TripAdvisor released the results of its tipping survey today and it suggests that the international service industry should be sure to roll out the welcome mat for American tourists this summer.
The survey included more than 25,000 respondents from eight countries: Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. According to its findings, 60 percent of those polled from the U.S. always tip for service on vacation, whereas only 27 percent -- on average -- of respondents from the seven other countries included in the report testified to the same practice.
And while not every American tourist "always" tips, 97 percent tip for restaurant service, 79 percent tip bellmen, 73 percent add a tip to room service, and 69 percent tip housekeeping.
Still, there are no firm rules to travel tipping. Although TripAdvisor found that 56 percent of Americans think tipping is "expected," 26 percent of U.S. respondents admitted they are often unsure of what constitutes appropriate gratuity in the countries they visit.
Etiquette expert Diane Gottsman offered her two cents to help clear up some of the confusion.
"There are so many different customs and so many different countries," she said. "Every one of those countries is different. The best way to find out how to tip on vacation is to do your research before you go. Ask the hotels and the cruise lines what they suggest. Buy a travel book. You do want to know the customs."
Gottsman acknowledged that there is no one definitive guide to gratuity, but she concluded that "the bottom line is you should tip graciously and what you can afford. Remember that you're tipping on a service that was provided to you and you want to acknowledge [the staff's] efforts."
She stressed that not even bad service is an excuse to "skip a tip."
"If you do have a complaint, voice your complaint diplomatically [and] politely to the management, but don't skip that tip. Leave something. You might leave a minimum tip, but leave something. You do want to let the management know, though, because more often than not, they're going to make it right. Don't get caught up in the minutia of a dollar here or there."
American travelers would do well to follow Gottsman's advice. After all, we have a reputation to uphold. At a bare minimum, Gottsman shared the Top-5 Tipping 'Don'ts' that tourists of every nationality should keep in mind:
1. Don't ask the bellman for change. Arrive to the hotel prepared with sufficient bills, or ask the front desk for change when you check in.
2. Don't say, “I’ll get you later.” Be ready to tip when the service is provided.
3. Don't forget the valet. Taking your car, and bringing it back are not "free". Tip the valet $2 to $5 for special services.
4. Don't tip the housekeeper at the end of the stay. Tip daily as employees change from one day to another, $3 to $5 per day. A good rule of thumb is $1 per person staying in the room.
5. Don't leave a tip on the pillow. Think ahead and bring along a several small white envelopes or ask the front desk if they have tip envelopes. Print "For Housekeeping – Thank You". Enclose a daily tip, and leave it on the desk or counter. Yes, this requires some prior thought and planning, but you can do it.