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In the wider corporate travel world, tipping is in danger of becoming one of those ‘elephant in the room’ issues


irritation by some frequent travellers that they were being pressured into leaving a gratuity for maids for simply carrying out their jobs, to those who felt Marriott was trying to get guests to subsidise the wages of the hotel chain’s cleaners, its largest single group of employees. While many other groups of employ- ees in Marriott hotels – such as bar staff and porters – are expected to earn tips as they interact with guests and provide a service, housekeepers are classed as working in ‘non-tipping’ positions and so gratuities do not officially form part of their remuneration.


Marriott has since ended its participa- tion in Shriver’s initiative, telling BBT: “Although we’re no longer a programme partner, many of our hotels continue to offer gratuity envelopes for guests who may voluntarily want to show their gratitude to their room attendants.”


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CHANGING PRACTICES Whether guests are so far taking up this offer is unclear. But what is becoming ap- parent is that the whole practice of giving a gratuity in the travel and hospitality world is rising up the agenda. Some New York restaurants, for example, such as Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe group, have decided to abolish tipping and raise prices instead, leaving the overall cost to the diner broadly the same. All staff, not just waiters, will, in theory, benefit. In the UK, moreover, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also investigating what happens to your tips after a number of UK mid-market restaurant chains – including Cote and Pizza Express – were ‘outed’ in the media last summer for allegedly not passing on to their staff all the service charge automati- cally levied on bills.


This led to UK Business Secretary Sajid


Javid to launch a public consultation on the issue, arguing that “when a diner leaves a tip, they rightly expect it to go to the staff in full”. Previous research in 2009 had found that one in five restaurants did not pass tips on to their staff, he added. The consultation period ended in November and the government is expected to reveal its findings and possible need for action – including legislation – shortly.


HIDDEN EXPENSES Yet whatever the government decides, it is not just a problem for hotels and restaurants. In the wider corporate travel world, tipping is in danger of


becoming one of those ‘elephant in the room’ issues: a hidden expense that can destabilise reimbursement policies and unsettle those employees out on the road on company business. The questions of when, who and how much to tip are dif- ficult enough for many people who find the whole practice rather embarrassing, without the added pressure of wonder- ing whether or not your employer will reimburse the cost. “Tipping is very much a grey area for a lot of businesses and we don’t come across many clients who proactively ask for tipping functionality to be built into their T&E [travel and expense] platform,” points out Kyle Ferguson, CEO of HRG’s expense management arm Fraedom. What makes the whole tipping issue


more complicated is the fact that many companies – especially larger ones – are fairly relaxed about gratuities captured on corporate cards as not only are these easily identified but also they are in line with expectations. But should an employee, for example, be allowed to tip more than the ‘usual’ amount for exceptional service above the level expected? Or is it right for the company to decide this is a personal judgment and not one that the employer should be expected to meet? Furthermore, the loitering elephant is joined by a more practical concern: if the tip is paid in cash and then all or part disallowed, the employee would only be human to feel rather disgruntled with his or her employer for being out of pocket. Using a corporate card obviously helps


ameliorate this situation, since gratuities are either included automatically or can be added at time of payment. Fraedom’s Ferguson points out that “a number of expense management systems have the ability to track and reconcile gratuities paid on cards”, citing advancements in mobile technology. “Last September we launched our smart scanning functional- ity which allows a traveller to take a photo of a receipt with their mobile device and upload it straight into the Fraedom platform.”


BBT JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016 35


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