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.