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Tipping Gone Mad: Hotel Booking Site Solicits Tips After You’ve Made Your Reservation

Tipping Gone Mad: Hotel Booking Site Solicits Tips After You’ve Made Your Reservation

When I wrote about an airport shop that required a tip when paying by credit card for a bottle of water – not that just solicited a tip, but that wouldn’t allow credit card payment without one – most readers were aghast at how far U.S. tipping culture has sunk.

You’d think that tipping couldn’t get much worse than standing in line, showing your bottle of water at the cash register, and then being forced to tip for it. But there’s a version of this story that does seem like it would be worse:

Usually when you’re asked to tip, you’re asked to tip a person. But what about being solicited for a tip on a travel booking website? You’ve just made a hotel reservation, and the computer asks you to voluntarily pay them more money because reasons?

There are a number of hotel booking websites that undercut the prices you’ll find booking direct on chain websites like Hilton and Marriott. They take wholesale rates and charge you less instead of capturing the full commission. Sometimes this is allowed (true membership sites) while other times it runs afoul of price parity rules.

One website along this lines is Traveluro. Reviews of the site are generally not good, including complaints that they didn’t actually book the room though customers were charged, and that they changed dates and shortened trips. Their parent company went public in a SPAC deal last year.

Apparently you have to pay Traveluro extra if you want telephone customer service (for when you find out you don’t have a reservation at the hotel you booked?). They solicit you the extra $4.99 after you complete your reservation. But that’s not all. The online hotel booking site solicits for tips!

The range of things for which tipping is being solicited in the United States has grown tremendously. Tipping, it seems, is no longer just for personal services someone provides – like a waiter in a restaurant, or a stylist in a salon. You’re asked to tip when you bus your own tray after waiting in line for food at a restaurant. You’re asked to tip when picking up food for carry out. And the amount you’re asked for has grown, from 15% to 20% and now sometimes 25%.

Surely there has to be a line. How much will we stand for? Isn’t a reasonable principle that tipping ought to be reserved for service provided by people and not machines?

(HT: Sam O.)

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