You are basically paying someone to circumvent the controls the price structure the employer has in place. This works because the front desk is empowered to make sure the customer is happy and therefore isn't investigated for every 'comp' that is provided to a customer.
However, that isn't the intention of the power the employer granted to the employee.
Well on the surface yes. And probably yes. But read on.
"You are basically paying someone to circumvent the controls the price structure the employer has in place."
(Now I'm for the defense here and will argue the other side of this).
Well let's look at it from the employers point of view.
- They want to keep employees happy. So as long as this doesn't happen to much they will probably look the other way. (Cheaper than raising wages).
- They want to keep guests, especially desirable "clued in" guests happy. After all this guest now feels as if they got away with something and got a boost in their mental state (source: attitude of the OP)
- God knows if Jack Nicholson walks into your hotel and your front desks comps him for internet (just because he smiles and says "hi" in a nice way) the employee will feel good and the employer will probably feel it is ok as well. (They very well might have a policy for this special treatment of course but don't for tipping simply because they can't openly say that it would create all sorts of havoc).
I once had an employee many years ago who told me he was going to help his wife with her business on my time a small bit. (In so many words, he didn't say exactly that). I was ok with it because I figured he was going to do it anyway and I might as well suck it up.
Besides, and most importantly, if his wife's business made money he wouldn't be as quick to want a raise from me. If I told him "absolutely not, no personal business on my time" he would, in theory, be more likely to need to get a raise since his wife's business wouldn't contribute to the family income. All the details of this matter of course (no hard and fast rule) but over time the situation that I had allowed worked to my advantage.
Let me provide a counter example...
Politicians want campaign contributions which directly benefit their goals and by extension the constituents who voted for them. [Frontdesk enjoys the extra money and reduces demand for raises].
Politicians can do small favors and not get caught. However, the power is intended to be used in the interest of all constituents. [Frontdesk is empowered to comp when it benefits their employer's interests].
I'm not seeing this as significantly different...and those 'small favors' have a tendency to grow as the person receiving the money finds themselves needing to do more and more to 'outdo' the other guy. After all, if I can bribe the other frontdesk guy for $5...why should I give you $20?
Its a very, very slippery slope that makes me uncomfortable.
I'm not saying these are terrible people. I'm just saying it is shady/unethical.
As a customer, it's not my job to decide where the line is drawn between great service and collusion against the establishment.
The 'bribe the front desk' is not in the same category imo.
I think if you aren't willing to consider where you think the line is as the customer, you are ignoring the impact of your actions which is generally not the best idea.
1 - Pay employees a lot better, disallow tips, and make everything "All in" for the customers.
2 - Pay employees slightly better, and take all the discretion out of their jobs.
There is the ethical thing...and then there is what allows you to get a greater reward for intentionally forcing the cost of the reward on to a 3rd party.
-I benefit because I get free stuff.
-front desk benefits because they get cash.
-hotel benefits because I keep coming back to the hotel (because of relationship i form with front desk attendant).
However it is an example of successfully hacking some (non-computer) system to your advantage.
So to me...most of the customer is there once and never [e.g. 4+ years pass] again.
Maybe for someone who hits the same hotel/motel multiple times a year that would qualify.
Want to know a trick to get favors like this without bribes? Be nice to the people serving you! Whether it's someone at a hotel front desk, at the customer service call center, or a bartender... They get treated like crap all day, so when you act nice to them and make their jobs more enjoyable, they'll be much more likely to bend the rules in your favor (if you ask).
I'm not sure what that says about me... but. I think humans are reciprocal creatures.
I don't think this will work 100% of the time. But I think it will work enough that it's worth trying. In this case. I paid $20 for a service that typically costs $140. So even if this fails the next 5 times I try - I'll still be ahead.
However, I was with a coworker who knew the 2nd-in-command boss of the hotel. So one night I was having fine dining with them and got pretty drunk on the free wine that was served to me. I accidentally spilled to the boss that I got upgraded to a suite just by tipping the front desk person, he got pretty furious about it and I think I cost that front desk person his job :/
Even after my bribe/complaints/payment I'm stuck with yet another sub 1mbps internet that is literally useless to me. I just end up using the LTE tethering on my phone and minimize my usage so I dont hit my 5gb cap. I travel 6-7 times a year, usually to nice hotels, and am constantly shocked at how terrible the internet service is. Ironically, the cheap Super8 or Holiday Inn tends to have faster and cheaper/free service compared to the nicer hotel. Before my wife and I could afford nice hotels, we had much fewer internet issues. I imagine those cheaper outlets are actually competing for the dollar, while the fancier chains know that Joe Business traveler doesn't care about $20 a night internet because his company is paying for it anyway.
Worse, some hotels advertise 'free wifi' but once you show up you get a login page that tells you that 256kbps is free and if you want full speed its $20 a night. 256kbps is useless to me.
Has anyone started a wifi wall of shame yet? I was going to setup a small wordpress or drupal site just to post my speed results to warn other travelers, ask others to contribute, but the only time I'm motivated to do that is when I'm in the hotel frustrated, and of course then, the internet is far to slow to develop a new site on.
The real question is why is hotel management culture so broken and blind to the basic needs of their travelers. Imagine if the bathroom had a per use toilet paper fee and the paper was over-priced and of low quality. Would we stand for that? Hell, I'm going to start that site tonight. Catchy names anyone?
Easy one: Travelers choose Hotels by nightly rate, many pay for internet whatever it costs afterwards. Especially with many companies' expense policies which require approval before booking the room, while internet is easily expensible ...
And comparing to holiday hotels: These won't pay that much, they pick hotel by "free internet" as part of the description.
So you're the guy trying to hook a Roku or AppleTV to his in-room TV and watch Netflix all night while all I'm trying to do is get my email and perhaps send a photo to my wife and kids.
The $20 upcharge sounds good to me.
It doesn't help that tourist websites are poorly optimized and are unusable at very slow speeds.
Your beef is with the hotel, not the other users.
But in Las Vegas, it's de rigueur. Look at the results for a Web search for [the $20 trick].
Still waiting for the day when Internet is treated as a standard utility like plumbing... imagine if you had to pay to get water to your room (in the US).
I remember there was only one case of a customer trying the $20 trick while I worked there, he was 'famous' and got treated very well.
Ideally there would be zero tipping and people would just get paid more.
If you are member of a hotel points group, you can request and usually get it for free
It's seen as stogy, or awkward. A thing of Frank Sinatra did at restaurants (with a handshake). Or that you do at clubs or bars. But the point of this article is that you can do it in hotels. And you should.
And, that you should tip the front desk. Not the concierge.
Edit to add:
I imagine this has some interesting overlap with YC's "tell us about the time you hacked something other than a computer" and sama's "Founder Ethics" advisory.