Keywords: tips, informal salary integration systems, luxury hotels, service workers
The article focuses on the high-end hotel industry to explore the dynamics underlying the extra-wage earnings of front-line workers. Data were collected during participant observation in two hotels in Milan and through semi-structured interviews with workers from three other organizations in the same city. The analysis stresses both the existence of informal salary integration systems based on services outside hotels and the strategies used by workers to receive or increase tips from guests. The rules and models prescribed by hotel management to regulate workers’ behaviour show spaces of discretion inside of which it is possible – in compliance with quality standards – to modify the tangible and intangible features of the services for personal advantage. The research illustrates how informal practices, just as much as formal ones, represent a constitutive part of a high-quality service.