Saturday, 8 February 2014

The change you've been looking for - hints on tipping in Orlando

We Zontians are always up for a bit of controversy and discussion. We are not phased by robust exploration of multiple perspectives and allow differing opinions to co-exist.

And with such a spirit I boldly write the TIPPING IN THE USA post!

Let the flood gates open and the rush of advice and conflict pour in!  However, there are some topics I will not debate with you, including:
Guidelines from the Tipping Sticky on the DisBoards
Act 1 - Setting the Scene

The Australian walks nervously into the hotel. Heightened sense of awareness - looking and watching for the smiling, helpful people. A hand reaches forward towards the luggage and the Aussies lurches forward, grabbing the bag and blurts awkwardly "no worries, mate. I've got it".

Walking into the bar, the Australian decides to order the Midnight Madness specialty cocktail.  After handing over a $20 bill, the barman gives back all of the change in coins. The Aussie wonders how much of the coinage can be jammed into pockets.

The average Australian arriving in the USA will be cautious - tipping rarely happens here but we don't want someone to spit in our drinks. Everyone knows that it is the deal and everyone has a different opinion about how it works and what to do.

Act 2 - The Cast

The leads - Wait staff in table service restaurants : In Orlando, I tipped between 18 - 20% of the pre-tax bill, and that is average. Disney very conveniently calculate an 18% and 20% tip for you - I added that and then rounded up the bill. Your tip is the same for buffet meals - they still bring drinks, clean the plates away, make sure you have what you need. And apparently bar staff are meant to be tipped - especially depending on the complexity of your order. And maybe sommeliers. (I have never done this).

I always charge the tip to the room account with the whole bill, but you can pay cash. This one is a given - unless you have truly dreadful service.

Thank you Touring Plans Blog - who have the most wonderful article on tipping

Regular appearances - Mousekeeping (Housekeeping) staff: Pretty much everyone tips the housekeepers. $1 per day per person in the room. In fancy homemade Disney themed envelopes.

yes - it's a thing. Have you chosen your theme for your homemade tip holding envelopes?
So there is a huge debate about whether housekeepers are a "tipped" position or not. Whether you leave daily amounts or a big lump at the end (you may have different housekeepers throughout your stay). If you end up with a room full of sand or you've spilt the toiletries everywhere - then leave a tip. You won't find a trashed room if you don't tip. Any loose change left lying in the open will be assumed a tip and taken by the housekeepers. Sometimes I tip - sometimes I don't. I have NEVER gotten better service (extra toiletries, towel animals etc) because I left a tip.

except for the time they left me this towel kitten

Wardrobe and Costume - Baggage Handlers: This one is like those drinking games. If someone touches your bag - that's $1 - per bag. Touches 3 bags? $3 dollars. Bus driver loads your bag - $1, bellhop holds your bag in storage - that's $1. Bag delivered to room - another $1.
Mickey now expects $8
At Dallas Fort Worth airport they have curb-side check in. You pay extra for it AND you tip the bag handler $1 per bag.

Carry your own bags and avoid this pain.

Transportation - valet, limo, bus drivers, taxi's: Cab drivers - just give them 15%, say nothing, accept it and you won't risk abuse coming your way. Bus Drivers are a mixed lot. I have never tipped a Disney driver. However - other bus companies are not so accommodating. $1 / $2 per person will suffice. Bus' usually have a sign up front that indicates if a gratuity would be nice.

Getting picked up at the airport by one of those town cars? 20% - no argument. In cash - to the driver.

FL Tours take away all doubt
Valet - OK - this is my sore point. I just don't get the point of tipping the valet. When I tip wait staff, whilst their pay structure includes tipping, the wait staff add value and service to the food delivery. But Valet is parking your car for you - and you pay for it. It already is the value add thing to car parking. Is that the kid ran to get the car instead of walking? Isn't that a management / supervision thing? I mean - how does the kid add any value to the valet process?  The other aspect is if you pay on arrival, your car will come back faster. I suppose valet is one of life's mysteries to me.

OK - he is paid a poverty wage.  So if the dude runs for your car - esp in the rain or heat - give him a dollar or two.

Make up! - Hairdressers, beauticians, massage therapists: Always 15 - 20% of the total cost of the service. I have stopped going to US spas, massage and beauticians - FAR too expensive. The cost of a massage is about 25% higher than Australia. Then I have to add 20% to the therapist. Then they push products at the end. Their spas and salons are very plush and you will have a luxurious time - but you will pay exorbitantly for the privilege.

Act 3 - The story plays out

I suspect tipping is the reason why the USA still has $1 notes.

The Guest Services / Reception / Check in Desks at the hotels will exchange your big notes for $1 bills.  It is poor form to ask a service person for change when tipping.  So keep a stash of $1 notes ready.

This, too, is a thing. Disney have their own currency system, which you can use on WDW property. Except not recommended for tipping.
You don't have to tip in the theme parks - except the wait staff at any table service restaurant. So no tipping guest services / tour guides / ride loaders / counter service / food cart people. At Disney, the staff member will refuse the tip if offered.

Disney hotel concierge will decline tips, but the Marriott concierge will accept! Especially if you have asked for a complex thing.

There is a lot of variation and inconsistency with tipping. These guidelines are the average - sort of. Disney are famous for their incredible customer service. Tipping doesn't really change the level of service you will get. Because you tip AFTER you receive the service, this is not a mechanism to get the waiter to like you. No-one is going to give you bad service because you didn't tip (although some taxi drivers might complain)

Whatever you are budgeting for your trip to Convention - just add 20%. It will cover all that tipping and leave you a bit for additional expenses always encountered.

If not sure, just ask. The kayaking tour guys didn't accept a tip - they said they were the owner of the business and there was no point!

Act 4 - You've seen the ad, now read the book.

a real book -  and guess what? the amount you tip has nothing to do with service. available from Amazon

Google is your friend. You will find a plethora of ideas and guidance on tipping. Every guide book, every chat board and travel forum will have lots of discussion on tipping.

This blog post from Touring Plans is a great post in itself AND at the end has links to more very good advice sites.

Let the heckling begin!

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