"Statistically most housekeepers are women and are already facing pay inequality and education inequality because many, many are immigrants."
Digital accounting and cashless payment options make life easier for many traveling Americans. Airline, hotel and rental car reservations can be made and paid for online. Coffee and food can be purchased with the wave of a smartphone.
But the age of digital money is not so kind to one group of people — those who depend on tips to supplement their hourly wages. Particularly hit hard are hotel housekeepers. Their work involves scrubbing bathtubs and toilets, flipping mattresses and changing bedding and towels. Yet they are often forgotten when hotel patrons check out.
Tipping guidelines, published by the hotel industry, suggest tipping hotel staff from bellboys to valet drivers, recommending between $1 and $5 a night for hotel housekeepers. Yet only one-third of hotel guests actually leave tips for the housekeepers.
One group of investors and entrepreneurs in Taos hope to change that by introducing a new app, called TipZyp.
TipZyp investor Jeff Shardell is a tech professional who worked for Netscape and is a former business development executive for Google. He now lives in Taos.
“TipZyp is different because there is no face-to-face meeting of the individuals,” Shardell says.
During a hotel stay and in the normal, sometimes chaotic process of checking out, people don’t often have cash to tip the housekeepers.
“There really are no good options other than money in this case, for someone whom you have never met before and may never meet,” Shardell explains.
Shardell was approached by his friend and colleague Reza Jalili, a Montpellier, France, resident, who came up with the idea after a frustrating hotel experience.
“I went to check out and realized that I only had a $20 bill and I wanted to tip the housekeeper,” Jalili says. “I thought, there must be a better way to be able to tip.”
TipZyp creator Jalili says that the most important element in creating the new tipping tool is the human element.
“More and more of these women — and statistically most housekeepers are women — are already facing pay inequality and education inequality in their home country because many, many are immigrants,” he said.
Jalili said housekeeping is largely a thankless job.
“Nobody calls the front desk to say, ‘Hey my room is just perfect.’”
Bill Hood, a Taos investor and tech startup entrepreneur, is helping to execute the idea.
Hood says that all other apps currently out there require that the customer and the service person must know something about each other, either an account number, a credit card or an email or some other identifying factor.
“This is the only cash-equivalent app because you do not need to know anything about the other party,” he says. “We really developed a way technologically to allow a person to give a tip using their telephone, simple technology and commonly used devices to leave a tip, just like cash.”
“TipZyp is a way for people to tip digitally, that hasn’t existed in the past,” he explains. Hood likes to call it peer-to-peer banking. “It’s the logical next step in modern payment systems.”
“It’s like a pocket ATM,” Jalili says.
Customers using TipZyp can designate the amount of money they want to leave, and either text the TipZyp phone number or use the app. The application will generate a unique alphanumeric code. Customers can write down the code and leave it on a card in the hotel room. The housekeeper can then enter that code into their TipZyp account and receive the money.
“We are using Taos hotels as a test bed for the app,” Shardell says. “We hope this could be one small step to creating a bigger tech community in Taos.”
The group has a team of international developers in Europe who are providing the coding and other technical expertise for the app, supervised by Hood, who is overseeing the implementation.
“We are really focused on how to get out into the market, and the market is the service industry, but the market we’re particularly interested in is the housekeeping industry because they are really, really underserved,” Hood says. “And they are the hardest to tip.”
More information can be found on the website tipzyp.com.
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