Poor Maria Shriver, the long suffering wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, is out promoting an idea that just shows it wasn’t all that surprising that she married a Republican. According to a press release two months ago, Marriott International Joins The Envelope Please™, A New Initiative Created by Maria Shriver and A Woman’s Nation™ in Support of Hotel Room Attendants. But before getting to what sounds like a worthy campaign, let’s just take a moment to chuckle at all those trademarks. America really needs more trademarks. Like that first sentence would have been some much better like this: Poor Maria Shriver™, the long suffering™ wife™ of Arnold Schwarze™negger™, is out promoting an idea™ that just shows™ it wasn’t all that surprising™ that she married™ a Republican™.
Anyway, the idea here is to put little tip envelopes out in hotel rooms as a way to encourage people to tip the housekeeping staff. All my life, I have been a strong supporting of tipping the housekeeping staff. They do a difficult and disgusting job and generally get paid poorly. I do it because it is one small thing that I can do to help. It takes away a small amount of the oppression that the housekeepers suffer under. But this corporate push to encourage tipping is repugnant in the extreme.
Forget about “A Woman’s Nation”; it is just some group that Shriver put together back in 2011. It seems to be nothing more than a group that doubtless does a little good, but which is primarily involved in allowing companies like Goldman Sachs and Cisco Systems to look like they have the slightest interest in helping poor women. And this new venture, The™ Envelope™ Please™™™, is just a way of making Marriott look like a compassionate corporation.
At Think Progress a week and a half ago, Bryce Covert noted that nationwide, the median pay for hotel maids is $9.41 per hour. But at “compassionate” Marriott, it is even lower: roughly $8.32 per hour. So sure, maids are way underpaid for their difficult jobs. But as Covert noted, “Tips will of course help, but a pay raise would lift their living standards even more.” She added:
But the ever brilliant Michael Hiltzik suggested that there might be a much more nefarious aspect to this. Currently, hotel housekeeping is not considered a “tipped occupation” by the federal government. This means that companies must pay at least the minimum wage. But if this campaign is successful, it could be reclassified. And if it becomes a tipped occupation, then Marriott could pay their housekeepers even less than minimum wage!
Tipping is always a scam. I still always tip, because it isn’t a scam being perpetrated by the poor employees. It is a scam by corporations to keep their direct labor costs low. This allows them to post prices that are lower than they really are and skim ever more profits. We should really outlaw the practice at the same time we raise the minimum wage to $15 and peg it to productivity growth (not inflation). I’m not hopeful for anything like this. But the least we can do is push back against this kind of thing. When I go into Denny’s, at least I don’t have to look at signs that say, “Because we are so great to work for, we are encouraging you to tip your server (because we pay them less than minimum wage)!”