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On Tipping/Bribing $50 When You Check In To a hotel

View from the Wing today talks a bit about tipping at hotel checkin. For the past couple of years I’ve been giving $50 to the person checking me in at select hotels, and I have been treated to upgrades nearly all of the time. My friends have asked me repeatedly about this, so I will now answer all/most of your questions in my favorite non-haiku format, a fake Q&A:

Q: So, how does this work?
A: When I check in, I hand the clerk my ID, a folded $50 bill, and my credit cards – in that order.

Q: What do you say to the clerk?
A: I always say, “If you have any nicer rooms, I’d love to hear about them.” Gary at View from the Wing recommends asking for a specific room (ie, the Presidential Suite or whatever). I’ll try that next time.

Q: Don’t you feel like a douchebag?
A: No, not at all. Have you ever worked in a job where $50 would make a difference to you? I have – as a teenager I caddied and worked in a supermarket, and if anyone gave me a $50 tip, I would have done just about anything they asked. I never considered them to be a douchebag, no.

Q: Does this work in every city?
A: Probably, but I’ve limited it to Vegas and Miami, though a friend of mine just did it in Phoenix and while the young guy behind the desk was confused, he got hooked up pretty nicely.

Q: Does it always work?
A: Pretty much, yes. I have received extremely nice room upgrades at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas. Last time I checked in at THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay it turns out I had a reservation at the regular Mandalay Bay (not THE Hotel at Mandalay). No worries, the clerk put me in an upgraded room anyway. In Miami at the Shore Club, the clerk gave me back the $50, apologized for not having a suite available, and then upgraded my ground floor garden view room to a corner Oceanview.

Q: Has anyone just taken the money and given nothing?
A: There seems to be honor among thieves. I’ve never heard of that happening.

Q: Is there a certain type of clerk you look for?
A: No – I used to think I preferred going to male clerks, but I realize at this point that it truly doesn’t matter. Everyone likes $50.

There ya go – happy to answer any actual questions.

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  1. interesting viewpoint with the supermarket. Hits home.

    Would you give less and expect the same upgrade in poor countries? Yes, I am cheap.

  2. This has worked for me in Vegas with as little as $20 I went from Jr. Suite (glorified studio) to a full 1-Bed suite with full sized kitchen and double the sqft. Good tip to remember!

  3. It’s amazing (and wonderful) the leeway they give frontline hotel staff. If only it worked that way with airlines. Imagine…

  4. haha i love your take on this. i’ll remember this if i ever get to visit vegas.

  5. Oh, I’ll try on on hotels next time I say in one.

  6. Has anyone tried it on airlines?

  7. I don’t travel nearly as much as i should, but we will def try next time. I probably would have murdered somebody for 50 bucks when I was in my 20’s. Hell, I might do it now…in theory, of course.

  8. Tipping in advance of service definitely helps. I have 2 stories:

    Visiting my brother in St. Petersburg, Fl for Christmas, we researched where the best rooms were in advance of our trip. My brother went into the resort during the night shift and asked if he could select a room for our reservation while calmly setting a $20 bill on the counter. We got top floor ocean view suite for a week.

    In Cancun at a 5 star hotel during Christmas was even a better deal. We wanted to bring Christmas gifts to a needy family with kids, and requested the hotel HR staff to select worthy family. We got the bio on 2 boys who had been orphaned from a worker who died in the last month. We brought about $40 worth of toys, wrapped, with a card and requested that the Concierge staff deliver it because we wanted to remain anonymous. Result: the kids were blessed and we got an upgrade to beach side suite in a building that only had 3 suites per floor. Sweet.

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