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May 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Who's Who at the Hotel - May 1998 Current Issue
May 1998
Who's Who at the Hotel

...and why do you tip them, anyway?

BY SARA J.F. BRALEY

When it's time to get down to negotiations, do you talk to the director of sales or the sales manager? And, who's your go-to person when there's a glitch during a dinner event? While a one-job-fits-all hotel employee might be ideal as far as a planner is concerned, the reality is you may give direct orders to 20 or more people during an event. To help minimize the confusion, M&C has compiled a list of who's who - and who gets what when you're doling out gratuities.

The following job descriptions were adapted from the American Hotel & Motel Association; tipping advice was gleaned from Meeting Professionals International's "The All-Purpose Tipping Guide" ($5 for members and $7 for non-members; 972-702-3000) and the book Professional Meeting Management, published by the Professional Convention Management Association ($49.95 for members, $54.95 non-members; 205-823-7262), as well as advice from seasoned planners. (For additional advice, see "Questions Everyone Asks About Tipping" on page 87.)

The general manager (GM) oversees everything that happens at the hotel, keeping a watchful eye on all departments. Planners rarely deal directly with the GM, unless the hotel is small she is doubling as the director of sales. The GM receives no tip.

The director of sales (DOS) monitors all bookings at the hotel. This is your contact if you're having trouble with the sales manager booking your event. When it comes to the nitty gritty of negotiating rates and booking guest and meeting rooms, the sales manager handles everything. Neither gets a tip, but some planners give the sales manager a small gift, such as candy or a plant.

The director of convention services is the head of the convention services department, a position most often found at larger hotels. Planners generally will not deal with the director unless their meeting is of particular importance to the property. Suggested tip: $75-$200, only if you have worked directly with him. The convention services manager (CSM) is your main hotel contact once the negotiations are concluded. She helps arrange the details of each event, from coffee breaks to general sessions. The CSM also can put you in contact with others in the hotel who will play a role in servicing your meeting. Suggested tip: $35-$100. Helping out the CSM is the convention services coordinator. He may be your main contact if your meeting is relatively small or uncomplicated. Suggested tip: $20-$50.

All catering and food operations at the hotel, including the restaurants, fall under the food and beverage director's responsibilities, but meeting planners generally do not work directly with him. The catering director is your contact for discussing menu options and pricing. Suggested tip: $100.

On the day of your meal functions, the banquet manager organizes the room setup and oversees the wait staff. Suggested tip: $30. The banquet captain, on the other hand, works with the planner during the meal function itself, taking care of any troubles that might arise and overseeing the event as it happens. Suggested tip: $35-$50.

When your group hits the lobby, the front desk manager oversees the reservations clerks. No tip.

Taking care of luggage and rooms are the bell staff and the housekeeping staff. When the group is full of seasoned travelers, planners often leave the tipping of these staff members to the attendees. To avoid double-tipping, planners who arrange to tip the housekeepers and bellmen can put a card in the guest rooms or registration packets to inform attendees that there is no need to tip. Suggested tips: housekeeping, $1-$2 per attendee; bell staff, $2-$4 per attendee; head of house staff or executive housekeeper, $35. Some planners also tip the bell captain $20.

The concierge is on hand to perform a laundry list of guest services, from recommending off-property restaurants and making dinner reservations to rearranging travel plans, booking rental cars and giving directions. While guests might tip the concierge for individual service, planners generally don't, unless he performs particular duties for the group as a whole, such as arranging a visit to a local attraction. In such cases, tip $20-$75, or give a gift in that price range.

The engineering department, overseen by the engineering supervisor, takes care of the heating/cooling and lighting of meeting rooms. Most planners do not tip the engineering staff.

Many hotels have their own audiovisual departments to do everything from plugging in microphones to running general sessions. The audiovisual technician makes sure all the technology is compatible and in working order, and (you hope) ensures a trouble-free session. Suggested tip: $20-$150, depending on the complexity of tasks.

If you're bringing in expensive equipment or hosting high-profile executives or celebrities, meet with the security director to arrange extra protection. No tip.

When fun is on the agenda, you'll spend time planning with the spa director, golf pro, director of golf or other recreation director. Together, you'll arrange tournaments, lessons and free time to fit seamlessly with the other goals of the meeting. Suggested tip: $50-$75.

You will probably need to send boxes of meeting materials to the hotel, which will bring you in contact with the package room personnel. Suggested tip: supervisors, $25; other staff, $15 each.

It's always wise to get in good with the accounts receivable supervisor who handles your bill. For this unenviable service, no tip.

QUESTIONS EVERYONE ASKS ABOUT TIPPING Tipping is one of those touchy areas that raises a lot of questions - not all of which have clear-cut answers. A few examples:
  • Which comes first, the meeting or the tip? Some planners believe doling out tips before the event motivates the staff to provide better service. Others feel it encourages mediocre service because, heck, they've already got the dough. Personal preference is the rule, but most planners wait until after the event.
  • How do I budget for gratuities? Choose one of these formulas: 1 percent of the total meeting budget, 50 cents to $1 per attendee or $1 per sleeping room.
  • Who hands out the tip? You can do it personally, or simply add tips to the master account. Or, give the gratuities to one staff member (perhaps the CSM) to dole out. If you need proof of the distribution for accounting purposes, print a list of people receiving tips and have them sign it when they get the envelope.
  • Does the tip have to be cash? Certainly not. Give doughnuts or candy to switchboard operators and front desk clerks. In other cases, the least expensive gift of all may be the most valuable: letters of commendation (give one to the staff member and a copy to her supervisor).
  • S.B.



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