QUESTION: It seems everywhere you go in the casino one is expected to tip. You seem to encourage it, stating in a column, “Consider it a contribution to Lady Luck.” I would like to think of myself as generous; 20 percent for food servers, slot attendants on payoffs get their share, and of course, dealers always get a piece of my winnings. That said, I have never found my tipping influencing Lady Luck to smile on me in any way. Am I missing something, somebody? Roger R.
ANSWER: Between my wife and me, we have nearly three-quarters of a century in the hospitality business; stay tuned for my forthcoming book of far-fetched, but true stories, with a whole chapter devoted to accounts on tipping. Plan on being bowled over at just how downright cheap some of the rich and famous can be.
Most front-line casino employees make minimum wage, or darn near close to it. Additional income comes through the gratuities of casino patrons, like you, Roger. Casino employees need those gestures of gratuity to make a decent living.
Indeed, Roger, contributions from generous patrons such as you to “Lady Luck” have gone my way. The bigheartedness of you and others circuitously put my son through University of Michigan undergraduate and Duke graduate school.
I went to Lake Tahoe to be a ski bum, and the casino business gave me the opportunity to enjoy life: ski all day, then work evenings while tired on the casino’s dime – all supported by the gratuities of others when the dice and cards went their way. The Tahoe "every day a picnic, every night a party" lifestyle can be far more agreeable on a tip-based income pushing dice than on one in supervision. When I was in management, the realities were that of it being a real job.
Since you asked, there is one silent worker who is shortchanged far more often than any other hospitality employee that I can think of. I am writing about the person who cleans your un-flushed toilets, hair from the shower drain, along with substance left behind from a ”what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” night.
Maids, Roger, should be tipped generously! They have one of the toughest jobs in the casino. Unfortunately, many gamblers tend to leave them a buck a day. I figure $5 a day, minimum!
Also, far too many gamblers tip housekeepers at the end of their stay, where they are now economizing because, well, simply, they are tapped out. Moreover, the maid whose elbow grease scrubbed their toilet might be off on the day the gambler leaves and the tip ends up with her substitute.
Another overworked and underpaid employee works in the kitchen. My wife, generous to a fault, will occasionally do this: send $20 back to those working the tank, aka, dishwashers. Will it help your relationship with Lady Luck? Probably not, but no employee will appreciate it more because no one ever tips them.
While we’re at it, for those of you who post reviews online at either Tripadvisor or Yelp, I urge you to get in the habit of mentioning the employee by name in your evaluation, and not, “terrific service from the waitress.” That, along with writing something like “Fantastic service, Mary. Thanks!” on the receipt will go a long way for them in the eyes of management. Upstairs notices such things.
The upshot here, Roger, is to tip only what you are comfortable with, and to tip only for good service. Even with 20 years on the inside, I won’t tip, at least openhandedly, a put-off casino employee.