Hot tip: Friendly service doesn’t come for free
Special to Stars and Stripes August 25, 2023
“Good afternoon!” a towering woman with a thick Jamaican accent called as we fumbled to open our hotel room door. “Doon’t yah woorry, now, I’ll be takin’ good care of yah,” she said, smiling broadly, pushing a cart of cleaning supplies.
Her name was Claudette, and she was the head housekeeper at the Yachtsman Hotel, where my husband, Francis, and I had booked a four-night getaway in Kennebunkport, Maine. “Wow,” Francis commented once inside the room, “such nice staff here, huh?”
My husband is one of those ego-driven guys whose admiration for others is based mostly on whether or not they show interest in him. If a person laughs at his jokes, asks about his Navy career or listens to his stories, Francis thinks that person is terrific. No need to assess their personality or character — if they like Francis, they’re good people in his book.
I, on the other hand, am more cynical. Unlike Francis, my low self-esteem makes me suspicious of people who express interest in me. “Hmm,” my insecure mind misconstrues, “if she likes me, then there must be something wrong with her.”
As soon as we entered Room #3 at the Yachtsman Hotel, my cynical brain took note of the tip envelope on the nightstand. “No wonder Claudette’s so nice,” I said to Francis, who was busy inspecting the refrigerator. It contained an impressive selection of beer, wine and soft drinks. Francis was proud of himself for picking such lovely and well-stocked accommodations for our getaway.
“Don’t open that!” I pounced on Francis, who, assuming the beverages were freebees for VIPs like him, was about to crack open a split of white wine. I pointed to a menu on the table, listing the beverages and their exorbitant prices. “We brought plenty of our own drinks — no need to spend thirty-eight bucks unnecessarily,” I ordered. “But the Polar Springs water is complimentary!” I countered in a feeble attempt to avoid being Debbie Downer.
While we buzzed in and out of Room #3 in the days that followed, Claudine was always nearby, pushing her cart from door to door. She always took notice of Francis, calling to him by name. “Ah! Francis! How are yah today, my friend? Where is Liiisaah?”
Francis relished the attention, believing that he was truly exceptional to Claudette. Taking full advantage of his perceived elevated status, he made special requests. One day, “Claudette, can you hook us up with a few extra Keurig pods?” The next day, “We like the dark roast coffee best, Claudette. Would you happen to have a few more of those for tomorrow?”
Claudette always flashed her broad, white smile as if to say, “Any-ting for yah and Liiisaaah, my friend!”
On the third day, Francis and I were walking back to our room from a day of lunch and shopping in Kennebunkport. Carrying bags with sweatshirts and chocolate-covered blueberries for our three kids, and a small painting by a local artist for us, we passed by the supply closet on our way to Room #3.
“I won’t be here tomorrah, yah knoow,” boomed a deep voice, startling us. We looked back to see Claudette leaning against the open storage closet door frame, arms crossed, smile absent. “My day off,” she explained.
“Claudette, uh,” Francis stuttered, not quite understanding.
“It’s about her tip,” I whispered behind him.
“Oh, I see,” he paused a moment to redefine his “special” relationship with Claudette.
“How about this,” I offered, “we’ll put your tip in the envelope and leave it at the front desk with your name on it.”
Claudette scowled. “Oh nooo, yah can’t trust dah peeple dat werk here yah knoow,” she murmured in a low, serious tone.
Back in Room #3, Francis finally understood. Claudette had catered to us for three days, and even if she threw the entire hotel staff under the bus, she wasn’t going to let another housekeeper to get her tip on her day off. We quickly stuffed cash in the envelope, and Francis dutifully delivered it to Claudette.
Despite our ego-driven need to believe otherwise, we learned that the service industry is all about the bottom line: Skimpy tippers will always make for snippy tippees.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org