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May 8, 2010 05:38 AM

tipping question

(sorry if this is slightly OT, didn't know where else to post it)

My wife and I will be staying at a luxury hotel to celebrate a special occasion. In the lead-up to our stay, I've been talking to the hotel concierge by phone and e-mail and he's been extremely helpful in making dinner reservations at a place we couldn't otherwise have gotten a reservation.

Since I don't regularly stay at such hotels, I'm not sure what the etiquette is here. Is a tip for the concierge appropriate/expected? How much is appropriate? And, he will not be on duty when we're staying at the hotel -- how do I get the tip to him?

Many thanks!

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  1. It's perfectly proper to tip the concierge. As you've found out, a good concierge is priceless, particularly for those who are not familiar with the local area. I don't know how much you should tip the person - I would think that's your call based on how much you value this person's services and advice, and obviously how much actual time and effort the concierge has put in to help you out. If a concierge points you to a good coffee shop down the block, that usually is a no-tip situation. If they've laid out a weekend of blissful experiences tailored specifically for the two of you, that's a whole different ball game.

    I've found concierges to carry themselves with style, warmth and a subtle dignity. As it sounds like you are planning to show your gratitude, I would suggest that if you're planning on giving cash, use some discretion by putting it in an envelope with his or her name on it. I'd consider a nice hand-written note or Thank You card that that thanks the concierge for all the various services provided and how great of a time you folks had, all in thanks to him or her. This obviously shows how special you consider the person's services and would probably be valued as much as the gratuity.

    Another idea is to bring a nice gift either in place of or in conjunction with the gratuity. Something relating to your town, region or culture, e.g., artisan goods from Pennsylvania, wine from NorCal, a Japanese tea set, etc. Food gifts can be tricky - will they keep? Allergies? Beliefs regarding food? You may be able to get clues from your conversations with the concierge regarding likes, culture, etc. to help you with this area.

    Getting the "Thank You" to the concierge shouldn't be an issue as well. As long as it's addressed to the person, I'd ask the front desk for the hotel manager and ask them to pass it on to the concierge. This would be your chance to express to his or her higher-up how your stay at the hotel wouldn't have been nearly as wonderful had it not been for the concierge. Customers typically are willing to go through great efforts to complain. Complements are relatively rare, regardless of what type of business, so yours would go miles.

    10 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      No one really wants gifts in lieu of cash. This is part of how they make their living. And since you probably know absolutely nothing to very little about this person, why take the chance of giving him something he throws away or re-gifts? Cash. Do you give your waiter a nice pound cake from your hometown in lieu of a tip? Cash.

      Depending on city and the amount of time he has spent with you give him $20 to $50, in a letter with a note of thanks and leave for him with his other concierge colleague on duty.

      1. re: chow_gal

        >>Food gifts can be tricky - will they keep? Allergies? Beliefs regarding food?<<

        And that is why I inserted this. A concierge is NOT a waiter. And concierges do receive gifts as a token of appreciation, particularly in countries or cultures where tipping is frowned upon. The OP DOES NOT indicate where this celebration is taking place; thus, my offering this information as well. I guess traveling overseas has made me sensitive to these issues. Have you ever tipped a concierge in Japan? This would be an insult. A gift IS well-received and appreciated. The intent and thought behind this offering is very important. Your comment about pound cake smacks of ridicule - really no place for this on this board. If I lived in Oregon where I know of an artisan cider maker who distills an excellent apple brandy, I think this would be a wonderful gift. It's no great extension of thought to consider something like this and not pound cake. Concierges receive some of the best compensation for floor positions in the hospitality industry - an experienced concierge usually draws about $50 grand. Tips are welcome depending again on the country and culture, but from my understanding, concierges do not live on tips.

        1. re: bulavinaka

          Oh, apple brandy! Goes great with poundcake. (had to!)

          1. re: chow_gal

            Let it go. We've said our peace. I obviously appreciate those who are truly helpful. I hope one day that you can too.

          2. re: bulavinaka

            I'd hate to get apple brandy - CASH is always better!

            1. re: cheri

              You obviously haven't had their apple brandy, but I hope you do...


            2. re: bulavinaka

              YOU think that brandy would be a wonderful gift. If the concierge didn't share your opinion, then all you've accomplished is causing him/her the trouble of finding someone to give it to. OP has clarified that they're staying in the US. Give cash.

              1. re: c oliver

                I agree. There's no way to know what the concierge likes- some may prefer wine, others liquor, and others may not be big drinkers at all.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I'm a recipient of a lot of gifts at year's end. Maybe it's just me, but regardless of what they are, they are tokens of appreciation for my service to my clients, and I appreciate them all. Maybe as poster alanbarnes mentions, I fall in the former category. I expect a lot of myself. And if I were in the OP's position, I'd drop a $50 in an envelope with a thank you note, attach that to a nice bottle and hand it to the manager with a verbal complement about the concierge. Maybe the concierge would like the brandy, maybe not. I'd be willing to roll the dice that the person would. And if not, regift away. Being in the hospitality business, there'd be a strong chance that he would, and if he didn't, so be it - I guarantee he would have a use for it. Also, I've made peace with myself in doing what I thought was appropriate. Concierges are wonderful at foresight and formulating scenarios in their minds - they'd probably appreciate the same from someone who benefited from their efforts. Good service is becoming a rare commodity nowadays. Those who appreciate it are even rarer.

                2. re: bulavinaka

                  My slot host in LV isn't allowed to take cash, but a gift card is acceptable. At Christmas I see the junk people shower her with. I stick with the gift card and she can re-gift it if she wants. I'm sure a fruit cake is harder for them to re-gift.

            3. $10-$20 tip for the service you were provided would show your appreciation. In that case I put it in an envelope and hand it to them.

              14 Replies
              1. re: monku

                >>And, he will not be on duty when we're staying at the hotel...<<

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  Sure...leave them an envelope with the front desk.

                2. re: monku

                  I don't think $10-20 is enough for the services you've described. I would say $75-100 would be more appropriate, and if you're in NYC or SF, $100-150. But that's just me....

                  1. re: jenhen2

                    $75-$100?....the concierge is making a 2 minute call to make a dinner reservation.

                    For $100.... I could walk into the restaurant without a reservation and palm the hostess a Benjie.

                    1. re: monku

                      Since we don't know the restaurant, how can you be sure palming the hostess a $100 would work? I've been many a place where money was refused. I'm not suggesting he tip the concierge $100, although it might depend on how tough the reservation was to get. For TFL, I would gladly pay.

                      1. re: BubblyOne

                        Tipping the hostess doesn't work in some places because the "hostess" is sometimes a part time student who doesn't appreciate the fine art of tipping and thinks its a bad thing to do.. like taking a bribe. In a restaurant where there's a "professional maitre d'" it's always accepted. Then there are snooty places that don't take reservations and everyone waits in line no matter who you are.
                        TFL is probably the hardest to get reservation and sure they have a limited amount of seating every night. Bejie probably wouldn't work there either.

                        1. re: monku

                          Exactly, which is why I would rather happily tip/possibly over-tip the concierge to figure those things out for me.

                          1. re: BubblyOne

                            OP asked what is "appropriate", not about over-tipping.

                            Boils down to what you think its worth.
                            My thinking is the concierge is doing their job and if they have a connection that I might not have then $20, which from my experience has worked when going to a place where there's a long wait and I don't have a reservation. Sure you have to size up the front desk, but that's part of the fun. Places like The Cheesecake Factory $10 will get me in without waiting.
                            Concierge is making a reservation I can make on my own then $5-$10.

                    2. re: jenhen2

                      I don't believe that tips in the $75-150 range are the norm anywhere. According to Sara-Ann Kasner, president of the National Concierge Association, "you might tip $5 for a dinner reservation, $20 for theater tickets. But if someone goes the extra mile—getting you into a popular restaurant at the last minute or obtaining hard-to-get theater tickets—you can tip upwards of $25."

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        "I don't believe that tips in the $75-150 range are the norm anywhere."

                        I'm with is cheap, leaving $75-$100 for a restaurant reservationt isn't .

                        A good concierge will have connections with the best restaurants in the area and securing a restaurant reservation is the easiest request to fill.

                        1. re: monku

                          Just for the record, I think 75-100 for a concierge in a major city who helped to organize a weekend of plans is worth it. I thought that's what the OP was talking about. If it's one dinner reservation, I completely agree that would be way high.

                          1. re: jenhen2

                            So how much do you think for a dinner reservation?`

                            1. re: monku

                              I would think $20-25 would be good, and agree with others that in this situation, cash is king.

                              1. re: jenhen2

                                Now you're in the ball park.

                  2. Thanks, everyone, your comments are helpful.

                    FWIW, we'll be staying in a US city.

                    1. There are two types of people in the world - the thoughtful and the mercenary. Those who are thoughtful tend to appreciate giving and receiving heartfelt gifts. Those who are mercenary couldn't care less about heartfelt.

                      Sounds to me that you're in the former category. If the concierge is like-minded, a tip would certainly be welcome (and the going rate for a reservation at a place where it's ndifficult to get a table is $20+), but putting the money in a note indicating how much you appreciate the assistance you've received would make it much more meaningful.

                      Of course, the concierge might be purely mercenary. In which case the card is just a waste of paper and your good feelings are meaningless unless you accompany them with an appropriate measure of cold hard cash. There are plenty of those folks around, but this person went out of his/her way to assist you wnen you weren't right there flashing rolls of bills. So maybe the concierge has an attitude closer to yours.

                      My take? Cash is always welcome, but if you can make it more personal, most people (or at least those who have souls) will appreciate the gesture. But if you're going to give a gift instead of a tip, make sure it's both personal and extra-generous.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        The difference between giving a cash gratuity and giving some type of non cash gift would be better discussed / more appropriate if you are a regular somewhere and have gotten to know the concierge on a personal level (and know their likes and dislikes). In this case of a "one off" at a place you have either never been before or only very sporadically over the years a cash gratuity of $20 for a restaurant reservation is both appropriately on point, and more than enough to convey your appreciation for the assistance.

                      2. As you said - he got you into a place you would never have been able to go without his help. Definitely cash with a nice note left for him in an envelope. I would say no less than $25 but I'd do $50 at least as he did something you were unable to do. No gift - come on people the guy might not drink and he can use the money to buy whatever (we have the internet remember) you might give him. Has nothing to do with having a soul - that's just silly!