There’s nothing as awkward in the world as a bathroom with an attendant, except a bathroom with an attendant who works for tips.
Bathroom attendant tipping induces confusion, and fear.
- Are you supposed to tip every time? How much? Does it depend what they do for you? Or what you’ve done in their ‘office’?
- What if you only have $20s? You’d visit the ATM but ATMs usually only dispense $20s. Do you shrug and walk out? Ask for change?
- What does it say about you that you’re being served… in the bathroom? Sometimes there are racial elements involved too, which foster guilt.
- And it’s awkward having someone there watching and monitoring at that most private of times, where even in a public restroom you may be looking to create a sense of anonymity.
The Charlotte airport has bathroom attendants, and those aren’t going away, but the way they get paid is changing.
For years, Charlotte Douglas International Airport has been unique in two ways: folksy white rocking chairs and bathroom attendants who work for tips.
But the airport said Wednesday it will eliminate tipping for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July.
“Those employees will go onto a steady wage,” said interim aviation director Brent Cagle. “We will have consistency and predictability in their wages. The tipping is something we have done for a long time, but it’s something customers don’t like. It’s one of the most frequent complaints about service.”
The airport will increase the wages of bathroom attendants from $3.29 an hour plus tips (with a gross up if tips don’t get the attendant to minimum wage) to an hourly wage of $10 to $12.
- Does one need to add that this is a change in bathroom policy being made in North Carolina, at the local level, without any need for action by the state legislature?
The airport wants to keep bathroom attendants, arguing that one person responsible for cleanliness of a given airport keeps the bathroom clean. Although it’s not clear why that duty needs to be mixed with helping people dry off after washing their hands, or providing mints.
I prefer the approach of the Kuala Lumpur airport:
And if you need fresh breath while in the restroom, there’s Sydney airport’s attendant-free approach:
Changing the way attendants are paid isn’t going to obviously change passenger expectations. It’s not going to do anything to diminish confusion and fear. So it’s important to get the word out: starting in July, no tipping required in the airport restrooms in Charlotte. Pass it on.