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Having a private butler at a luxury hotel makes your experience that much more seamless. It gets you an incomparable level of individualized attention. If you’re in a villa, your private butler might help build your itinerary and will potentially even escort or shuttle you to each experience. It’s a step (or many steps) beyond calling down to the hotel concierge.
The first thing to consider when determining how much to tip your private butler is, was his or her service included? This largely depends on the hotel or room-type booked. Often a private butler is not the norm at a hotel, but rather, an added perk of booking one of the best suites in the house. Similarly, a private butler sometimes comes with a vacation residence set up by a hotel or tour operator, like an over-the-top ski lodge booked with Leo Trippi or an Inspirato-facilitated Tuscan villa rental. However, at a select few luxury hotel collections, like Soneva Kiri, butler service comes with all rooms and is complimentary. All this to say, there are different kinds of butler service, and their gratuity earnings might vary, depending on whether you have a butler dedicated solely to your room, or whether he or she is serving multiple rooms in the hotel.
If you have a private butler at either a vacation residence or a five-star hotel suite, you’ll want to tip at the end of your stay rather than paying as you go. In terms of the amount, quantifying the value of a hospitality professional who helps you with every aspect of your stay is difficult. Customarily, for a private butler, you want to tip at least 5% of the nightly room rate—for each night they serve as your butler. That means, if you’re staying for a week in a villa that costs $14,000, you paid $2,000 per night. That makes your tip $100 a night, or $700 for the week. If you stay at a five-star hotel for $700 per night, you’d want to tip $35 a night minimum. Should you have a butler who is working exclusively for you and your hotel room, you may want to increase from 5% depending on the services provided.
Beyond honoring this 5% rule of thumb, consider how much they assisted you beyond transportation and luggage hauling. If your butler went above and beyond (as many do) and was instrumental in the logistics of your trip, providing local recommendations, making last-minute reservations, and helping curate your itinerary, you will likely want to leave more than the five percent of the room rate (per night).
Finally, let’s consider a butler who performs a service once, rather than working with you for your entire stay. Many hotels offer one-time butler service, like the fireside butler at Carneros Resort and Spa—an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property—where a hotel employee might deliver sparkling wine and a s’mores kit, light a fire, and even draw an aromatherapy bubble bath. This is a one-time service, and should, therefore, be tipped immediately following the service or whenever your bill for the service is presented. Upon receipt of your bill for the experience, whether as the butler leaves or on your bill upon check-out, leave the one-time private butler a 20 percent tip (on the specific service). If the service is likely to go on your final hotel bill, you can also tip in cash right after the service.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but there’s something to be said for trusting your instincts when it comes to tipping out a private butler. Ultimately, the five percent rule for personal butler service is just a starting point, and typically applies to a butler at a five-star hotel servicing a few rooms. If you have a butler servicing only your room at a hotel or private vacation residence, you may still need to adjust and pay a slightly higher percentage per night. As for evaluating the service provided, only you can determine whether your private butler went above and beyond, and what subsequent additional compensation feels right.