No matter how many nicely you say "pretty please" you probably won't get a last-minute reservation at a chic restaurant on your own. Your concierge, on the other hand, has the power to get you in with the In crowd. A concierge at a luxury hotel offers luxury services, but you don't have to blow your budget with a tip.
When Not to Tip
The hotel quoted you $300 for a night's stay, but the final cost ends up closer to $400. In the list of additional fees and taxes on your bill, you'll probably find a charge labeled something like "service fee," and some of this cash might go toward paying the concierge. Check at the front desk upon check-in to find out specifically what this fee is used for.
In a luxury hotel, you don't have to tip the concierge to provide help on subjects such as directions, transportation and tourist attractions. If your interaction with him lasts only a few minutes and doesn't end with him taking further action on your behalf, no tip is necessary.
When to Tip
A well-connected concierge can open all kinds of doors for you in a big city. He can arrange tours, help you plan a day's worth of activities personalized to your tastes or make calls on your behalf to snag theater tickets or reservations that you can't get on your own. Tip a concierge generously for these favors. If he helps you with a minor task that takes several minutes of his time and some effort, a tip of $5 to $10 is sufficient. If he pulls strings and gets you tickets to a sold-out show, or goes above and beyond and arranges something thoughtful like having something delivered to your room for your spouse's birthday surprise, anywhere from $15 to $30 is generally appropriate. The exact amount depends on the scale of the favor and your budget.
During a long weekend, you're not likely to form a lasting bond with your concierge. On a longer trip during which the concierge helps you with multiple favors, or if you're a frequent traveler to the hotel, cash isn't your only option. Pick up a gift for him like fine cigars or a pair of cuff links -- but only choose a gift if you know him well enough to know what he likes, and ask a manager first whether the concierge can accept gifts. Cultural differences affect your tip in a luxury hotel, too. "Conde Nast Traveler" notes that tips vary from country to country; for instance, the publication suggests tipping a concierge only $2 for a favor in the Philippines, while 20 euros is more appropriate in Germany.
How and When to Tip
James Bond would surely know how to tip in a sleek yet casual way, but you might have a history of dropping cash all over the polished lobby floor. Knowing when and how to tip isn't a science, and there's no wrong answer. There are a few options for timing your tip. You might hand the concierge $10 or $20 upon check-in if you know you're going to need her help, then pass her another small tip after she accomplishes something for you.
You may also hand her the whole tip as soon as she scores your tickets or reservation. Don't wait until check-out, since another concierge could be on duty that day. Fold up some cash or tuck it into an envelope, hand it the concierge with a smile and a sincere "Thanks you for your help," and be on your way.