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Many guides to tipping in the USA include a specification to tip a "bellhop" at a hotel, which is apparently an employee who expects to be paid separately for the "service" of accompanying the guest from the reception to their room.

The times I have been to America, there has been no such person -- the hotels I stayed at just followed the straightforward standard procedure of "here's your keycard; your room is number XYZ on the Xth floor, and the elevators are over there -- enjoy your stay". But it's possible that I've simply been lucky with the hotels I selected.

When booking a hotel stay online in the USA, is there something in particular one should look for to be sure it's not a place where one will be hit with hidden costs for "bellhop" services?

(Or is it perhaps all a myth intended to scare travelers? When I arrive at a hotel I'll generally have been able to lug my baggage through airports and across a city all by myself, and it seems somewhat incongruous that a hotel would expect me to relinquish control of it for the last few meters between the reception and my room, and pay for the indignity to boot!)

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    The kind of people who stay at high-end hotels usually get a taxi all the way from the airport and never haul them around. Only budget travelers bother with public transport and carry their bags in the city. – JonathanReez Sep 19 '16 at 14:35
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    Bellhops and porters were more common before wheeled suitcases became common; thus, it was offered as a service so that guests didn't have to carry their suitcases up to their rooms. With wheels, it takes much less effort to get your suitcases to your rooms, so the service only remains common at higher-end hotels – eques Sep 19 '16 at 15:02
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    Just politely decline their services. No need to tip them if they don't do anything. – Calchas Sep 19 '16 at 17:23
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    Pick a place that calls itself a "hostel" or book via AirBNB. Or put everything in a backpack and wear it. – WGroleau Sep 19 '16 at 22:49
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    What @calchas said. You can always decline. I do it frequently. – ell Sep 19 '16 at 23:52
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You don't need to worry about this. Bellhops are always optional.

Usually when you check in at a place with bellhops, (and they really only exist in higher end hotels), a bellhop will approach you and say "Can I carry your bags?". You just say "No thanks, we'll be fine."

Sometimes the bellhop will carry the bags anyway, or the receptionist will sumon the bellhop without asking.. Even then you can decline the service. Just say "We'll carry our bags ourselves, thanks". Whatever happens, f they carry your bags without you asking you are completely entitled to not tip. You didn't ask for the service, and you have no obligation to pay for it.

Actually you are always entitled to not tip. Tips are always optional, and if you don't want to tip, for any reason, that's entirely up to you. The situation where a bellhop stands around holding out his hand and looking at you pointedly happens only in movies.

As a final note, bellhops are almost certainly paid less than minimum wage, and may not be paid at all.

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    I think if someone came up and took my bags while I'm checking in, my response would not be a polite "I'll carry my bags myself, thanks", but "HEY, THAT'S MINE! STOP! THIEF!" – Henning Makholm Sep 19 '16 at 16:10
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    @HenningMakholm youtube.com/watch?v=70TfU9R09Qg#t=1m00s – DJClayworth Sep 19 '16 at 17:28
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    "Bellhops are always optional" -- although some hotels will nominate a person to show you to your room, instead of giving directions. That person will then offer you carry your bag, and it's not necessarily clear, in the event you carry your own bag, how strong is the cultural expectation that this person should be tipped anyway for the service of showing you through the hotel. That person's job title might not be "bellhop", so I'm not sure whether your comments cover this scenario, beyond your observation that even where it's strongly expected to tip, you're entitled not to. – Steve Jessop Sep 19 '16 at 18:33
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    "Actually you are always entitled to not tip." This is true in the vast majority of circumstances, but not always. One common exception is that many restaurants in the U.S. charge a tip automatically for parties above a certain size. Also, when you've received good service (e.g. from a waiter,) while you may be legally entitled to not tip, it's considered extremely rude in places where tips are expected. – reirab Sep 19 '16 at 19:30
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    @reirab: one might argue semantics, that by definition if it's charged automatically then it's not a tip, it's a service charge. And sure, you're "entitled" not to tip in the same sense that you're "entitled" to tell the waiter to get a better job and stop bothering people for handouts ;-) – Steve Jessop Sep 19 '16 at 20:03
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I've only seen them in higher-end hotels.

I don't understand why it will/should scare people away. It is good customer service, and some people like that.

IMO, bellhops and porters are really useful when you have a lot of bags, or heavy bags (more than one per person), or if you are elderly or handicapped.

They will get them out of your car or taxi, and watch them while you pay the taxi or go park your car.

If there is a porter and you do not want his service, just say something like: "Thanks, I will take care of my bags".

If you want their service, just tip 1 or 2 dollars per bag; more if they are extra heavy or need extra care.

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    @HenningMakholm you don't have to do anything with your bags. Just say "no thank you" as Max suggests. – phoog Sep 19 '16 at 14:31
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    The US seems to have this weird idea that it's ok to offer people a "free" service, supposedly at the generosity of the provider. But then not pay the staff, and expect the recipients of the service (who might have happily done without it) to pay up. It's pretty weird to me, and I can understand why people not from that culture might want to avoid it. – CMaster Sep 19 '16 at 14:49
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    I think this might be down to cultural differences. I (like many other Europeans I know) value my privacy and consider mandatory interaction with strangers over which I have little control to be an assault on that privacy.This problem is exacerbated by the social awkwardness of being expected to determine the value of the stranger's help when, in fact, you would be more comfortable if they didn't help at all. – Ubiquitous Sep 19 '16 at 15:36
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    @Ubiquitous People keep talking about "mandatory" interactions, but it has been said repeatedly that this is entirely optional, and not even available at many locations. Terms like "assault on privacy" and "loss of physical control of my baggage" are hyperbole that do not in any way accurately describe this service. – Beofett Sep 19 '16 at 16:08
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    @beofett in my experience they do seem to be visibly aggrieved (not rude, but body language tells it all) by declining their service. It's an unnecessary and awkward hassle to navigate because somehow minimum wages aren't really a minimum. – Flexo Sep 19 '16 at 16:25
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... a "bellhop" ... is apparently an employee who expects to be paid separately for the "service" of accompanying the guest from the reception to their room.

Correct.

But it's possible that I've simply been lucky with the hotels I selected.

It has little to do with luck. You are most likely not splurging on very expensive hotels.

When booking a hotel stay online in the USA, is there something in particular one should look for to be sure it's not a place where one will be hit with hidden costs for "bellhop" services?

Don't stay at very upscale hotels. Or, if you want to / are forced to stay at an upscale hotel, just say "I got it man, thanks anyway" once or twice and they'll let you handle your own bags.

I'll generally have been able to lug my baggage

You're not the target market for bellhop services. The economics of hiring bellhops require a constant stream of well-to-do travelers who expect someone else to carry their bags.

  • I disagree. We often stay at mid-range hotels (usually in Las Vegas), and are often greeted by a smiling bellhop with a cart to ferry our bags to our room. (If we only have one or two bags, we'll politely decline.) – Shawn V. Wilson May 14 '18 at 20:53
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The Bellhop / Bellboy

This position is a relic from a previous era. Originally, an older child or very young adult would fill this entry level position. The Desk clerk would ring a bell to summon them, and they would "hop" to it, hence the name. They were general labor, lugging, carting, and escorting, delivering messages and packages, and erranting on demand. Pay was poor. In some regions, the bellboy would also be a local urchin, and thus would have a wide ranging street knowledge, which the hotel and/or patrons could leverage to find good deals or discounts (usually relatives or friends), special services, and lesser known sites worthy of visiting. This 'extra knowledge' or 'local tips' was often rewarded by grateful patrons with change and spare cash. Frequent customers (or those that tipped well) would find that their reputation would spread and service could be decidedly faster and of higher quality than otherwise.

The Bellhop position clings to existence in certain high-end hotels, while other positions from the same era have fallen by the wayside as culture and economics have changed over time: The elevator operator, the "pit crew" at gas stations, the doorman, the butler, room service (food), shoeshine boys, newsies, and more. Some of these positions can still be found here and there, but are much less common with automation, changing values and culture and economics.

The media has long glamorized the generously tipping high roller, which may have something to do with the wide spread of the tipping phenomena in American culture. Even to this day, certain types of service staff (waiters, mostly) are paid significantly less in anticipation of their receiving tips; an ongoing debate and challenge.

Today's Views

In modern America, it is not considered impolite to refuse the service, if you can find it, and it is much less likely that they will be highly knowledgeable locals. In fact, it is increasingly rare to run into an establishment that has any. I don't know of any in my immediate area, nor the last four or five places I have lived in. Unless you are in the habit of frequenting really expensive places to stay, or are in a large city where competition drives the service, you are not likely to find one.

On the flip side, if they do happen to be a local with street knowledge, getting on their good side can only benefit you.

How to guarantee not meeting a bellhop

Call the hotel and ask if they provide that service prior to your booking a room at that hotel.

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    Taking your chances will likely result in you not meeting one, unless you stay at expensive or geographically competitive locations. I suggest that one simply calls and asks if the hotel provides such a service, if you want to ensure an absolute avoidance. – nijineko Sep 19 '16 at 17:07
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    This position is a relic from a previous era. Indeed, wheeled suitcases were invented in 1970, and even then, they were not an instant success. – 200_success Sep 19 '16 at 19:53
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    Room service is normal in 4/5 star hotels. Just like carrying luggage to the room for guests. – Erwin Bolwidt Sep 20 '16 at 13:22
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    Perhaps so. I've never really seen the point of wasting so much money just to sleep and/or stay somewhere, so I don't recall ever staying at one, despite living in and traveling through Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Perhaps that is simply due to being raised in an era of thriftiness and coming from a poor background. – nijineko Sep 20 '16 at 13:56
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Trivago will let you see if the hotel has bellhop service but it's listed as Porter Service on that site. Find a potential hotel, click it in the listings, and then click Hotel Details. Porter service will be listed if the hotel has reported to Trivago that they offer the service. I don't know the details of how Trivago gets their data, but I suppose it might be possible that a hotel offers porter/bellhop service but just hasn't let Trivago know.

Your preferred hotel booking site might have something similar and if not, you can always use Trivago for a double-check before booking through your preferred site.

There's also the option of calling the hotel.

And was said in the previous answer, you always have the option of saying "No thanks, I'll get these myself" if a bellhop appears.

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Basically any hotel that you stay in should have bellhop service in the US (even the lower end ones, so long as it's not a motel), but it is always optional. General tip for this ranges (from what I've seen) from about $2-$10, but a $10-$20 tip can make a huge difference in the quality of your stay (once a hotel brought an actual microwave to my room because I came in with leftovers and the bellhop saw me.) I'm not sure if I would consider it a hidden cost because the service itself is optional. You have to tip servers in restaurants more than that anyway.

Tl;dr - you should never feel obligated to use a bellhop, whether you see them or not, but if you do use one you should tip them.

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Almost every hotel in the US will have a "bellhop" service. Normally though you have to ask for it. Generally while the service still exists, there is no longer a person that does it, and if you ask, one of the courtesy staff will come lug your stuff around for you. It's not common that people ask anymore, but if you have a hard time with your luggage then, you can always ask.

The day of my wedding I used the service because I had too many people's luggage to handle my self. Other then that I have never used it.

Now, if you use the service you should tip. Anything from $2 to $20 is normal, and it's more about how good of a job you think they did. But again the service is always optional, and generally has to be asked for.

Bit of a warning, In the US your expected to tip a lot of people. Basically anyone in service. Make sure you adjust your costs for that. Waiters, delivery boys, laundry service, the concierge, taxis, etc. all expect tips. 15% is the normal tip. I'm not fond of this policy, but it is what it is. Tipping is always optional, but almost always worth it.

For example, I always tip the concierge at the hotels I stay at (I general stay at the same hotels). When my wife and I went to see a concert, the concierge "helped" by ringing the room to let us know the cab was there, calling and arranging for the cab. Talking to the cab driver and making sure he knew where to drop us off. Arranging for the pickup, making dinner reservations for us. Arranging for the pickup there, and the return trip to the hotel. He then made sure we were last on the list of rooms to be cleaned so we could sleep in a bit, and still get our room cleaned. Tipping was well worth it. He made our little 4 day get away very relaxing and stress free. Even arranged with the rental car company delivery and pickup of the car at the hotel. Sure all of those things could be done by us, but we didn't have to.

Point is this. In the US you are expected to tip a lot. It's not mandatory, but is generally advised. Don't tip for bad service, tips at 10%-15% for acceptable service and 20%-30% for exceptional service. The bellhop service still exists in most US hotels, and if used should be tipped. The position of bellhop is rare, and your usually not going to see one unless you ask for it.

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