldn't mind; I'd be appreciative. It's only when there is no obvious or apparent reason for an attendant that drives me a bit bonkers. Also, I guess it's because the bathroom is usually a personal place and I like my space, if even only for a minute.

                  2. rockandroller1 RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 02:13 PM

                    They irritate me too. If they really want to make some money, they should take all their little toiletries and such and go to dance clubs. When I was in my 20s, had a few drinks in me and was all sweaty and took a bathroom break, I would have paid for a spritz of perfume or hair spray or a towel or deodorant or whatever, and I would have been more likely to tip them. In restaurants? Irritating. In lower-end restaurants where they are literally handing you a tri-folded paper towel? Ridiculous.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: rockandroller1
                      dcdavis RE: rockandroller1 Jan 28, 2009 02:33 PM

                      Recently went to Eiffel Tower restaurant in Paris Las Vegas and there was an attendant. My first encounter with one. The bathroom was so small. He was never more than four feet from me. I prefer a little privacy. Very uncomfortable. Kinda creepy. Still good for a laugh back at the table! Food was great and it was snowing with the Bellagio fountain in the background. So, it was a small inconvenience.

                      1. re: dcdavis
                        dcdavis RE: dcdavis Jan 28, 2009 02:36 PM

                        Sorry, meant to respond to OP!

                      2. re: rockandroller1
                        Up With Olives RE: rockandroller1 Jan 30, 2009 07:53 AM

                        If memory serves, there was an attendant at Studio 54 with lipsticks, comb, etc.

                        1. re: Up With Olives
                          rockandroller1 RE: Up With Olives Jan 30, 2009 02:39 PM

                          ah, I do miss the 70s.

                      3. jfood RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 02:49 PM

                        jfood tries to ignore them. the bathroom is a private place, he is not interested in meeting people there.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jfood
                          kattyeyes RE: jfood Jan 28, 2009 03:01 PM

                          I second that emotion, jfood!

                          1. re: jfood
                            PeterL RE: jfood Jan 28, 2009 03:17 PM

                            So when you go to a bathroom you only go when no one else is there? I think the attendant feels likewise. He or she is not interested in meeting you either. To them it's just a job. At least you know the bathroom is kept very clean.

                            1. re: PeterL
                              karmalaw RE: PeterL Jan 29, 2009 05:33 AM

                              and, the bathroom is less likely to be a hidden spot for illegal activity. There's nothing like really having to GO and waiting and waiting (while all the while hearing various noises that tell you that a party is ensuing on the other side of the door) to finally have the door open and either a) a group of people walk out rubbing their noses or b) a brazen couple comes out adjusting their clothing.

                              I notice that bathrooms with attendants (especially in clubs or bars) tend to be more efficient with less of a wait when there's an attendant .

                          2. pikawicca RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 02:52 PM

                            This was so common when I lived in Europe that I got used to it. Plus, those ladies kept the rest rooms absolutely pristine!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: pikawicca
                              BobB RE: pikawicca Jan 29, 2009 06:39 AM

                              Yes, very common in Europe, also many places in Asia. You just get used to it, and make sure to always have some spare change in your pocket.

                            2. Marge RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 03:14 PM

                              I also do not always bring my purse with me to the bathroom, and feel bad not tipping the attendant--being a bathroom attendant is certainly not a job I would want to have, and after spending big buck$ for a great meal in a lovely restaurant, I feel guilty not tipping someone who is spending the night in the toilet. My ability to take a hand towel myself aside, if the attendant is pleasant, and is obviously working diligently to keep the bathroom clean and well stocked with necessities and amenities, it doesn't bother me to leave a dollar in the basket.

                              1. PeterL RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 03:15 PM

                                Well, it's definitely something to get used to, esp. for Americans. In many other countries bathroom attendants at high end places are a must. Not only do they hand you the towel, they also turn on the water for you when you are ready to wash your hands. Just go with the flow.

                                1. m
                                  mpjmph RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 04:15 PM

                                  The only places I've encountered restroom attendants have been at the Forbidden City in Beijing (in 1991), South of the Border in South Carolina, and the North Carolina State Fair. In every case I was incredibly grateful for their presence as the facilities would probably have been disgusting without them. My mom tipped in China (I was 8...) in both other cases I didn't tip the first time b/c I didn't have cash on me, but have remembered to have a few dollars for subsequent visits.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: mpjmph
                                    Whosyerkitty RE: mpjmph Jan 28, 2009 04:49 PM

                                    I like them. It's kind of an old fashioned touch of service. Kind of like the rare elevator operator you see anymore. They come in handy if you need a pin, a sanitary item, lotion, hair spray, a nail file, etc. A tip is common practice whether you like it or not, just like your cab driver and your hairdresser and your server and the guy who shovels for you.

                                    They're also not all that common anymore, although I have seen them in clubs. They ARE really handy there.

                                    When I was a little girl my mom took me to the Palmer House for lunch over the holidays. I was just old enough to go to the restroom by myself IN THOSE DAYS. She gave me two quarters (this was in the last century) and said that that there would be a lady in there that would hand me a towel (in those days a real hand towel) and to give her the money. So I thought drying your hands at the Palmer House cost you fifty cents.

                                    1. re: mpjmph
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                                      NicoleFriedman RE: mpjmph Jan 29, 2009 04:06 PM

                                      I've also experienced this in Europe but because I knew prior to going that this is part of the culture it never bothered me. However, unless American culture is experiencing a bathroom renaissance- where we start seeing attendants popping up at barnes and noble (which may not be such a bad idea- have you seen the seinfeld epsisode with george? do you know what people do with those books? :} ), I will continue to be befuddled when I encounter this phenomenon in the US.

                                      1. re: NicoleFriedman
                                        Mr Taster RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 4, 2009 03:54 PM

                                        Also, in Europe you pay on the way in so everything is above bar. There's no "ambush" at the sink, where you realize once you've opened the door to the restroom that now you're going to have to deal with this nonsense on the way out. I prefer not to have that kind of stress when I should be enjoying a moment of private time :)

                                        Mr Taster

                                    2. j
                                      jeanmarieok RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 04:54 PM

                                      I like bathroom attendants, because the facitlities are so much cleaner. If I haven't brought my purse for my first trip to the loo, I'll bring it for the second trip, because it's worth the stop before I leave. And since they usually have a swish of mouthwash available for me, it's well worth the buck or two for fresh minty breath.

                                      1. KaimukiMan RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 05:13 PM

                                        My first job, so many years ago I can hardly believe I remember this, was working at an ice rink. At the end of the skating session we had to clean the restrooms. it was the first time I had ever been in a ladies room and I was astounded by the mess in there. Paper Towels, Paper Seat Covers, unrolled spools of toilet paper, toilet tissues... it looked like there had been a paper blizzard in there. Sure, in the men's room there were the cigarette butts in the urinals, but no where near the devastation of the ladies room. Literally 3-4 pounds of paper were swept out of there twice a day.

                                        With today's need to suppress graffiti, smoking, drug deals, and drug use in restrooms (and who knows what else) it doesn't surprise me that there are attendants. I doubt many of them are there primarily to hand out towels.

                                        1. karmalaw RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 28, 2009 05:14 PM

                                          Actually, I feel sorry for anyone who needs money so badly that they're willing to work in a bathroom all night cleaning, trying to be helpful, listening to all that they have to listen to, smell all that they have to smell, and then get attitude from most of the patrons who are eating what is surely to the attendant, an expensive meal.

                                          I always tip them -- and thank the universe that I am not standing in their shoes.

                                          Sorry you're "irritated" -- but I think the irritation is best directed to the management who hired them and not the person who just listened to you use the bathroom.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: karmalaw
                                            Karl S RE: karmalaw Jan 28, 2009 05:33 PM

                                            In many parts of the world, this is a job that is given to people who cannot sustain more vigorous work. It enables them to be paid for a modicum of labor and maintain a sense of dignity rather than accept charity as such. It is a kind of social contract position. Americans, under the illusion that our culture has no need for such positions, naturally feel tension when confronted with possible evidence to the contrary.

                                            1. re: Karl S
                                              Vetter RE: Karl S Jan 28, 2009 07:15 PM

                                              That's a fascinating take on this. I'm reminded of the one time I was lucky enough to travel to South Korea; I remember seeing what I considered to be "elderly" men and women doing low-impact landscaping work out.

                                              Given how many people are being laid off right now, whatever we can do to keep people employed is fine by me. But attendants still make me a bit uncomfortable.

                                            2. re: karmalaw
                                              Whosyerkitty RE: karmalaw Jan 28, 2009 07:49 PM

                                              I don't think they do all that badly if they're in an upscale place. And frankly, it would be a relatively easy job. I think nowadays they just straighten up and maintenance people do heavy cleaning after closing.

                                              1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                karmalaw RE: Whosyerkitty Jan 28, 2009 07:57 PM

                                                most of them "seed" the tip jar with their own money so it looks like people are tipping. In most places that I have been, the attendants have been immigrants (I sometimes take the time to speak with them -- in one case it was a woman who was trying to make money to support the 6 children she'd left back in Haiti) with few other employment opportunities due to lack of english language and lack of trained skills (other than maid or shrimp cleaner or whatever else no one else really wants to do that doesn't pay sufficient for the level of work required).

                                                Oh, and in those same upscale places there are an inordinate number of people who are "irritated" and don't tip.

                                                1. re: karmalaw
                                                  b
                                                  beevod RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 06:17 AM

                                                  I have no problem tipping a bathroom attendant unless he or she insists on sitting in the stall with me.

                                                  1. re: karmalaw
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                                                    neverlate RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 07:12 AM

                                                    For a lot of these attendants it's a second or third job of the day because they can't make enough in their other low-paying jobs to support themselves and their loved ones. You can look down on them if you choose, or maybe shift your perception a little bit -- they are heroes to their extended families.

                                                    1. re: neverlate
                                                      karmalaw RE: neverlate Jan 29, 2009 07:43 AM

                                                      I think you meant to reply to someone else. I do not "look down" upon them -- I sympathize and am respectful enough of their situation to tip.

                                                      1. re: karmalaw
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                                                        neverlate RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 10:43 AM

                                                        Karmalaw, I apologize -- I didn't mean you of all people. Doesn't your name say it all? I do understand the importance of tipping these attendants for the tipper's well-being (present and future).

                                                    2. re: karmalaw
                                                      Whosyerkitty RE: karmalaw Jan 31, 2009 04:12 PM

                                                      And what, the people at Starbuck's DON'T prime the tip jar????
                                                      Don't kid yourself.
                                                      So do private function bartenders.

                                                2. jgg13 RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 29, 2009 07:29 AM

                                                  I just say "no thanks, I'll get it myself". If they force me to go through them, I won't give them anything as I had no intention of receiving their service in the first place - it is akin to the homeless people that would wash your car window and then demand money.

                                                  18 Replies
                                                  1. re: jgg13
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                                                    laguera RE: jgg13 Jan 29, 2009 07:52 AM

                                                    Wow. That comparison is way off. Bathroom attendants are employees of the restaurant, not homeless people squatting and asking for tips. Obviously someone in management thought that having attendants would be useful to their business in some way.

                                                    1. re: laguera
                                                      jgg13 RE: laguera Jan 29, 2009 09:38 AM

                                                      No, I really do view them as the same sort of folks. If I go into a bathroom, I have no problem properly cleaning up after myself and managing my own issues - I don't need some dude standing there waiting on me ... as such, they're providing a service that I didn't request.

                                                      To go along with your statement though, suppose your waiter brought out a dish that you didn't order - would you feel obligated to pay for it?

                                                      1. re: jgg13
                                                        karmalaw RE: jgg13 Jan 29, 2009 09:49 AM

                                                        your analogy is off: the bathroom attendant isn't just cleaning up after YOU, he's cleaning up after the cretin before you -- so you don't have to go in and deal with another person's mess. He's not bringing you a product you didn't order, he's providing a service that comes with the premises.

                                                        1. re: karmalaw
                                                          jgg13 RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 10:16 AM

                                                          Being a janitor doesn't warrant a tip. Providing me a service does, and they're not providing me a service outside of simply being a janitor. I suppose you have an argument if you go around tipping janitors every time they sweep the floors.

                                                          1. re: jgg13
                                                            karmalaw RE: jgg13 Jan 29, 2009 10:42 AM

                                                            do you tip hotel maids?

                                                            1. re: karmalaw
                                                              jgg13 RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 10:57 AM

                                                              Generally, but not always. However that's for cleaning up *my mess* and not for taking care of a generally used space like the hallway.

                                                          2. re: karmalaw
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                                                            julesrules RE: karmalaw Feb 4, 2009 08:38 AM

                                                            Bingo - a service that comes with the premises. I consider bathroom maintenance to be part and parcel of a restaurant's services. Any tips / salary management deems necessary for cleaning staff should come out of my total bill & tip.

                                                            1. re: julesrules
                                                              karmalaw RE: julesrules Feb 4, 2009 09:30 AM

                                                              so you don't tip server's either? afterall, they come with the premises.

                                                          3. re: jgg13
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                                                            tmso RE: jgg13 Jan 30, 2009 04:50 AM

                                                            Yeah, and what about them waiters, huh? I'm perfectly capable of carrying my own plate of food and pouring my own wine, thankyouverymuch. I didn't ask anyone to pour my wine, and I look down upon them with the same hatred that I direct at the homeless.

                                                            (For the irony-impaired, please flip irony switch and reread)

                                                          4. re: laguera
                                                            rockandroller1 RE: laguera Jan 29, 2009 10:51 AM

                                                            No, they most certainly are NOT all employees of the restaurant. Many simply agree to let the person be in there and to keep whatever they collect, they do not pay them at all.

                                                            1. re: laguera
                                                              Das Ubergeek RE: laguera Jan 30, 2009 05:38 PM

                                                              Not around here... there are some places where people will offer to keep the bathroom decent and roust out the druggies and the horny kids if they can keep the tip money -- but they're not paid by the restaurant at all. In some places, in fact, the management may not know about it until they've set up shop in there for a couple of hours and someone mentions it or someone from management goes to pee.

                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                Whosyerkitty RE: Das Ubergeek Jan 31, 2009 04:15 PM

                                                                This is too weird.
                                                                They are NOT like street peeps who clean your windows. That's a bit derogatory. It's an extra touch of service that the management of the establishment feels is warranted. Besides, the guy cleaning the windows could be robbing you. At least he's making an effort.

                                                                And in that vein, what kind of RESTAURANT attracts druggies and horny kids to the point that's it's problematic? Where are YOU going?

                                                                1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                  Das Ubergeek RE: Whosyerkitty Jan 31, 2009 07:03 PM

                                                                  Who said bathroom attendants were limited to restaurants? Bars are famous for having them -- and they are not, in LA, typically employees of the restaurant/bar/whatever. In higher-end restaurants I'm sure they are, but I don't make a habit of going to higher-end restaurants.

                                                                  How do I know? I've asked. Club Sugar in Santa Monica had them at one point and they were merely tolerated by the management because they kept the misdeeds in the gents' to a screaming minimum.

                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                    Whosyerkitty RE: Das Ubergeek Jan 31, 2009 07:10 PM

                                                                    That's what the OP was about, but okay.
                                                                    I don't make a habit of clubbing much anymore, but seems to me "Club Sugar" needs to restructure its management style or actually hire security.

                                                                    1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                      KaimukiMan RE: Whosyerkitty Jan 31, 2009 07:16 PM

                                                                      What no one seems to want to acknowledge is that the attendants in many places (high end included) ARE security. Those lovely granite counters in upscale restrooms make a great surface for a quick snort, and the privacy to transact business away from prying eyes. If a place is known to be hospitable to drug use or sales the property can be seized. Of course I've heard of places where the attendant was the one dealing... but thats a whole other issue.

                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                        Caralien RE: KaimukiMan Feb 3, 2009 06:04 AM

                                                                        Off topic, but aside from in Pulp Fiction, most users would take advantage of the stalls, no?

                                                                        1. re: Caralien
                                                                          KaimukiMan RE: Caralien Feb 3, 2009 07:05 AM

                                                                          One would think so, but I have been quite surprised on a couple of occasions as to what people are willing (eager?) to do in the open area of a men's room. And more frequently have seen what appears to be... ummm... residue of various activities.

                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                                                            s
                                                                            small h RE: KaimukiMan Feb 4, 2009 04:14 PM

                                                                            In reference to a Manhattan restaurant I used to frequent (long defunct & sorely missed), one of my pals noted that there really should be three bathrooms: Men, Women, & People Who Actually Have To Pee.

                                                          5. q
                                                            queencru RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 29, 2009 08:01 AM

                                                            I've been in lower end sports bars that had them. I'm not spending that much in the bar to begin with, so I don't see why I should need to tip the bathroom attendant. I appreciate them when I go to a show, but I think that bathrooms get so hectic during the intermissions and before the show that they're needed to make sure everything is stocked when it's most needed.

                                                            I've been to a few abroad where the women actually yelled at me for not giving a substantial enough tip. A lot of times I bring my own toilet paper so I don't have to pay anyone for it.

                                                            1. g
                                                              gourmet wife RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 29, 2009 09:01 AM

                                                              It's very common in Asia, they're not there to make money but to ensure the bathroom is clean. In HK, many malls will have attendants. I usually just smile and say thank you. I never did provide any tip. Perhaps I should but my thought is they are there to maintain the facilities not to keep me happy.

                                                              12 Replies
                                                              1. re: gourmet wife
                                                                k
                                                                KTinNYC RE: gourmet wife Jan 29, 2009 09:30 AM

                                                                Don't clean facilities make you happy?

                                                                1. re: KTinNYC
                                                                  BobB RE: KTinNYC Jan 29, 2009 09:54 AM

                                                                  Sure. So do supermarkets with well-stocked shelves and clean aisles but I don't tip the stock clerks or janitors.

                                                                  Interesting, isn't it, where tipping comes into play and where it doesn't?

                                                                  1. re: BobB
                                                                    karmalaw RE: BobB Jan 29, 2009 10:02 AM

                                                                    full time employees of the supermarkets make some decent (not good) money and usually have benefits. Part-timers also make okay money. restroom attendants, like servers, don't receive a decent base pay.

                                                                    It's like arguing that because you're opposed to tipping that you shouldn't tip servers (which plenty of people argue and follow through upon).

                                                                    1. re: karmalaw
                                                                      BobB RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 10:08 AM

                                                                      I'm not opposed to tipping, I just don't think that KT's argument that you should tip because something makes you happy holds water. As you say, it has more to do with whether their pay level is based on the assumption that they will get tips. In the Hong Kong example gourmet wife refers to - specifically in a mall - the attendants are probably paid the same kind of wage as other menial non-tipped workers.

                                                                      1. re: karmalaw
                                                                        Miss Needle RE: karmalaw Jan 29, 2009 10:24 AM

                                                                        Karmalaw, I understand your point. But I think you misunderstood what BobB was trying to get at. Just like it's in the overhead for supermarkets to maintain shelves and clean aisles, it seems that we don't make the same assumptions for restaurants and feel like we need to rely on the attendants.

                                                                        I've been to different types of restaurants over the years and have encountered bathroom attendants in some of them. Personally, I'm not crazy about it because I generally don't have my wallet with me in the bathroom. And even if I did, I may not necessarily have small bills or change with me. I don't want to short the attendants, but unfortunately I probably do at times because I don't bring my purse or have small bills.

                                                                        And a friend of mine once brought up a really good point about bathroom attendants. He once went to the bathroom because he really had terrible stomach cramps. Unfortunately, there was a bathroom attendant and he felt like he didn't have the liberty to really "let go." So he was not really able to relieve himself in the way he would have liked to. And he felt super embarrassed leaving his stall and facing the attendant. He wanted some privacy in the bathroom and couldn't get it.

                                                                        I think attendants are really useful when it comes to preventing certain activities in bathrooms like drug use and sex (I'm thinking this is probably a bigger deal in clubs than in restaurants, but stuff happens everywhere). But when it comes to cleaning and keeping the bathroom well stocked, I think the onus should really fall on the restaurant.

                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle
                                                                          rockandroller1 RE: Miss Needle Jan 29, 2009 10:53 AM

                                                                          I also 100% agree with Miss Needle. As someone with irritable bowel disease, seeing an attendant basically means I will be miserable the remainder of the meal because I can't "let go" the way I need to. It just makes me physically uncomfortable and mad.

                                                                          1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                            n
                                                                            neverlate RE: rockandroller1 Jan 30, 2009 09:52 AM

                                                                            Hmmmm..... can't we make this a win-win situation? You "let go" all you want, and just leave a big tip. Come prepared with some extra dollar bills, go away happy, enjoy your meal, return as often as you like.

                                                                            1. re: neverlate
                                                                              rockandroller1 RE: neverlate Jan 30, 2009 02:40 PM

                                                                              It's not about money, it's embarrassing. Imagine the worst diarrhea you've had. Now imagine you have that pretty much all the time. Some of us live with GI illnesses, we don't want someone in there, especially someone waiting on us who won't leave. Other people come and go but someone standing in there waiting on you, I mean, that's just ew.

                                                                          2. re: Miss Needle
                                                                            karmalaw RE: Miss Needle Jan 29, 2009 10:53 AM

                                                                            I'm not comfortable with the audience aspect either.. but, it's a cultural thing: in other cultures things are often less "prim" -- so I just decide that the attendant has see/heard/smelled it all before me.

                                                                            Don't misunderstand: do I like that there need to be attendants? No. But I'm not going to penalize the person -- I'd rather part with some change or a dollar (more if I'm flush and the attendant has in some way struck a chord) than be mean to someone in a menial job.

                                                                            I make it a habit to be polite to those people doing the work that I'm glad I don't have to do.

                                                                            I've found it pays off in pleasantly unusual ways... like the time in the amazon when everyone was sweltering in a 100+ degree high humidity dustbowl of a port town (Puerto Maldonado, Peru) and I was enjoying the only form of air conditioning around: riding on the back of a motorcycle being driven by one of the kitchen staff at the lodge where I'd been staying: not only did he drive me around for hours and keep me from melting, but he took me to eat at a restaurant I'd never have found myself in an area where tourists didn't frequent, he also took me out to the farm where he resided with his wife, children, and grandchildren. The same fellow tourists (one of whom had even chided me for "being friendly with the help") spent most of the 6 hours until our flight out sitting on sidewalk (because everything was closed for hours for siesta).

                                                                            1. re: karmalaw
                                                                              Whosyerkitty RE: karmalaw Jan 31, 2009 04:19 PM

                                                                              You're in a PUBLIC bathroom. Chances are high there's more than one stall and somebody else is in there anyway.

                                                                              1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                                Miss Needle RE: Whosyerkitty Feb 2, 2009 06:31 AM

                                                                                Even though it's a public bathroom, there are ways to avoid seeing other people if you've "let loose." I've known people who stay in the stalls until everybody else leaves so they don't have to face them.

                                                                        2. re: BobB
                                                                          k
                                                                          KTinNYC RE: BobB Jan 29, 2009 10:04 AM

                                                                          Those who, ostensibly , provide a direct service gets a tip. The bathroom attendant, if I use their services, gets a tip. The janitor who cleans up after the venue closes does not get a tip.

                                                                    2. Caralien RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 29, 2009 10:54 AM

                                                                      I've seen this as a common practise in certain places in the US, and very common at touristy places outside of the US (basically, you're paying for toilet paper, usually from a 5 year old, not maintenance, and if you go inside, will be happy to have had some since the rolls are all empty).

                                                                      In the US, I've learned to deal with it. I rarely take my purse with me to the restroom and usually use it a second time before leaving, with a tip after an initial apology. In clubs, the attendants can be handy if something breaks or splits, or you've realised that your breath is awful.

                                                                      A dollar for a mint is definitely worth it (if things are well stocked, it's paid for by the attendant). I don't need it, but the attendants have come in handy when I've needed a mint, needle and thread/tape/stapler when a hem has fallen.

                                                                      And not to be rude, but anyone who has issues with other people in a public restroom would probably have issues even if an attendant weren't there.

                                                                      1. c
                                                                        Cachetes RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 30, 2009 05:13 AM

                                                                        I thank my lucky stars that I am in a position that I don't have to listen to the sounds and smell the smells of a bunch of overindulged diners in order to make a living. And then I gladly give them a buck, knowing that they appreciate it and I can feel that I did a bit to help out someone who has to sit in a bathroom (and not their own) for 1/3 of their waking hours. (yes, I'll admit it, I get a moment of feeling good about myself for tipping in unexpected situations).

                                                                        Also, bathrooms are always much cleaner when there are attendants.

                                                                        And finally, no one should assume that an attendant expects a tip or would be upset if you didn't tip. If ever there were a group of people who I would characterize as feeling unentitled (yes, this is based on cursory observations, though I've eaten in probably 100 places with attendants due to travel, so I do have some exposure to them)., it would be the average bathroom attendant. When I've thanked them, they have always been gracious and respectful and even a bit deferential. Tough to get irritated at that. You can flame me for making a gross overgeneralization, but in my personal experience, that's how it's always been.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Cachetes
                                                                          s
                                                                          small h RE: Cachetes Jan 30, 2009 01:51 PM

                                                                          "And finally, no one should assume that an attendant expects a tip or would be upset if you didn't tip."

                                                                          I don't assume it. But I went to a club in Manhattan recently, and there were three attendants in the ladies room. They had posted at least 20 signs proclaiming that they work only for tips, and they need the money, and you have it, because there you are at a club, which has a cover charge, and pricey drinks, so tip, why don't you, you cheap bastard. I'm paraphrasing. Slightly. So! 1) yes, they expect a tip and 2) they are upset when they don't get one.

                                                                          1. re: small h
                                                                            c
                                                                            Cachetes RE: small h Jan 30, 2009 06:05 PM

                                                                            Okay, I'll grant you that one. In that case, it's so obnoxious I'd be tempted to not tip. Perhaps it's because a lot of my experience is abroad, and the bathroom attendants are uniformly unobtrusive. Thus, when I've run into it in the US, it doesn't phase me.

                                                                            So did you tip the ones at the club???

                                                                            1. re: Cachetes
                                                                              s
                                                                              small h RE: Cachetes Jan 30, 2009 06:28 PM

                                                                              I didn't tip, partly because I objected to the obnoxiousness, and partly because I am indeed a cheap bastard(ess?). Abroad I mostly run into ladies selling toilet paper, and I'm perfectly willing to cash out for that. If I can't get it together to bring my own, I deserve to have to buy it. I'll pay for my lack of self-sufficiency. I won't pay to support an industry of dubious usefulness, just because it's there.

                                                                        2. c
                                                                          cstr RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 30, 2009 03:44 PM

                                                                          I've been to some NY steakhouses with attendents, and lavs loaded with all the goods, warm towels, mouthwash, cologne etc, I mean you don't have to touch anything.

                                                                          1. t
                                                                            taos RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 30, 2009 03:52 PM

                                                                            I don't think I'm THAT old, but bathroom attendants were not uncommon in my childhood in the 1960s and early 70s. I see them less often now. I see no harm. They are their to keep the restroom clean and stocked and they do a good job.. I appreciate it and do not mind leaving a tip.

                                                                            1. w
                                                                              Windsor RE: NicoleFriedman Jan 30, 2009 04:15 PM

                                                                              We have a Market Days event in Tallahassee, FL as a fund raiser for the local Museum with over 350 vendors at the country fairgrounds. All of the restrooms have attendants collecting donations for the cause. Running into this before has always bothered me. This time, it did not.

                                                                              1. g
                                                                                gloriousfood RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 1, 2009 09:55 AM

                                                                                On some level, I find this thread to be hilarious. I don't mean this to be an insult to all the bathroom attendants out there, but I rarely give them more than a quick thought if I encounter them. If I happen to have my purse w/me and I used something in their basket of goodies or they hand me a towel, I tip them. If all they do is to sit there and I help myself to a towel, I don't tip them. To equate them w/homeless people squatting and asking for tips is beyond strange, but whatev, to each his or her own. They're doing a job, just like everyone else, and as someone pointed out, I am very grateful not to have to work as a bathroom attendant. As for comments on not being able to, um, release oneself if there is an attendant around, what do you do at work? Or anywhere where you use public bathrooms? Seriously, I think they're like doctors in that they've seen it all and heard it all--nothing fazes them. Personally, I appreciate going to public bathrooms where there are no "surprises" in stalls, the sinks are kept clean and there is not a mini flood on the floor by the sinks, and the toilet tissue never runs out. It's like public bathroom nirvana, and if a bathroom attendant can see to all that, bring them on!

                                                                                On a side note, I have a relative who works as a housekeeper at a very posh hotel in NYC--and oh, the stories she can tell about very prominent people and their hygenic habits!

                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                1. re: gloriousfood
                                                                                  Whosyerkitty RE: gloriousfood Feb 1, 2009 10:04 AM

                                                                                  Ha! I bet.
                                                                                  One pattern that I find interesting in this thread is the number of women who don't take their purses with them to the ladies. I always do, and I suppose it's habit, but I also live in a huge city and some of it is security. Purses disappear EVERYWHERE regardless of the level of establishment and NOTHING ruins everyone's night like that. Of course I can also then politely make a call if I need to, but I also usually comb my hair or something else. So I'm surprised at the number of you who say you don't.

                                                                                  In a similar vein, do you tip coat check people? The car valet?

                                                                                  1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                                    g
                                                                                    gloriousfood RE: Whosyerkitty Feb 1, 2009 10:55 AM

                                                                                    Yes, I tip coat-check people, and if I knew how to drive, I'd tip the car valet too! I'm not talking about mega bucks here--seriously, if I can afford to eat out, I can afford to tip a dollar here and there! I come from a very humble background where family members worked in similar positions, so I know how a little goes a long way.

                                                                                    How 'bout you?

                                                                                    1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                                      k
                                                                                      KTinNYC RE: Whosyerkitty Feb 1, 2009 10:58 AM

                                                                                      You don't tip the coat check?

                                                                                      1. re: KTinNYC
                                                                                        jgg13 RE: KTinNYC Feb 1, 2009 11:06 AM

                                                                                        For me it depends on if there's a fee or not, I've always figured (perhaps incorrectly) that the fee is essentially a mandatory tip.

                                                                                        1. re: jgg13
                                                                                          k
                                                                                          KTinNYC RE: jgg13 Feb 1, 2009 11:16 AM

                                                                                          The fee is for the establishment. The coat check person doesn't get any of that money. Coat check people make their money from tips just like waiters.

                                                                                        2. re: KTinNYC
                                                                                          Whosyerkitty RE: KTinNYC Feb 3, 2009 08:35 AM

                                                                                          Of course. And the valet. Although since two friends of mine on separate occasions have received parking tickets by mail issued while their cars were in care of the "valet", I try to avoid them if I can.

                                                                                          1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                                            k
                                                                                            KTinNYC RE: Whosyerkitty Feb 3, 2009 08:58 AM

                                                                                            If you don't use their services than you have no obligation to tip them but once you use the service than you should tip.

                                                                                            1. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                                              BobB RE: Whosyerkitty Feb 3, 2009 09:00 AM

                                                                                              Now that's something I've never experienced, or even heard of before! It would seem easy enough to go back to the venue in question with the ticket and claim reimbursement.

                                                                                              1. re: BobB
                                                                                                Whosyerkitty RE: BobB Feb 3, 2009 09:21 AM

                                                                                                Well, this is Chicago. Often valets are vendors and not resto employees and allegedly they have an 'arrangement' with the cops in a congested area to park wherever. If your car DOES get ticketed, they'll throw it away. You then get a copy by mail and you need to remember that you were at such and such at a particular time. Probably more people pay them than not, but saying you gave your car to a valet when the ticket was issued is apparently not a valid defense if you fight it. As far as reimbursement goes, I'd HOPE the resto or valet company would reimburse for good faith, but you'd have to have something proving you were there at that time, too.

                                                                                                Maybe this too is a lesson to save all your receipts. LOL...

                                                                                          2. re: Whosyerkitty
                                                                                            Caralien RE: Whosyerkitty Feb 3, 2009 06:13 AM

                                                                                            When I go out, my husband is my purse. He holds my ID and lipstick, and that's all I really need when we're out (blotting with TP when necessary). Having had my purse stolen on 2 occasions (aged 12 or 14 and 32), and lost once when I was very drunk (23?), so I won't carry one to most events. Even in NO during Mardi Gras, I found a way to keep my necessities (ID, credit card, cash, and lipstick) in my decolletage. When younger and frequenting clubs, I would keep my housekey and cab fare in the cutlet section of the bra.

                                                                                            And I do tip, including keeping extra dollar bills in the ashtray of the car for valet, petrol attendants (NJ), etc.

                                                                                            1. re: Caralien
                                                                                              BobB RE: Caralien Feb 3, 2009 06:20 AM

                                                                                              Cutlet section? Not familiar with this. Resisting (failing to resist) any mention of veal, even though it would bring this comment back around to food...

                                                                                              1. re: BobB
                                                                                                Caralien RE: BobB Feb 3, 2009 06:55 AM

                                                                                                The pocket to put the doughnut, cutlet, or otherwise named stuffing for those who need the extra help. And they're all named after food sources. :)

                                                                                                1. re: Caralien
                                                                                                  BobB RE: Caralien Feb 3, 2009 07:01 AM

                                                                                                  You call it stuffing, I call it dressing. ;-)

                                                                                              2. re: Caralien
                                                                                                l
                                                                                                latindancer RE: Caralien Feb 3, 2009 05:03 PM

                                                                                                I used to put my dollar bills in the 'glove drawer'' in my car until I came out and noticed later the valet had stolen about $50 worth of ones and about the same in change.

                                                                                          3. l
                                                                                            latindancer RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 1, 2009 07:44 PM

                                                                                            I'm never without at least $25 in one dollar bills when I leave my home.
                                                                                            It's all used for tips.
                                                                                            I believe everyone deserves to make a living but I make the decision when/where I tip.
                                                                                            I don't like it when people are in my face about it....I tip in the lady's room when the woman attendant is quiet and leaves me alone. It really depends on the situation.
                                                                                            BTW...in Los Angeles I've been to several restrooms, with an attendant in place, that are undesirable when it comes to cleanliness.

                                                                                            1. Caralien RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 3, 2009 09:07 AM

                                                                                              FYI: the hosts in all of the restaurants I've worked in were responsible for the front of the house, telephones, menus, and restroom maintenance. And no, they're not generally tipped by anyone.

                                                                                              1. scoutmom1973 RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 4, 2009 03:20 PM

                                                                                                Tipping the attendant makes sense to me (previous poster made a good comparison to hotel maids) but I have a personal issue with their presence at times. The subject of GI illness was mentioned and I too will wait for the bathroom to be empty to "go" if I have a problem. Yes, I wait for the coast to be clear at work as well...

                                                                                                1. r
                                                                                                  racer x RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 5, 2009 08:52 PM

                                                                                                  It's unsanitary. I don't like people touching the towel that I am about to dry my just-washed hands with.

                                                                                                  I don't have much of a problem with bathroom attendants in 5-star places.
                                                                                                  But it's quite annoying to encounter them in the bathrooms of dim sum halls, particularly when those bathrooms are not very posh or very clean.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: racer x
                                                                                                    karmalaw RE: racer x Feb 6, 2009 12:30 AM

                                                                                                    They may not be posh or clean -- but the odds are you're not having to wait for several gender confused people to relieve their.. uhm "tension" (and leave drippy evidence of said activities) before you can use the toilet. So it's at least a plus to be able to use the restroom for the purpose for which it was originally intended.

                                                                                                    1. re: karmalaw
                                                                                                      r
                                                                                                      racer x RE: karmalaw Feb 6, 2009 08:10 AM

                                                                                                      You're right, not much of a wait to use the facilities. Of course, there's not much of a wait to use the facilities in dim sum halls that do not have bathroom attendants either, so I don't see any advantage along those lines.

                                                                                                  2. b
                                                                                                    boltnut55 RE: NicoleFriedman Feb 7, 2009 09:57 PM

                                                                                                    I never go into the bathroom with my purse, and I think the attendant would realize that I'm not holding something that holds money and therefore should not be expecting a tip.

                                                                                                    If I happen to be with my purse, I might say something like, "Oh" as in "oh, I didn't expect you, and I'm not going to stop everything to look through my purse to see if I can dig for a $1 bill."

                                                                                                    If I go a couple of times... as I can drink many iced teas, sure, I'll give something on one of my trips. In general, I think it's another way to get more of my money... plus I feel bad for them... ahem, sometimes it doesn't smell so good!

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