The Ultimate Luxury: A Luxury Hotel with No Tips Required

Last Updated Mar 22, 2010 4:57 PM EDT

Chicago's Elysian Hotel, a luxury 188-room hotel where rooms start at $350 a night, has adopted a no-tipping policy to relieve some of the pressure on its guests -- finally creating a real luxury environment. Instead of nickel-and-diming customers, Elysian provides a safe haven from hotels constantly picking their pockets. Owner/developer David Pisor spent most of his life frustrated about shelling out $5 and $10 bills before he even got to his room.
"I don't want to hear, 'Do you need a hand, sir?'," Pisor told me the other day in an interview. "I don't think it's luxurious. I think it's incredibly not luxurious. You're thinking about it the whole time as opposed to just enjoying yourself."

If someone (usually a man) absolutely insists, then they can tip - but there's no pressure to do so, he said. Customers are told when they book the room and again at the front door when they check in, he told me.

In order to justify the "no tipping required" Pisor hired one person to do multiple jobs, so if guests do tip, it's one person instead of three. He also hires staff from retail and other industries where tips are not expected. Some Four Seasons hotels in resort areas also have a no tipping policy but add a daily surcharge to guests' tab.

Having stayed at a few Ritz Carltons, I can say that many of its employees seemed to expect tips from me. I'm not known for my generosity in tipping because I often travel light and don't require help with my luggage. However, I found that the higher-end hotels had more surcharges, expected more tipping, and offered few if any free amenities (expect to pay for WiFi. Grrrrr.)

However, guests don't want more service, they want better service. In that respect, I think Pisor combining jobs into one person is a smart one. If someone wants to tip, they can, but only one person instead of three.

Tipping should be done to show appreciation and should never be required. And in an economy where people are watching every dollar, I think Pisor has figured out something than many chains have missed.

Photo: PDR