Many hotel guests dislike fumbling for change and figuring out how much and how often to tip whom. Room service, concierge, bellhop, doorman, and cleaning staff: All that tipping at better hotels adds up to an unnecessary nuisance. But at San Francisco's Inn at Union Square, employees haven't accepted tips since June 1995, when a customer's suggestion for a no-tipping policy was adopted.

General manager Brooks Bayly's logic was that the nuisance of tipping was inconsistent with the hotel's mission statement designating excellent service as the highest goal. Customers love not having to worry about tipping, says Bayly, and they no longer have to get change for tips at the front desk, which used to happen five to 10 times a day.

Wages were increased to compensate for average annual tip income, so the Inn's 24 employees don't miss having to put their hands out. They also appreciate having a stable income without seasonal fluctuations. Most staff elected to put the salary increase into a retirement fund.

The policy gives the 30-room hotel a unique positioning tool. Mystery shoppers report that service remains excellent and that employees really don't take tips. A small rate increase now balances the higher payroll cost, but customers still perceive the change as a customer-service improvement. When guests are asked on open-ended comment cards what they liked about their hotel stay, the no-tipping policy is the third or fourth most frequent response.

Copyright 1999 G&J USA Publishing