Off-Topic: Tipping in Las Vegas

A confession: I'm really bad at tipping.

It's not that I'm deliberately ungenerous, but simply that I never know how much to give. The UK isn't really a nation for tips: outside of restaurants, it's not something that's particularly expected, which means that here in the US I'm a complete novice at the art. The result is that sometimes I lavish cash like Sinatra on surly and unhelpful staff, while at other times I completely blow an opportunity to recognize excellent service.

To my embarrassment, I've only lately realized that it's polite to tip housekeeping staff at hotels. I determined to rectify my error this week while staying at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas for an event, and so I dutifully left a small amount on my bed when I left for the day. To my surprise, when I returned to my serviced room, I noticed that my toiletries had been "upgraded" from the uninspiring generic items that first adorned my room to some rather impressive high-end replacements.

Next morning, I determined to show my gratitude for such thoughtfulness, and left a slightly larger amount on my bed. On returning later, I discovered that not only had the toiletries I'd stashed in my suitcase been replenished, but that I'd acquired still additional items, including a "gentleman's kit" of useful travel accessories. This turned into something of a game: the third morning, I excitedly tipped a little yet more out of fascination to see what would happen (a small vase of flowers and a Loofah sponge). For once, I was rather disappointed that I had to check out; it would have been very tempting to have upped the ante dramatically further to see what the ultimate reward would have been!

As well as discovering a new aspect of the service culture in the US, I also discovered that there are a lot more fun ways to "gamble" your money in Las Vegas than putting it into a slot machine. And just so I don't come across as bragging about my largesse, I should note that the very same evening I horrified a colleague of mine for innocently tipping just 5% on a bar bill (I figured this was a pretty good wage given the size of the bill, but I was apparently so far out that I could have had the dregs of my drink poured over me!). I've still got plenty to learn, it seems.

Comments (18)

  1. Anonymous says:

    You nearly got me: I though ‘oh, Colin Tipping is coming to Vegas?’

    However, it reminds me of a night, us three guys in a bar, drinking any and everything for the 10 hours we been there. Our bar bill (no food, not an expensive bar) was more than 400,-, we gave 10% tip and had a real diskussion with the barmaids because they thought it was *way* over the top.

    You see, Germany is different regarding to tip. But still it depends on the people.

  2. Anonymous says:

    After I moved from Switzerland to Chicago, I had no clue about tipping either. So I was slightly suprised that on my first night out nobody wanted to server me anymore after not tipping at the bar for 2h.

    It dramatically improved the next time after I got the hint from a friend πŸ™‚

  3. Anonymous says:

    Interesting blog entry Tim. Here in Germany, it seems 50 cent to 1 Euro tip is the norm.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As one who has worked in the service industry where tips were considered to be your actual wage since what you were usually paid was the dregs of the wage barrel I can tell you that the average "good" tip is in the 15% range with anything less than 5% being considered an insult and could actually have your tip returned with a comment like "You obviously need this more than I do"

    There is also an older / archaic rating system that can go along with tipping and that is the number of pennies left with your tip. For many this is much like the five star rating system where 5 pennies left with a good tip is like having your serive being given 5 gold stars and it goes down from there with a single penny and no tip being the ultimate insult to the server.

    I say 15% is the average because it will depend entirely upon the type of establishment you are eating and/or drinking at. The more high class (expensive) the higher side of 15% is expected and if it is a place you like to frequent a lot then tips closer to 20 to 25% will usually result in your name being rmembered in future visits along with better service and table placement.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Don’t worry Tim – Even some of us Americans (such as myself) who grew up in America, still get confused as to how much to tip, or even if they should or shouldnt tip.. Such as: the bell hop? The valet? the Concierge?

    Sure, they all take tips, but how much is appropriate? What if you honestly just forget to tip will your stay experience be hurt? What about the latest in some luxury hotels – the front desk clerk who personally walks you to your room after check-in?

    Welcome to the club – you’re not the only one! πŸ™‚

  6. Anonymous says:

    As a brit living in the US, I know exactly what you mean – I’m good with restaurants/bars these days, but things like taxi drivers, bellhops and valet parkers still bamboozle me: how much makes me seem like a chump? How little makes me look cheap?

    However, going to have to burst your bubble a wee bit – I was in the Venetian for Mix too, and also had my toiletries upgraded over the course of a few days (from "green tea" to "bitter orange", and from a little bowl of cotton buds to the aforementioned box of travel accessories, etc) – BUT I didn’t leave the housekeepers a tip till the day I checked out – so I’m assuming we just caught them in the middle a rollout of new room items!

  7. Anna says:

    What? We’re supposed to tip housekeeping staff at hotels? I’m American and I didn’t know this either?! Maybe it’s only true at high-end hotels.  I went to MIX last year and never left money for housekeeping and the toiletries that I stashed in my luggage everyday were still replaced…  πŸ™‚

  8. Anonymous says:


       I actually hadn’t tipped the housekeeping staff but the items you described were still upgraded in my room everyday at MIX08.  This means that 1) You don’t need to tip to have gotten those "upgrades"  or 2)  Losing money at the Venetian tables is the same as leaving tip at which I should have received much more than a loofah πŸ™‚

  9. Anonymous says:

    Interesting, I have found the same thing. One thing that was odd was eating at a nice restaurant in Caesar’s palace – when the bill came there was an extra line for "captain’s tip". We had no idea what this was for. After reading online, it appears it’s for the guy who gets you a table when you first arrive and anywhere from $10-$25 is appropriate.

  10. Anonymous says:

    >>I also discovered that there are a lot more fun ways to "gamble" your money in Las Vegas than putting it into a slot machine.<<

    Or you could put your money into slut machines πŸ˜‰

  11. Anonymous says:

    Having been a Brit in North American for 12 years now, I still maintain the following:

    British service = glum but accurate; American service = cheery but less accurate.  I’m sure there are reasons on both sides.  

    I tip 10 to 20% at restaurants and consider these kinds of things, roughly, giving the benefit of doubt on many occasions:

    – Time to get in drinks order (and reaction to making food order if this took too long)

    – How excessive the time is waiting to order food after menus are closed – "do you need another minute?", then wait another 10 minutes… πŸ™

    – Whether I am informed upfront of potential delays in the kitchen

    – Whether I’m left waiting for food without any explanation, apology, or eta, for more than say 30 minutes (depending on food ordered).

    – Whether he/she bothers to check if the food was as ordered before placing it on table (and if anything is clearly burnt)

    – Whether the person cares if I have food in my mouth when asking how my food is

    – Checking on things other than 5 minutes from food delivery

    – Speed of bill payment once finished

    I usually leave change in my hotel room on the day I check out.  In UK/Canada this means £/$s.  I don’t like carrying change.

    Paying the bill in North America is a painful experience often requiring 5 trips to the table for the server:

    1 Ask for bill

    2 Get bill

    3 Provide credit card

    4 Get transaction to sign

    5 Give back signed slip because only an idiot leaves their credit card number on the table (huge means of # theft) – some now *** out the numbers, but I like to give people the paper if I’m happy with the service anyway

    Compare that to the UK:

    1 Ask for bill

    2 Person shows up with bill

    3 Give card which is run through mobile terminal requiring pin – finished.

    2&3 often combined

    I’ll be happy when NA gets chip & pin – in the mean time I get to confuse people in NA with my UK chip & pin card that asks for a pin and no signature πŸ™‚

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hey Tim,

    How did you indicate that the currency you left was a tip. Did you also leave a note saying so?

    If you hadn’t, then basically whoever cleaned your room saw some cash and just took it assuming it’s a tip? Wow!

  13. Tim Sneath says:

    Hi Nish, I left it on the bed in such a way as that it was pretty obvious that I was leaving it as a tip.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Tipping in America is different then every where else and also tipping in Vegas is different then all of America.  Most Americans traditionally tip 15% of their entire bill at most restaurants if they get average service.  More if they had great service and sometimes no tip for horrible service.  Vegas usually is 20% and that’s at most places.  People go to Vegas when they have money and tipping is a must.  I’m glad you had fun with the hotel service, may you enjoy yourself in Vegas next time you go.

  15. Anonymous says:

    One of the books on Vegas that I used for a recent trip suggested the following amounts:

    Bartenders: 15%

    Hotel Porters: $1 per bag, minimum total $2 ($5 for several bags)

    Taxis: 10%

    Concierges: $2 for making phone calls, up to $20 for securing tickets to sold out shows

    Cocktail waitresses: $1 per drink

    Maids: $1 to $2 per night, left in an obvious place usually the provided card

    Restraurants: 15 to 20%

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yes I know exactly what you mean.  Still I did find a useful pocket card called "ez tipping" was a helpful guide.  I brought my card in a store called "America!" for $1.49.  Digging it out of my wallet right now it seems to be made by a company called "Al Littleton" (possibly now called Cardit?) – some data mining located it here:

    Al Littleton Sales Co. Dba Card-it

    Po Box 250

    Bronston, Kentucky 42518

    Phone : (606) 561-6866

  17. Anonymous says:

    I live in Las Vegas, NV… Firstly it is easily one of the most exciting cities in the world being as you people (thats right I said you people!!!) come here to blow vast sums of money and party your asses off!! Which, well, F’n Rocks (thats right I said F’n!!!)  But as a former bartender at ____, I will be the first to say that tips are what make this city so awesome (you really can do anything that you want as long as you have a dollar) whether it be the extra $100 dollars for your party of 6 to skip the lines (2 hr)outside of a club to that extra $2 that makes sure the cocktail waitress is never out of sight!  Moreover, having been a part of our world leading service industry … I learned as we all do to judge… if you look like a canadian (code for poor tipper) then you will get poor service and please we remember the canadians as much as we remember the big tippers and should you return don’t plan on recieving… well anything for that matter but remotely as good as what you could have if you just went that extra dollar!!

    Sidenote: due to showboating winners raising the bar 25% is more the vegas expectation for tipping in your favorite Bar, Restaurant, etc.

  18. andyt99 says:

    The whole tipping ‘system’ is an exercise in generating confusion, guilt, anger and embarassment. Just pay the people what they deserve for the job they do and stop expecting them to beg from the customers. Expecting tips in the UK would be extremely demeaning and would be interpreted as "here, I don’t need this loose change, but you obviously do".

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