Photo credit: A Woman's Nation

So you're checking out of the hotel or motel room where you've stayed for the past few days. Did you remember to leave a tip for the housekeeper?

The Washington Post reports that the Marriott hotel chain will henceforth be putting tip envelopes in guest rooms, starting this week, as part of a “gratitude initiative” called “The Envelope Please.”

This is not Marriott's invention, but is being done in conjunction with A Woman's Nation, a non-profit organization founded by Maria Shriver, the former First Lady of California (through then-husband Arnold Schwarzenegger).

According to the AWN website, the organization is “dedicated to making sure that the value of women is recognized and respected – at home, in the workplace and as caretakers on the frontlines of humanity.”

Meanwhile, the FAQ page for AWN's “The Envelope Please” initiative includes this sobering statistic:

How did The Envelope Please come to be?
The facts revealed by the most recent Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink show that 42 million women and 28 million children are living in or on the brink of poverty in the United States. That devastating fact, coupled with Maria Shriver’s personal experience and conversations with hotel room attendants, got her thinking: through person-to-person support, each of us has the power to make a difference in the lives of others. Leaving tips for the room attendants who take care of you when you’re travelling is one way to help do that.

Making more visible the contributions of hotel room attendants – the majority of whom are women and often the primary breadwinners in their families – The Envelope Please will recognize partner hotels that make tip envelopes available in hotel rooms throughout the United States and abroad.

How much? How often?

The FAQ page goes on to say that Marriott is the first hotel chain to sign on with the initiative. It also addresses this question:

How much should guests leave as a tip for their room attendants?
The American Hotel and Lodging Association suggests that hotel guests should leave $1 to $5 per night, depending on the hotel class, and recommends tipping daily rather than at checkout to ensure that it goes to the person cleaning the hotel room.

(Another possibility, which I personally do when I'm only staying in a hotel for two or three days: keep the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob throughout my stay so the housekeepers needn't bother. Besides, I hardly need a toilet or shower scrubbed after only a couple days' use. Then, leave a decent tip for whichever housekeeper cleans that room after I check out.)

Arne Sorenson, president of Marriott, discussed the initiative and the chain's participation in it with the Washington Post. “In conversation with Maria, she said it had struck her that too often women are in positions that we forget to acknowledge …. In a hotel, obviously we tip the bellman or wait staff. But often we don’t see our housekeepers. We don’t have that personal interaction, so we just don’t think about it.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, maids and housekeepers made a median wage of $19,570 in May 2012 (the most recent year for which data is available). The number of people employed in such jobs is predicted to increase 13 percent by 2022.

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