In some countries a way of tipping the cleaning personnel is to leave a small amount of money (e.g. In Portugal about €1).

While in Germany, I have noticed the well known pro-recycling policy that costs a significant amount of extra money when buying some water or juice bottles (but that is payed back when returning the bottle). The most convenient way is to leave these empty bottles in the room and I was wondering if the cleaning personnel can have a benefit from this, so this may also count as tipping.

Question: Do hotel cleaning personnel accrue any benefit from leaving empty bottles in the room, as opposed to the purchaser returning them to the store?

  • 13
    The deposit for returnable plastic bottles and drinks cans might be called significant (25 cents), but note that for glass bottles it's only 8 cents; probably, few people will thank you for leaving a 96-cent tip in the form of 4 kilos of dirty glass :).
    – Pont
    Jun 21, 2019 at 7:03
  • 1
    For some additional context, returning an entire large IKEA bag filled with empty bottles to the point of almost overflowing typically gets me about 3 euros (plus a tired shoulder).
    – Chris H
    Jun 21, 2019 at 7:51
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    I once knew some American cleaning staff who would collect cans and bottles and take them home to claim the deposit (whether or not they had the official approval of their employers, I cannot say), but this was very clearly just a side source of income and not a tip. Given the amount of a tip you might leave for housekeeping in Germany, it's hard to imagine leaving 8+ plastic bottles out every night. Jun 21, 2019 at 9:18

2 Answers 2


Since the personnel doesn't know if a guest will take empty bottles with him at the end of his stay, simply removing empty bottles from the room can be considered theft.
I guess, in Portugal (or anywhere else on earth), the personnel will also not remove money found somewhere in the room; the code is to place the tip clearly visible on the pillow.
But how to clearly indicate an empty bottle as tip? Put it into the trashbin? Together with banana peels and other junk?
As long as there is no code for this type of tip, personnel would only remove bottles at the end of the stay.

Next, the guest makes the personnel do extra work to get the tip. Someone has to collect all bottles (paid working hours) and bring them to the next supermarket (for sure not paid). One bottle is 0.25€, minimum wage is ~9€, so one hour is 36 bottles minimum. Collectig bottles over a longer time might help against the last point, but supermarkets are not very pleased if someone comes to bring 300 bottles.

And finally, empty bottles are some kind of waste. Leaving waste is a weird kind of tip, even if its value is significant...

Maybe a few words about this deposit system:

  • There are the traditional returnable bottles. They are made of glass or of thick PET (one can not squeeze them), are collected in boxes (one might even buy a box of bottles), and will be refilled. Those boxes make them easy to handle from the producer to the shop, the customer and back to the shop and the producer. So, this bottles/boxes are preferred by restaurants, hotels and other gastronomy. The deposit on those bottles ranges from 0.08 to 0.15€.
    Due to the low value, and since the bottles will just end up in the same boxes as the bottles from the hotel gastronomy, leaving such bottles in the roomis not a tip.

  • In 2003, a deposit of 0.25€ was introduced by law on all light PET bottles (one can squeeze them) and cans which contain sparkling drinks. (Yes, no mandatory deposit on the same kind of bottle, if it contains juice). The bottles are recycled, not reused. Therefore, most supermarkets today have machines where inserted bottles are crushed up to save space, and the customer gets a voucher to get the money back. The machines also count the bottles for accounting with the next stage in the return chain. The customer, however, should not crush the bottles, since the machine will not recognize them. So, one has a big pile of bottles, and has to keep then as they are, just for the machine to recognize and crush them... Since heat and cold in the car tend to squeeze the bottles, one often has to lift the lid of some bottles to bring them back in shape in front of the machine.
    You see, this bottles are quite annoying, and this is why gastronomy avoids them. For the same reason, the entire handling might make them a loss as tip, despite the high value.

  • 1
    Your first sentence seems to assume the bottles were bought on the premises. The question implies almost the opposite "returning them to the store" in which case they never belonged to the hotel or its staff but to the OP. Jun 21, 2019 at 10:40
  • 5
    supermarkets are not very pleased if someone comes to bring 300 bottles, are you sure?
    – gerrit
    Jun 21, 2019 at 10:54
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    @gerrit Some actually even have signs saying that they only accept bottles in quantities expected from a normal household, so I'd say yes, at least some are not very pleased. This can also very often be seen due to the level of maintenance which the recycling machines see.
    – AndrejaKo
    Jun 21, 2019 at 14:08
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    Most supermarkets in Denmark have machines where you put the bottles in one at a time and it then does scanning/imaging/... to determine the value and whether it should be crushed (as described), and then prints out a receipt you can take into the store and either get your money (possibly as a discount on your purchase) - it's probably the same in many other countries in Europe (in some it might only be "some" and not "most") - in that case the supermarket won't care much, but you'll spend a lot of time and annoy others that would like to return bottles. Jun 21, 2019 at 14:08
  • 3
    "how to clearly indicate an empty bottle as tip" - putting it next to (or on top of) the rubbish bin should be a fairly clear indicator that they can take it in my experience, at which point they can decide what to do with it (which may include just dumping it in the trash or regular recycling). I would agree one shouldn't really think of it as a tip though.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 21, 2019 at 14:14

Does hotel cleaning personnel have any benefit from leaving empty bottles in the room as opposed to returning them to the store?

None at all, at least not officially. The bottles do not belong to the cleaning staff. Even if you put them in the trash bin, the contents of the trash bin does not belong to the cleaning staff. There have been court cases about people being fired because they took things their companies threw away. If the company throws it away, it must not be taken. The company wants it in the trash, it has to go in the trash.

Cleaning staff is not allowed to take anything from the room as their own, not even the trash. While specific hotels may have specific policies and exceptions to that, if you want to tip, then tip.

  • 1
    I wish we had the same in the USA. You leave an empty water bottle lying around and the cleaning staff snatch it up and thrown it away even if it is no where near the trash. Lost my tiny travel water bottle that way.
    – Whitney
    Jun 21, 2019 at 18:13
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    @Whitney This is one of many, many reasons I never let cleaning staff enter my room. I don't see much of a point.. I can keep it clean just fine, and I'd much rather not give anyone a chance to touch my stuff.
    – user77454
    Jun 21, 2019 at 20:37

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