Lizzie Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, author, and co-host of The Awesome Etiquette Podcast, has agreed to weigh in on a few travel etiquette questions from a politesse perspective. She’s covered airplane seat backs, to recline or not to recline, arm rests and kids on flights. Here, she weighs in on short-term rental etiquette.
We know to tip the housekeeper at a hotel, but what about at short-term rentals? If there’s a cleaning fee associated with your rental, do you have to tip? What if there’s not? And how much cleaning up should guests do, anyways? It’s a thorny topic, so we went to Post and a 33-year-old Airbnb host in New Orleans, Louisiana, for thoughts.
Am I supposed to tip when I stay at a short-term rental?
Post: “If there’s a fee associated with it I don’t really see a reason to tip. I look at Airbnbs as different than a hotel…if there’s a cleaning fee, I’m not gonna pay extra. Cleaning services are different than hotel cleaning services: ‘This is my business; I charge rates so I don’t need tips.’ … I’d not put it in the same category as hotel cleaning staff.”
Host: “We don’t charge cleaning fees for two reasons: I got the advice of another host who said that people tend to leave the place in better condition if they’re not paying fees to clean. I appreciate that. I think of it more like Uber; it’s all included, there’s no other exchange of money. It’s never happened in a year of hosting that someone’s left a tip.”
What if there’s no fee listed?
Post: “Then I don’t worry about it. I also don’t leave [places] messy. I’ve asked, ‘Do you want the beds stripped or not?’ and made everything neat.”
If there are goodies for you to eat and drink for free, do you replace them?
Post: “I leave this up to the stayer; it’s up to you how you decide how that’s supposed to go. I personally try to replace some of those things; I try to refill some of the essentials…It depends on a) timing and b) how much did I consume. If I eat everything in their fridge and it’s empty, yeah, I’m gonna try to buy some new groceries. I think it goes back to the ‘Leave the place as you found it’ theory. I wouldn’t worry about getting the exact bottle of wine they had; if I had a few crackers out of a whole box I wouldn’t worry [about replacing it].”
Host (who tends to have coffee, beer, eggs and milk for guests): “I think of it as a gift to the guest—part of their stay—that’s how I think about it.”
If the house rules say for you to do all the dishes and strip the sheets, should you?
Post: “Yes, you should; absolutely. This is kind of the fun thing about Airbnb; if you don’t like what the house guide says, you don’t have to stay there! It’s really important that house guides say things politely and invitingly because I can tell you if you make it sound like you are hard-edged and not an accommodating host it’s going to turn people off—or if you make people think they can’t reach out to you…. You really want your house guide to be clear, encouraging, and inviting. [Something like] “The way we’re able to maintain this Airbnb is from the help of people who stay like you, so it’s really important to us that you do the following before you leave. It helps keep our rates low so we don’t have to use cleaning people.”