Unless you are part of a royal family, it is unlikely that you have had extensive experience with a staff that includes a butler. However, if you're checking into a luxury resort or even a fancy hotel, there is a chance you'll be assigned a hotel butler who will assist you from the time you get checked into your room.
Like Mr. Carson from "Downtown Abbey," these butlers are on a payroll, but it is supplemented by tips from the guests they serve. Sometimes one suite or couple will have a dedicated butler who works for them exclusively; however, it's more common for a hotel butler to serve a number of units.
As a result, butlers depend on your tips to make a living wage while working in the hotel guest services industry, so it's important for you to understand when and how to tip if you've received help from a modern days Jeeves.
Responsibilities of Hotel Butlers
A hotel butler performs services that allow guests to spend more time enjoying their vacations, and you can often think of a butler as a personal assistant.
As a result, butler services at a hotel or resort can include carrying bags, unpacking and re-packing luggage, orienting guest to the facility, making reservations, delivering room-service food, accepting garments for laundry and ironing, coordinating spa services and excursions, drawing your bath, and setting out a turndown amenity.
However, a hotel butler is not a chef, confessor, bartender, stevedore, private secretary, nanny, dog walker, or a chambermaid. And even though he or she may tidy your room, they are not responsible for cleaning it fully.
Tipping a Hotel Butler
How much to tip your butler can depend on the number and quality of services provided, plus whether the butler worked for you exclusively or served multiple guests with the same service.
It is considered standard to tip a butler who provides good service 5 percent of the room rate. For example, if you stay at a place that costs $250 per night for four nights, the total room rate would be $1,000, and the butler's share would be $50. That said, how much you tip your butler is ultimately up to your discretion.
While a butler may appreciate a one-time tip of $5 for delivering a meal, he or she will appreciate a larger tip at the end of your stay even more. Although a butler will accept a tip at any time during your stay, including after each service is rendered, it is customary to tip your butler at the beginning when he or she delivers your bags to your room or upon checking out of the hotel.
It's fine to hand a cash tip directly to your butler, but it's even nicer if you put it in an envelope with a note of thanks. If he or she is not available when you check out, leave a sealed envelope with the butler's name on it with the concierge (who also deserves a tip if she or he provides service that goes above and beyond) or staff at the front desk.
Tipping Specialty Butlers
Some hotels might have special butlers who are dedicated to different expertise. A technology or e-butler, for example, is a staff member who is there to help with technology problems, like a frozen computer or missing emails. A pool butler is dedicated to keeping the pool area clean and making sure all the guests are well taken care of, which sometimes even means applying sunscreen upon request. Ski resorts even have boot butlers, who have the job of cleaning and returning each guest's equipment after a day on the slopes.
In the case of these niche specialty butlers, tipping expectations can really vary across the board. The best thing to do is to ask the front desk what is an appropriate amount.
Although the butler often coordinates with other members of the staff, such as housekeeping, they are not pooling tips, so remember to leave a gratuity for any special service another member of the staff (room-service or package delivery) and especially for the housekeeping crew.
Standard gratuities at high-end hotels are $4-5 per night for housekeeping—the tips can be left in an envelope addressed to the cleaning staff by name or generically, or hand the envelope to your butler and request that it be distributed to the team.