Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gratitude for lack of gratuity

I'm not one to write reviews of restaurants or hotels or any of the other myriad things that can be reviewed on myriad internet outlets. In large part, I don't perceive that my tastes and standards are necessarily such that they're really applicable to the general public (I'm not saying they're better—in fact, I'm implying that they're worse, but let's move on), and in even larger part it's because my brain doesn't tend to think of such experiences in terms that would make for a pithy assessment. And by eschewing reviewing things I also avoid my brain's tendency to overanalyze; you see how these posts go when I'm merely blathering on about whatever pops to mind, without specific focus when I start, so imagine how out of control attempting a review could get.

So what follows is not a review.

Actual view from our patio.
When recently we vacationed in Maui we spent the first two nights in Hana, at the only resort in that small town on the eastern side of the island: the erstwhile Hotel Hana (now called Travaasa, as it was just bought by that company which is now a chain of two—its other facility is apparently in Austin). I will note that we had a splendid time, and were I inclined to offer a review I would recommend it if one were considering a stay there. Spring for the extra bucks and get one of the cottages with the ocean view.

I should note: The thing about the (former) Hotel Hana is there are no televisions or alarm clocks in the rooms. It is a place to unplug from technology (although cell phone coverage was good, so you can still be connected that way if that's important to you). It is not filled with screaming kids, and I cannot imagine anyone being loud would go over well. (Okay, that's as close to a review as we'll get.)

But what I liked best, and the reason I'm composing this entry at all, was something subtler: you do not tip. When you check in, the helpful person behind the desk explicitly notes (as part of the schpeel) that other than in the restaurant and bar, the staff doesn't get gratuities. That's explained better than I am doing now, in a way that puts you at ease to not have to slip some money into the hand of every person who carries your bag or brings you a towel. And the staff was almost ridiculously friendly and helpful without that!

Obviously, it is not an inexpensive place to stay (although if we could afford it you know it's not the ritziest place), and presumably the implication is the staff is compensated well enough and they hire friendly people so that the wheels don't need to be greased (so to speak) in the typical hotel way. So rather than force the staff to get tips, I assume they simply pay them well enough (and factor that into what they charge up front).

And that was awesome.

I know I sound like some sort of cheapskate, but what I really am is someone who doesn't want to have to keep a stack of bills in his pocket while he's supposedly relaxing.

By contrast, for the second part of our trip we went over to Wailea and stayed at a big ritzy resort. It was fine (although the only way we could afford that was reduced rates because the facilities were undergoing construction in certain parts). There I did feel compelled to slip a few bucks into the hand of even the guy on the beach who set up the umbrella for us. And while that was actual physical labor, and the guy was very nice, I still had to bring my wallet to the sand. (Yes, I simply could have not tipped him, and seemed like a cheapskate—I'm sure plenty of other tourists do not tip—but for those who are relying on tips I do want to reward good service.) But having just come from someplace where having to think of such things was unnecessary, I saw it as an inconvenience that I gladly would have paid a slightly higher room rate to not have to worry about.

I'm sure I am somewhat alone in that, so you see why I don't write reviews.

But I want to reiterate that we are not adverse to tipping. In fact, we will usually tip well (20% or more) to servers (unless the service is just actively bad); we know that's not an easy job, and that much of what they get relies on that. But at a hotel I should be able to have the housekeeping staff make the bed without having to leave money on the stand afterward. Perhaps I'm making distinctions that others would not.

Oh, but speaking of tipping servers in restaurants: As noted, we tip well. But when the restaurant does something where it factors in the gratuity as part of the bill (which happened at this one restaurant where we had dinner in Kihei)—because we ate there early, we got a discount on the meal, but then the tip is already included, based on the pre-discount amount—so that was all the server got. Which was less than we probably would have tipped on our own (because the service was good), so in that instance the server was done in by the management. (I concede they must do the already-included "service charge"—as it was called on the bill—because many customers would otherwise tip based on the after-discount total, and so in those cases the server benefits. However, with us, it backfired somewhat; if you're declaring your own tip, that's all I'm giving you.)

So, to wrap up: Hotels, pay your staff better so we, the customers, can show our gratitude by repeat business rather than through little gratuities throughout our stay. The last thing I want to do when preparing for vacation is having to go get a wad of small bills from the bank for that purpose (because if the staff thinks they're getting a twenty for getting a few bags from the lobby to the room… well, if all I have is twenties, then they will—but I won't think they deserve it.

And I probably won't be back. Nor will I recommend your establishment (on the off-chance I ever do find myself inclined to write a review).

Not that you'll ever notice this, but I like to pretend someone of note will see such a suggestion and deem it worth implementing.

1 comment:

  1. I agree - if they declare what the tip is, then that's what they get. But I like Hotel Hana's idea - hire happy people, pay them well, and skip the tipping.


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