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Hilton CEO Changes His Tune on Tipping Housekeeping

After causing controversy among the travel community (and the internet at large) with his remark at last week’s 41st annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, Hilton’s CEO has rethought his stance on neglecting to tip the housekeeping staff when he stays at hotels.

"I typically do not leave a tip," Nassetta, who reportedly earned $19.8 million last year alone, said in response to a question from New York Times columnist and CNBC co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin about how much he normally leaves in a hotel as a gratuity.

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Ironically, Nassetta had just finished professing to a ballroom filled with over 2,000 hospitality industry professionals that the key to Hilton’s immense success has been its focus on its people. He also emphasized that he had worked his way up to his current position as the head of one of the world’s largest hotel chains from, “about as low as you can go.” Specifically, he started as a junior-level engineer at a Holiday Inn, where he talked about using his plumbing skills to deal with “code browns.”

Perhaps, since engineering isn’t truly a guest-service role, Nassetta hasn’t had the personal experience of earning what is often minimum wage as a base salary, with the expectation being (at least in the U.S.) that such employees can supplement their income per the tipping system in order to make up a living wage. But isn’t that pretty standard knowledge and just common courtesy?

A Hilton spokesperson seemed to think otherwise when issuing a follow-up statement sent to The Points Guy to clarify the CEO’s position: “It’s Chris’ view that every Hilton Team Member works hard. Rather than selectively reward some Team Members, he is focused on providing meaningful economic opportunities for all 400,000 Team Members. That's why Hilton is the No. 1 place to work in the US and No. 2 in the world, as voted by our own employees.”

It seems that clarification may not have inspired too much public confidence, however, since Nassetta—a few days on—just issued another statement to Inc. magazine, in which he seems to have rethought his stance: “When it comes to tipping in hotels, I have always had a different approach to work and personal travel. I also never meant for my approach to work stays at Hilton properties to discourage others from tipping when they are traveling. Going forward, I will tip when traveling for both work and personal travel.”

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