How do I know what to tip?

This has been the most frequently asked question lately in my e-mail box. It's also one of the questions I'm least comfortable answering. Tipping is a matter of individual taste, preference and budget. Obviously someone who has a $2000+/day gambling budget is going to much more comfortable tipping than someone who is trying to do an entire trip on less than $200 including hotel, food, shows, and some nickel slots. There are no hard and fast rules or guidelines for tipping, it's all about what you're comfortable with. I find that I tip a lot more on a winning trip than I do on a losing trip.

I have talked to a number of employees in different areas you will come in contact with on your trip. Surprisingly, almost all of them said the same thing, "I am happy with any tip, no matter how small." Many said that they don't expect a tip at all from anyone, but I'm not sure I believe that. :) I have written up some guidelines. Obviously if you're betting black chips ($100) I would expect that you would tip more, and likewise, if you're on a tight budget and betting nickels, maybe tip a little less. The bottom line is that you need to do what is most comfortable for you. But always say thank you for good service, fill out a comment card or write a letter when you get home letting casino managers know about exceptional service you have received.

Here we go!


AT THE AIRPORT:

Skycaps (the people at the curb who can check your bags instead of at the ticket counter) - $1.00 per bag

There are no other positions that get a tip. Ticket counter employees are specifically instructed not to take tips for any reason. Wheelchair service attendants can accept tips, but they are not allowed to solicit them.

 

GETTING AROUND TOWN:

Airport/Rental Car Shuttle Bus Drivers: $1-2 for helping with bags or for exceptional advice or assistance with something.

Limousine Driver: (note: Las Vegas Limo company's shuttle service should be treated like shuttle busses above) If you rent a limousine for a special occasion or for a tour of the strip, standard tip is usually $5 per person or 10% of the bill, whichever is more.

Free Hotel Shuttles: I have to admit that I rarely tip on these busses unless the driver does something exceptional. I have no idea why I don't, but it never occurs to me. If a driver is friendly and funny or helps me with questions I have, etc. I will tip. Usually $1-2 into the tip cup that is usually in the front of the van somewhere.

Taxi Drivers: I'm not sure I use any kind of mathematical formula for this one. It's not a percentage, but more of a feeling based upon how my ride was and what the final numbers are on the meter. If I've had a short trip down the strip with no conversation or a grumpy driver. I might give the driver a $5 bill for a $4.10 tab. If the driver was particularly friendly or informative, I might throw in an extra $1. For a longer drive, say $14.30, I round up to $15 and add a couple of dollars. I'd probably give $17-18 for that ride. It all depends on the service I get from the driver. (For Example - short story: On my 30th birthday, Dan and I got separated at Ceasars Palace and I had to take a taxi back to the Golden Nugget downtown. I was really upset and did a little bit of crying in the cab. The taxi driver was great and helped to reassure me that Dan would be at the hotel waiting for me when I got there. I believe the tab came to just under $14, but I gave the driver $20. I felt that was going above and beyond his job description and I wished that I had more to give at that time because he really did make me feel a lot better.)

 

IN THE HOTEL:

At the front desk: This is one I've never done, but others swear on its effectiveness. Depending on the level of the hotel you're staying at, fold a $20 or $50 bill into fourths (in half and in half again) and put it in your pocket while you wait in line at the front desk. Once you get up to the counter, put the bill into your hand. Place your hand on the desk with the bill sticking out a little bit. Be sure the desk clerk can see the denomination of the bill and slide it towards them a little, while still under your hand. Ask, "Any chance we can get an upgrade to a suite?" Normally the front desk clerk will type something into a computer and/or go talk to someone else standing behind the counter (usually the hotel manager or supervisor). If they say that they are able to upgrade you, you slide that bill over towards them and they will take it from you as you remove your hand. If they say that nothing is available, you take the bill back, slide it back into your pocket and say, "Thank you for checking. Can I get something with a nice view?"

Bellman: I would say that this one is pretty standard. Most people tip $1-2 per bag. I would recommend that if you're staying at a four star hotel like Bellagio or Four Seasons that you consider going $2-3 per bag. Typically you tip when they deliver the bags to your room, not when they take your bags at the curb.

Valet Parking: This one is my favorite. I have a good system for this. I will have $3 in my pocket when I go to pick up my car at the valet. If the car is nearby and the valet friendly, they get the whole $3. If there valet is grumpy, but the car gets there within a minute or two, $2. If the valet isn't particularly friendly or the wait is long (sometimes I've waited as long as 20 minutes!) they get $1 or nothing if the service is particularly bad. You can also tip when dropping off your car. Sometimes if I'm just running in to the hotel to change clothes or to pick up something, I will stip the valet a couple of dollars and say that I'm just running in and ask them to keep it close. If they do, I give them another couple bucks when I pick up the car.

Housekeeping: I have to admit that this was a tough one for me and I was a holdout for a long time, but it really does make a difference. Leaving $1-2 for the maid makes a big difference in the quality of the service you get from housekeeping. You'll find more/better towels and soaps, shampoos and other extras. The housekeeping department works very hard for very little money and your extra couple bucks can and will make a difference. In addition, an extra couple bucks for special service is called for. If you need your room done quickly or if you ask for extra towels, soaps or other service, leave a note with a few dollars. I'd also leave a little extra if I had been having a little too much fun in my room and left a larger than normal mess. :)

NOTE: Here are some suggestions I got in my email. Hope they help you too!

Shimmer suggests leaving the tip on the pillowcase with a note saying "Thanks" or something similar. Dan suggests leaving your tip under or inside the little note that says, "Your room has been prepared by......." if one is provided.

Sandy leaves a couple of dollars sticking out from under the pillow while Kumar says to leave the money with a note that says "For Housekeeping". Gerald left a note with a tip and got extra coffee packets for the coffee maker in the room. From one package a day before tip to four packages after the tip!

I got the inside scoop from Jim who says, "My neice is a maid in Las Vegas and says maids can only accept tips left on the beds pillow. Money left on tables or stands must be left (if guest is saying multiple nights), or turned into lost and found if the guest is gone." Well, that is good enough for me. I'll be leaving my tips on the pillow. Thanks for your input!

Maintenance: If a hotel maintenance worker comes to you room to open a stuck suitcase or to perform a service specifically (not to fix a dripping faucet, etc) a tip of $1-2 (more if the task was complex) is warranted.

Concierge: A tip of $2-5 for getting a dinner reservation is normal. A $5-10 tip for getting show tickets and upwards of $20 for hard to get reservations at a restaurant or sold-out show would be nice.

Restaurant employees: Restaurant tipping is probably the one we're all most comfortable with. The standard is 15-20% of the total check. However, if you recieve a meal in the coffee shop or other restaurant as a comp for your play, or if you're dining on a 2-for-1 coupon, be sure to tip the wait staff based upon what your total check WOULD BE without the comp/coupon.

Buffet Staff: At a buffet, it is normal to leave $1-2 per person based upon service. Were drinks brought on a regular basis? Were plates cleared often enough? If you're at a lesser expensive buffet, you can get away with $1 per person, but some of the buffets are upwards of $25+ per person and $2-3 is reasonable.

 

IN THE GAMING AREA:

Cocktail Waitresses: $1 per drink is standard. I've tipped more and I've tipped less. This is a hard one for me because budgets are so different for everyone. I think that a person who is playing nickels should be allowed to tip less than the person playing $5 slots or $100 blackjack. The argument against that is that the drinks don't weigh any less and the bar isn't closer to the higher cost machines/tables. I know they're right, but it's a matter of budget and disposable income. I think that $1 is a good tip for a cocktail waitress. I have tipped $0.50 for bottled water on occasion and once or twice I haven't had the money out when they arrived and they've walked away without a tip. I usually try to catch them and tip twice as much on the next time around. The same goes for playing at the bar. Tip the bartender $1 for a comped drink. You'll be amazed at the difference in the service you get.

Casino/Slot Hosts: NO TIP!!! This is a biggie. No cash money tips can be accepted by any slot or casino host. It's too much like a bribe as they are the ones who determine whether or not you get that free room or comped meal. However, you can give them gifts. I highly recommend you bringing a gift with "local flair" to a casino host who has gone the extra mile for you. I like food items from my local area like an assortment of jams, or a nice bottle of wine. Also acceptable are things like scarves, ties, lapel pins, tie clips, candy, etc. Gift certificates are a grey area. Some casinos are okay with them, others frown upon it. Another nice thing to do is to send flowers or a plant, but the best thing you can do according to the slot hosts I spoke with is to write a very nice letter to their boss letting them know how well you were treated and how much the assistance of your host contributed to the wonderful time you had in their casino.

Change personnel: I get flamed for this one all the time. I do not feel a need to tip the change people who come around to fill the hopper or count out any hand pay jackpot that I get. Many people say you should tip 10% of your winnings, but I don't see them reimbursing me 10% when I lose. If a change person was helpful in finding a particular game or getting bills to work in the machine that results in a win, I will share. And in that instance, 10% is probably fair. However, there are a number of times I don't have any contact with a change person. I put a bill into the machine, play for hours, lose a fair amount and then get a $200 hand pay after putting $180 into the machine. After waiting upwards of 20 minutes for someone to bring me my money, I don't feel the need to hand over my $20 in winnings to the change person just because they count out some $20 bills for me. Feel free to share the wealth if you're winning, but I don't ever feel obligated to tip the change personnel.

Dealers: Here's another one that's personal preference. You can occasionally throw a chip to the dealer as a tip or "toke", but I prefer to bet for the dealer. Ask the dealer at your particular game how to place a bet for them. They will be happy to help you.

 

I hope this has been helpful. It's certainly not a complete guide and it doesn't encompass everyone. It's just supposed to give you an idea of what I do and what is "industry standard" so you can make your own determination on who to tip and how much to give. Please be sure to do whatever you're most comfortable with. I believe that tipping is for excellent service. Never feel pressured into tipping anyone for any reason.

Also, I'd like to repeat that one thing I heard over and over while researching this article was that the best thank you that you can give to a casino employee is to take a minute to wrote on the comment card of the hotel, or write a letter to the casino or hotel manager when you get home, and tell the employee's boss what an excellent job the employee did and how much their professionalism and courtesy helped make your stay that much better. They hear complaints all the time and a kudoz and acknowledgement now and then is a welcome event.

Enjoy!


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