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Who – and When -- Do You Tip?

Posted on September 28, 2007

by Rob Schron

There has never been a question in my mind that a venue’s conference services manager is the key to a successful event, particularly when the logistics involved require a better than average attention to detail.  And while I can honestly say I never met a CSM I didn’t like, I can also state quite honestly that on a number of occasions I found their being amiable didn’t always translate into their being capable.

There is no question that all CSMs are not created equal and, as a result, shouldn’t be treated the same when it comes to evaluating their services. Hence, to reward them with a gratuity at conference’s end just because “they’re there” doesn’t make sense to me. In my view, each situation should be judged on its own merits and the amount you decide on to recognize effort should be based on your evaluation of what was done to make your program a success -- nothing more, nothing less. As for the actual amount to be dispensed, that’s a call only you can make, although if you’re an independent planner it’s always a good idea to get the client’s input.

As for others involved with your program – management people, maitre d’s, house-keepers, bell captains, etc. – tipping isn’t always necessary or in some cases (in Europe and Asia, for example) even expected.  And in certain situations, gratuities (a/k/a “tips”) are already built into the prices you’re paying, although you need to read your contract to make sure. Recently, a gala dinner we arranged for a client – a “tasting menu” at a little over $160.00 a pop, including wine – had a 26% service charge added to it: 21% of which was to go the maitre d’ and wait staff and 5% to the venue’s administrative people. 
The client and I agreed an additional gratuity here wasn’t necessary, by the way.

More often than not, most planners I know include tips in formulating their meeting budgets despite the fact that there are no guidelines or formulas for doing so. We have most often advised clients to use a flat amount, ranging from $3.00 to $10.00 per attendee, based on the number of people participating in the event and the length and number of days the program is running. When outside “forces” such as tour guides or DMC staff is involved, however, we recommend the client disperse tips based on a percentage of the total cost of each offsite event.

word “tip” is usually interpreted to mean “to insure promptness” but meeting planners might want to consider a different take on it: in this case, “to indicate professionalism” –which, as we all know, is what it takes to make a meeting successful and something no one in our business – planner or supplier -- should take for granted, tip or no tip.


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Mary de la Fe

Why would you provide a gratuity for a CSM? Don't get me wrong, they are a vital partner in any conference, but an extra gratuity? I don't see the need. I provide quite a service for my attendees, but I get paid a salary to do it. There are, of course, many staff at a hotel who do work for tips and I prefer to tip to the individual at the time of the service. I have never provided a gratuity for a CSM and do not think it is the norm.


While I see Mary's point, on occasions when a CSM has gone beyond the call and I have offered him or her something extra, it's never been turned down! I would hope that if the manager deems it unnecessary, he or she would either decline or perhaps accept it 'on behalf of the team' and direct it to the appropriate service staff.

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