Marolt: Forced to be a big tipper at The Broadmoor
December 5, 2017
I spent a weekend at The Broadmoor hotel. It is one of only two hotels in Colorado to be awarded five stars for excellence by Forbes Travel Guide. Obviously I do not belong there so there is no point in explaining why I was there. It might sound like I violated some law.
It's the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. The rooms are as clean as any surgical facility I have been a patient in. You wake up and for a moment feel as if you passed out the night before in a very rich person's study. The food in each of the half dozen restaurants I tried was irresistible even when I was stuffed from the meal before. The grounds were so neat and manicured that I think nature would be embarrassed to stand next to them; which it does, incidentally. Not once did it cross my mind that, "Wow, I should have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express." Based on how seamlessly orchestrated the valet parking worked, it would have been a disappointment to put my car up for the night in a room at one of those places.
But, none of this was what was truly amazing about the Broadmoor. What seemed stunningly inexplicable was how friendly and helpful every single person who worked there was all the time. It was enough to make you believe that the salt and pepper shakers in the employee dining room were filled with crystalized Xanax and ground fairy dust. It was beyond weird. It was exquisite!
One thing to note: They are very proud of how nice and attentive they are at The Broadmoor. They automatically tack on a 20 percent gratuity for every meal, drink, or snack you consume there. My gut reaction was, "This is kind of tacky and they don't need to do it in a place like this. I'm sure most people would gladly leave at least that much for a tip for service like this." To their credit, every time they bring the bill, the wait person very kindly makes sure you know the 20 percent gratuity has been automatically added.
This notification is a nice thing to do. I don't like to admit it, but oftentimes I don't scrutinize my dining bills the way I maybe should. I do a little quick math in my head to see if the total seems about right. If it seems a little high, I assume we were served the $18 glasses of wine rather than the $10 ones we ordered and maybe some folks had an extra drink or two. Who wants to count up bottles of beer on the wall after a nice meal? At any rate, I have later figured out that I paid a twenty-percent tip on top of a bill where it was automatically added in because the wait person wasn't kind enough to point out it was already in there. It makes me feel like I got tricked.
Because the Broadmoor staff always informed us of the added tip, it did not bother me in the slightest. Like I said, the service was great so why would I complain about them adding the tip to the bill before it got to me? If nothing else, it saved a few awkward seconds of doing math on my fingers at the dinner table.
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It wasn't until toward the end of the weekend that it occurred to me that the Broadmoor policy of adding the automatic tip and so obviously disclosing it was pure genius:
No. 1: It guarantees that the staff people are rewarded by the guest for their outstanding efforts. No. 2: It is a reward that is uniformly high enough so that the employees strive to live up to the generous tip they know for certain they are earning. It might even feel like stealing if they gave bad service knowing that they were going to get a good tip for it anyway.
Finally, when the staff knows that they will have to tell the customer they have already taken out their 20 percent tip, it opens the door wide open for the customer to vent if the service was subpar. Everybody wants to avoid that!
The automatic tipping seems to work like magic at The Broadmoor. I have no idea if it would work in town where the policy is not uniform. The thought of an automatic tip might drive customers to another place that doesn't have it. It's too bad. Because that customer doesn't know what they might be missing out on.
Roger Marolt is back to serving himself at home. Ahhh… Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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