Maria Antonieta, a housekeeper, at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne hotel prepares a room for a new occupant.
Maria Antonieta, a housekeeper, at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne hotel prepares a room for a new occupant. - 

Checking out of a Marriott hotel this week? For the first time, you might see an envelope inviting you to leave a tip for the housekeeper. The company is adding the envelopes to 160,000 rooms in the U.S. and Canada to remind guests that even though they might not see the person who cleans their room, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t tip. 

“I think they want someone to know that the room isn’t cleaned by Rosie the robot,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of the travel research company Atmosphere Research Group. “There is a human who is working there.”

The program, called "The Envelope Please," launched in partnership with the nonprofit "A Woman's Nation," run by Maria Shriver, a journalist and the former first lady of California.

Hartevelt says some hotels already encourage tipping with a small sign in the room or include it as a fee on the bill.

“It’s a more widespread practice outside the United States, akin to how restaurants, for example, will include a service charge of 10 percent or more on the bill when you dine there,” he explains.

“Particularly for domestic travelers, that idea that you should leave some sort of a tip is something not many people consider,” says Doug Stallings, a senior editor at Fodor’s Travel.

Stallings recommends leaving a few dollars on the pillow each morning, since the same person may not clean the room during the entire length of a stay. He’s in favor of Marriott’s move, provided the hotel doesn’t base future wage rates on the fact that workers will be earning tips.

Typically, housekeepers and maids in this industry make about $9.20 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, critics argue that if Marriott was really concerned about how much their housekeepers are making, it could simply give them a raise.

“It’s [Marriott’s] responsibility to pay their workers enough so that tips aren't necessary,” Barbara Ehrenreich told the Associated Press. She worked in various low-paying jobs for her book called “Nickel and Dimed."


Follow Tracey Samuelson at @tdsamuelson